ABC makes a stab at a new-fangled femme-buddy cop drama and produces a flat hourlong series that suffers from a multitude of unnatural behaviors. The members of “Women’s Murder Club” — a homicide detective, a prosecutor and a coroner, with a young reporter hoping to make the cut — work around the clock, are at each others’ sides constantly and rarely end a work conversation without a little gossip. Action and patter in the pilot’s early going are rushed, and the acting uneven; it will take some time to get to know, and even longer to like, the members of this “Club.”
On paper, it’s easy to see how this could be perceived as “Sex and the City” meets “Law & Order,” but no one has thoroughly thought out how to harden the soft edges of the former or personalize the all-facts m.o. of the latter. The characters are pulled from James Patterson’s novels, but the storyline lacks the realism a gritty murder story requires. “Women’s Murder Club” has the tone of a show that’s designed rather than crafted, a show more concerned about appealing to a target demographic instead of just flowing. It’s clearly targeted for women 25-54 — not an audience with which exec producers Joe Simpson (father of Jessica and Ashley) and Brett Ratner are experienced.
The “Club” consists of three women: an emotionless, workaholic detective whose ex-husband is her new boss; a workaholic medical examiner with a loving husband, whose handicap causes some struggles at home; and a prosecutor who loves sex. Then there’s a newspaper reporter, Cindy Thomas (Aubrey Dollar), who, over time, will integrate with the group.
Problem is these women are around each other too much. It would be one thing if they were bouncing ideas off each other, but they intersect in hospitals, the morgue, the BART station, a suspect’s home, etc., etc. The one believable relationship is between detective Lindsay Boxer (Angie Harmon) and her long-in-the-tooth partner Warren (Tyrees Allen). Harmon, though, approaches this show with a self-determination that comes off as strident and cold; on “Law & Order,” that worked most of the time, but “Murder Club” needs an enveloping warmth among the principals, and in the first two episodes, it’s just not there.
Pilot, reworked since the show was introduced at the upfronts in May, concerns the death of a reporter and a triple homicide on a BART train. Boxer is investigating, Claire Washburn (Paula Newsome) is examining the bullets and overly aggressive prosecutor Jill Bernhardt (Laura Harris) is on the scene ready to file charges. Thomas arrives, too, but is quickly shooed away.
Like “Law & Order,” the detective takes her leads from the forensics evidence and eventually ties the murder of the reporter to the BART slaying. And while gang violence, unsolved serial murders and motorcycle gangs come into play, the hourlong’s biggest question is whether Bernhardt will move in with her boyfriend. Timing is off across the board; just as the show appears to be developing tension, it lets go — and the lightness that follows seems too frivolous.
Within the two episodes, it’s clear the show will be weighed down by an army of characters. Tough bosses, former lovers, the ex-husband’s soon-to-be wife and that pesky reporter create a whirlwind of activity that detracts from the telling of the story. By the end of the second episode, the cast has reached soap opera level — the problem they were trying to eliminate when they re-shot the pilot.
San Francisco, so successfully contextualized in NBC’s “Journeyman,” fails to resonate as the setting here.