Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, relationships, grooming and more in a weekly dialogue.

CP: Have we been watching ABC's new prime-time sudser, "Cashmere Mafia," because it's good or because we'll watch anything that reminds us of the culture-shifting "Sex and the City"? Both come from executive producer Darren Star and feature a comely quartet of high-test New York women.

RN: Let me test-drive a few more episodes before committing to that one. If you must force me to sound out my opinion, my feeling so far is that it's "Knot's Landing" with a better wardrobe.

CP: The show is like high-end chocolate: delicious, silky, enjoyable, but also guilt-inducing and without much staying power.

RN: It's trash, all right, but highly polished trash. We can't watch "Bill Moyers Journal" every day, right?

CP: Yeah, but are we going to watch the "Mafia" every week? It's very well done. The writing is fresh and occasionally surprising. The ensemble includes some experienced actors, not all big TV names. There are the requisite bitchy rejoinders and sharp dialogue. The only reason it's not going to be as big as "Sex and the City" is because it's too derivative of that series. Even the theme music sounds similar.

RN: Hello, it's television, which is based almost entirely upon the concept of copycat-ism.

CP: While cable is far ahead on the lesbian front, we haven't seen that many gay women on the networks. How do you like this dramedy's handling of Caitlin's (Bonnie Somerville) incipient Sapphic explorations?

RN: It's hard to say, since the Glad Wrap-thin plots fly by at the speed of sound yet have all the unpredictability of sunrise and sunset. Those two Lipstick Lesbians sure swapped spit like a couple of teens on prom night, though.

CP: When Caitlin told her gal pals that her recent hot date was with a woman, I liked their not-shocked reax. Juliet (Miranda Otto) demanded, "Is this like when you went kosher for two weeks?" Said Mia (Lucy Liu): "Hey, I went to Wellesley. [Being gay] was practically part of the curriculum."

RN: I don't know about you, but I'd happily watch the saucy and spectacularly beautiful Ms. Liu recite a stack of Hallmark greeting cards. She's the reason my DVD of "Charlie's Angels" is practically worn down to nothing.

CP: Are you sure you want to admit that in the state's largest newspaper? Liu is smashing when the stylists leave her hair down and put her in a tailored suit, killer bag and short black office gloves(!).

RN: She looked like she wanted to slap someone, and I loved it. And that mondo Gucci handbag; lordy, she could have curled up and taken a nap in it.

CP: But just as often the poor gal is stranded on Kooky Patricia Field Island, in giant sheer-white balloon sleeves, up-dos and pendant earrings as big as her foot. (Designer Field dressed this show as well as "Sex and the City.")

RN: I know. Scary. I love NYC-based television shows that are ridiculously unbelievable, like Monica's 3,000 square-foot apartment on "Friends" or Sarah Jessica Parker as a financially wobbly freelance writer who mysteriously maintains a vast, fiendishly expensive wardrobe on "Sex and the City." Don't you just wish one of these four glamazons would show up at their stupendously powerful jobs with a big-old cold sore?

CP: Surely we will see some fault lines in those perfect facades in coming weeks. I hope also for story lines that dig deeper into such potentially fertile ground as what happens in relationships when the woman out-earns the man. They already have done a good job, in the Zoe plot, pulling out the tensions between working moms and stay-at-home ones.

RN: Seriously? The only dose of reality I saw was the actress cast as Liu's secretary; I'm guessing she weighs in at a size 14. In "Mafia's" fake Manhattan, where everyone else appears to subsist upon Chiclets and Diet Rite, she and her Charlotte Russe wardrobe might as well have commuted in from Mars.

CP: It appears Liu wants to put her plus-sized PA on a fast track, too. Now that she's pink-slipped the gay guy. I also find the "revenge sex" plot line is pretty delish. Will Juliet sleep with her biz-school buddy just to get back at her philandering hubby? As you should know, MBA is short for More Bedroom Action.

RN: Yeah, that's what I learned in B School. Not.

Click on W.G.'s weekly podcast at www.startribune.com/withering. E-mail W.G. at witheringglance@startribune.com.