Sexy British drama explores friendship and infidelity.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Friendship and infidelity are two of the show's major themes. The women are professional and appear empowered on the surface, but they often make disempowering relationship choices. The series shows some of the consequences the women face as a result of extramarital relationships but does so in a nonjudgmental way. Most of the cast is Caucasian. One spouse is of Indian descent; Jessica is African-British. Other people of color are occasionally visible.


The women occasionally get into arguments with each other and with the people they're involved with. Trudi's husband allegedly died as a result of the September 11 attacks.


The women are constantly talking about sex and are often engaged in inappropriate and/or extramarital relationships. Frequent scenes show women making out and/or wearing racy underwear, but there's no outright nudity. Discussions about lesbian relationships; same-sex kissing is visible. British phrases like "shag," "sexual slapper," and other crude terms are frequently used to describe sexual activity. Pregnancy and infertility are also discussed.


In addition to sexual terms like "shag," language includes words like contains words "hell" and "damn." There's also the potential for stronger words that are acceptable for broadcast abroad and may not be edited for American television.


Occasional references to TV shows like Top Gear and The Simpsons.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Lots of social drinking (wine, cocktails, beer), but characters don't seem to get drunk very often. Cigarette smoking is frequently visible (typical for British TV shows). The administration of painkillers (like morphine) is discussed in relation to medial treatment and euthanasia.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this British drama about four women who have participated in or been the victims of extramarital relationships includes lots of conversations about sex. The main characters have sexual relationships (often illicit) with both men and women and are sometimes shown wearing sexy lingerie (no nudity, though). Terms used to describe sex -- ranging from "shagging" to cruder phrases -- are used frequently (as are words like "hell" and "damn"), and characters drink and smoke regularly.

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What's the story?

MISTRESSES is a controversial British drama about four best friends whose lives have been complicated in various ways by extramarital affairs. The quartet includes Dr. Katie Rodan (Sarah Parish), a general practitioner coming to grips with the loss of her former married lover; 9/11 widow/single mother Trudi Malloy (Sharon Small); lawyer/would-be mother Siohban Dillon (Orla Brady); and Jessica Fraser (Shelley Conn), a rather promiscuous event organizer. As the women struggle with their choices to get involved in new -- and often illicit -- relationships, they look to their friends to help them come to terms with the inevitable and sometimes devastating consequences of their affairs.

Is it any good?


This mature series successfully combines positive themes of friendship and love with some very dark and dramatic ideas about the complicated effects that extramarital liaisons have on people's lives. It's an interesting approach -- but it sends some confusing messages. The women's close connection to each other makes them so likable that it's easy to forget that some of their selfish choices hurt innocent people. It also reinforces the idea that a woman's sexual freedom will "naturally" lead to an affair and/or a choice to become someone's mistress.

But the show is so well written and produced that it's surprisingly (and perhaps disturbingly) easy to overlook these details. The characters and their creative storylines are sophisticated and well developed. And, like any good soap opera, the series contains its fair share of suspenseful moments. Overall, Mistresses may not be the kind of show you want your kids watching, but for adults, it's definitely a (semi) guilty pleasure.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the show's messages. How does it portray sex? How does the media generally portray extramarital relationships? Do you think shows like this one reinforce or undermine the serious consequences of affairs? Families can also discuss the different reasons that women might choose to become a "mistress." If they know that their actions could hurt other people, why do they still do it?

TV details

Cast:Orla Brady, Sarah Parish
Network:BBC America
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:DVD

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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