Maneater is more or less edible | None | Uncle Barky's Bytes

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Hey, guys, Lifetime's Maneater is more or less edible


Sarah Chalke (2nd from left) and gal pals in Maneater. Lifetime photo

Insert girlyman chip, submit to Lifetime's two-part, four-hour Maneater and emerge with manly privates still intact and presumably in working order.

In other words, male TV critics need to branch out on occasion. And Maneater (Saturday and Sunday, May 30-31 at 8 p..m. central each night), turns out to be a pretty painless way of doing so.

Starring Sarah Chalke from Scrubs, Lifetime's so-called "summer event" is off-putting at first in its depiction of pampered Beverly Hills mavens whose conspicuous creature comforts clash with current realities. But Maneater is smartly written and breezily entertaining for the most part. And of course there's a moral to this story of thirtyish Clarissa (Chalke), whose headlong pursuit of a perceived Texas millionaire instead yields chicken soup/goop for the soul.

Chalke is very winning in the lead role, snapping off sharp one-liners such as "Dad, you're in your fifties. Not your fiddies." Not that anyone really acts their ages in a comedy-drama that's all about latent self-discovery, some of it at least halfway believable.

Clarissa's fellow maneaters -- her Sex and the City posse, basically -- are three hangup-laden cuties named "Gravy" (Judy Greer), Polo (Noureen DeWulf) and Jennifer (Maria Sokoloff). They gather poolside or in posh hotel surroundings to drink, dish and commiserate.

Seeing her expiration date nearing, Clarissa is more intent than ever on luring and marrying a richly appointed man. And she seemingly has the perfect target in Big Tex Aaron Mason (Philip Winchester), picturesque son of a department store multi-millionaire and would-be financier of a Hollywood musical.

Not only that, he collects stuffed toys on the side. So Clarissa vows to pay any price to land him. She'll even "volunteer at creepy places with stinky people."

Former lover Simon Taylor (Paul Leyden), a playboy music mogul with seller's remorse, simultaneously returns to the picture to beg Clarissa's forgiveness for jilting her. A series of misunderstandings and heartbreaks are just around the corner -- and in the vicinity of Rodeo Drive.

Clarissa's domineering but loving mother, Alejandra (Maria Conchita Alonso), adds to the considerable melodrama at hand. Former TV hunk Gregory Harrison plays her skirt-chasing husband, Teddy, whose value system resides just below his belt. But deliverance is via a climactic scene that Harrison manages to play just perfectly.

Capably directed by former thirtysomething star Timothy Busfield, Maneater winds up gooier than it should in pursuit of tying up all its loose ends with oversized bows. There's also a very obvious instance of product placement in Part 2, with Clarissa extolling the virtues of Vaseline Aloe Fresh (the miniseries' principal sponsor) during a job interview with a magazine editor.

Oh well, no one expected Dostoyevsky here. Maneater gums a few things up, but is perfectly suitable for a weekend layabout. Men who dare to sit through it with their women are entitled to at least 10 hours of Spike TV in return.

Conveniently, that would guarantee safe passage through all 10 episodes of former Cowboy Michael Irvin's ongoing 4th and Long reality competition series. Which, come to think of it, no self-respecting woman should ever be required to watch for even a second.

GRADE: B-minus