Although VH1 bills “Single Ladies” as a romantic comedy, this hourlong show is really a soap — basically a scripted version of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” seeking to fill a niche among African-American women largely abandoned by broadcasters since “Girlfriends” went off the air. Still, it’s not a particularly inspired serial, replete with tired situations, stiff dialogue and male characters possessing less dimension than those populating “Sex and the City,” if that’s possible. It’s not easy for a series featuring beautiful women to harbor zero appeal among men, but these “Ladies” thread that needle.
Produced by, among others, Queen Latifah, and created by Stacy A. Littlejohn (“The Wanda Sykes Show,” “All of Us”), “Ladies” shares a name with a catchy Beyonce song and employs almost the exact same lyric when Val (“Clueless’? ” Stacey Dash) extends an ultimatum to her longtime boyfriend in front of their friends in the first scene: “If you like it, then put a ring on it,” she snaps.
Three months later, Val is opening a shop and still trying to make sense of her failed relationship, while pal Keisha (LisaRaye McCoy) — who has an extremely casual attitude about sex — is engaged in a sort-of naughty game with a wealthy businessman (DB Woodside). Finally, their friend April (Charity Shea) — ostensibly happily married — is having a risky affair with the mayor (played by the rapper/poet/Fox News bogeyman Common).
There’s a fair amount of sex and cattiness in the two-hour premiere, but the former has all the heat of a perfume commercial, and the latter wouldn’t ruffle a hair in “Real Housewives” territory, which is clearly a source of inspiration.
The main problem, though, is these ladies and the men in their lives keep getting saddled with exclamations like, “Whoa, drama overload!” and, “Don’t’ even get me started on your ass.” Yes, please don’t.
With such a dearth of compelling drama aimed at African-Americans (and whatever VH1 chooses to call this, there’s nary a laugh in the piece), “Ladies” could garner some attention by default. Still, if this is the direction the net intends to go with its original scripted endeavors, let’s just say the development teams at higher-aiming cablers like FX and AMC can rest easy.
As the ostensible protagonist, Dash cuts a fine, fabulously wardrobed figure — at least, until she defiantly tells her ex, “If I were a weaker woman, I’d be really screwed up right now.” Such protestations to the contrary, the Val character is emblematic of the show in which she resides — beautiful, but kind of weak.