Fans of the television show that some had billed as the successor to the once wildly successful Sex and the City series have reacted swiftly to rumours that it is about to be axed by NBC. They are inundating the post room at the network's New York headquarters with tubes of bright red lipstick.
Cosmetic products may seem an odd weapon for a popular uprising against one of America's biggest broadcast companies. But the show is Lipstick Jungle, starring Brooke Shields as one of three late-thirtysomething women trying to navigate the hazards – romantic and professional – of Gotham City.
Among those encouraging the siege are Candace Bushnell, the writer of both Sex and the City and Lipstick Jungle, and, of course, Shields herself. No sooner had trade reports surfaced one week ago that the Lipstick had been consigned to the rubbish tip than they were stepping forward to deny them. "They are not breaking down the sets," Shields said earlier this week.
What NBC executives are in fact intending to do with a programme which began with such hoopla but in its second season has been able to attract only anaemic audiences – 5 million viewers or less for each hour-long episode – is for now anyone's guess. But the omens do not look good – which means Shields, who plays the predictably glamorous movie executive Wendy, will fight even harder for a reprieve.
"NBC is now flooded with lipstick," Shields, 43, was quoted as saying on the Daily Beast website. "Women are in uproar over this... they've tried to kill us before and we have refused to die. If we were meant to be off the air, we wouldn't have made it as far as we have. Everything that could possibly go wrong with a show has happened with us."
Among the obstacles, apparently, have been the various unhelpful scheduling decisions by NBC, including moving the show to Friday nights, usually a ratings dead zone. The show's advocates also point out that Lipstick has a huge, largely hidden, following with fans who catch it on recording devices. That is the contention of Bushnell. "These kinds of serial shows tend to be what people TiVo and then watch all in a row on a Saturday morning," she told the Beast. "Over 50 per cent of our audience is not accounted for in the numbers."
But will the lipstick bailout be enough to save it? The answer to the first question is obvious to Shields. The show may veer dangerously into the realms of daytime soap, but its underpinnings are serious, and it stands alone in taking seriously the challenges faced by successful professional women. "There are not many other shows that are doing this," she says.