The Starter Wife



Adult divorce drama pokes fun at Hollywood values.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A mix of good and bad behavior. The main character is largely aware of her flaws and trying to better herself. Some characters are overly ambitious -- to the point of sacrificing friendships -- while others are very loyal. Issues related to body image, self-esteem, and materialism crop up (it does take place in Hollywood, after all).


Rare, but there's at least one fistfight scene.


Plenty of talk about sex. Some scenes of heavy kissing with implied nudity. Affairs and sexual blackmail.


Plenty, including "ass," "a--hole," etc.


Product placement is subtle but frequent. Products are also sometimes mentioned by name. Featured brands include Prius, Blackberry, Cingular, Apple, Curad, and Bluetooth. Molly's world is a very materialistic one.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Lots of drinking; one character has struggled with addiction. Some smoking by minor characters.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this dramedy isn't for kids. Although it pokes fun at Hollywood, it rides a fine line between embracing and rejecting Hollywood values. The very skinny main character makes jokes about her weight, alluding to the constant desire to be thinner. Money -- who has it, who doesn't -- is a constant theme. And some characters sacrifice friendship in the name of ambition. Some scenes include frank talk about sex, and there are brief passionate clinches, as well as some drinking, smoking, and swearing.

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What's the story?

THE STARTER WIFE takes a funny, somewhat critical look at Hollywood through the eyes of Molly Kagan (Debra Messing), whose studio-boss husband dumps her for a younger woman. Messing is charming and funny as Molly, who must examine her life and values after being "let go" from her role as Hollywood wife. As she slowly learns who her real friends are and makes tentative connections with people outside the catty world of Hollywood, Molly builds herself into a better person. But this new person still cares about what people think about her, as well as the size of her butt. Molly tends to let men take the reins all too often, and she can be a pushover when it comes to her egotistical, obnoxious power broker of an ex-husband, Kenny (Peter Jacobson).

Is it any good?


Starter Wife is at its best when it's taking an inside look at Hollywood and its fickle ways. The show makes fun of the industry town's shallowness with sharp wit (Molly talks about worshipping at the Church of Perpetual Upkeep, for example).

Less successful are the show's forays into mystery (a handsome stranger saves Molly's life and asks her enigmatically if it's a life worth saving before diving into the surf) and "real" life (Molly befriends a UCLA student and a Malibu Colony security guard who's in danger of getting evicted).

With its talented cast and irresistible premise, The Starter Wife is lots of fun ... for adults. Typical Hollywood decadence and backstabbing make the show decidedly iffy for kids, as do mature topics like addiction and affairs.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the media depicts Hollywood and the movie industry. Do you think the people who live and work there are as materialistic and image-obsessed as TV shows and movies imply? Families can also discuss the similarity between Hollywood politics and high school. Why are people so attracted to the "in crowd" when it can be so painful to deal with? What does it take to step outside of a powerful force like Hollywood (or a certain clique) and still feel good about yourself?

TV details

Cast:Chris Diamantopoulous, Debra Messing, Joe Mantegna, Judy Davis
TV rating:NR
Available on:DVD, Streaming

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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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Adult Written bytaterbug14 April 9, 2008

great for adults

i loved the show, but its not app.for my children
Adult Written bycdub April 9, 2008

I wanted to like it, but couldn't help hating it.

Even those who were big fans of Will & Grace (as was I) will thoroughly detest this lackluster show. The plot goes nowhere slowly .. the writing is trite .. and the supporting cast seems to have been fresh out of soap opera acting school. I'd like to further bury this horrible show, but I have to go throw up now.
Adult Written byip2uni April 9, 2008


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