Review: Women’s Murder Club

In the US: Fridays, 9/8c, ABC
In the UK: Not yet acquired. Any bets on Living?

“Ah, women,” the senior network executive thought to himself. “So beautiful, yet their heads are filled with thoughts of pink things and butterflies. Yet they are an important demographic since so few of them have jobs, and therefore spend their time in front of the television all day.”

He smiled benevolently at the young male network executives gathered around him at his Private Men’s Club For Private Men. They were there to learn the important arts of programme development.

Leaning forward, he began to impart his wisdom. “Fortunately, there is a simple Formula for creating a television programme that all women everywhere will want to watch. Do not deviate from it. Do not change it. It must be the same. If we can fill an entire network like Oxygen full of shows made to this single recipe, we can do the same with ABC. The Formula is strong.”

He looked from eager face to eager face. “Take a genre, any genre. Women love crime, so that’s always good. Take a group of friends, all of them excellent at their jobs, yet somehow not properly respected in their workplace by their male superiors and colleagues. Give them relationship issues then insist that they discuss their relationships at all times, even when working, to the extent they’d probably get fired in the real world. Women like the idea of female solidarity. They can identify with women who are practically perfect in every way, yet have problems just like you and…” He paused and smiled, “…well, not like me.”

Sycophantic laughter echoed round the room, opening up holes in the cloud of cigar smoke that surrounded them all.

“Then,” he said pointing dramatically and paused yet again for effect. “Make them work so hard that soon, all the men will realise their mistakes and learn to love them for the wonderful, beautiful, strong women that they are. Women love that rubbish.”

He reclined into his chinchilla skin armchair. His computer had already generated the next show to use the formula: Women’s Murder Club. It was pure genius. Just like the last 70 shows to use the Formula.

Plot (adapted from the ABC web site)

Based on author James Patterson’s bestselling novels, ‘Women’s Murder Club’ is a new one-hour drama series about four successful working women in San Francisco: Homicide Inspector Lindsay Boxer (Angie Harmon), Medical Examiner Claire Washburn (Paula Newsome), Assistant D.A. Jill Bernhardt (Laura Harris) and crime reporter Cindy Thomas (Aubrey Dollar), who use their expertise, their close friendship and their instincts to solve murder cases. Each a success in her own field, they work together to uncover clues to the city’s most grisly homicides.

The series stars Angie Harmon (‘Agent Cody Banks,’ ‘Law & Order’) as Homicide Inspector Lindsay Boxer, Paula Newsome (‘Reign Over Me,’ ‘Little Miss Sunshine’) as Claire Washburn, Aubrey Dollar (‘Point Pleasant,’ ‘The Guiding Light’) as Cindy Thomas, Laura Harris (’24,’ ‘The Dead Zone’) as Jill Bernhardt and Tyrees Allen (‘Alias’) as Warren Jacobi, Rob Estes (‘Melrose Place,’ ‘The Evidence’) as Tom Hogan and Linda Park (‘Jurassic Park III’) as Denise Kwon.

‘Women’s Murder Club’ is executive-produced by James Patterson, R. Scott Gimmell, Elizabeth Craft, Sarah Fain, Brett Ratner and Joe Simpson.

Is it any good?

Although it never quite plumbed the depths of Angela’s Eyes, Women’s Murder Club is mind-numbingly bad. There’s not a single original element to it. Even the title shows you just how ‘assembled’ the show is: women (because if you stick the word ‘women’ in the title, maybe women will watch it, thinking it’s pro-women), murder (because we want to get crime in there, because people love crime stories) and club (again to imply solidarity and female friendship).

It doesn’t stop there though. Since this is a show for girls, out of the window (the Formula insists) goes any attempt to investigate male crimes such as armed robbery, etc; instead, it’s time to investigate murders that have emotional motives to do with love and relationships (because women love that sort of thing) or that specifically affect women – naturally that means some arch-nemesis serial killer lurking in the background (cf Profiler) to show everyone just how tough a woman can be and that women can gang together to fight against the misogyny that can try to hold them down (women are strong. You go, girlfriend!).

Of course, the ‘murder club’ spend so much time gassing on about affairs, their ex husbands, their boyfriends (but, hey, women can be commitmophobic, too) and their husbands that no one in their right mind would offer the slackers a job.

But then, the show bears no resemblance to real-life. While I can only surmise that police investigations are nothing like the ones depicted here, with Angie Harmon getting worked up and unprofessional about a man having an affair because she’s having flashbacks to her own failed marriage, I can certainly tell you that journalism is nothing like the way it’s depicted here. Shorthand is not simply longhand in code. You really don’t get much down on paper if you try it that way. 180wpm? You’d be lucky to get 30. Dear oh dear.

If I’m going to cut it any slack, it’s because it doesn’t take itself absolutely seriously. There’s a fragrant smell of ham emanating from everyone involved and they’re revelling in the opportunity to do grade A stupid scripts. Even they can’t believe that when they’re in one room, they have to talk crime, but as soon as they step out into the corridor, they have to talk about relationships again – it’s like there’s a magic ‘Oprah’ door they all get to walk through.

It might even be possible, despite the fact the show is based on books by a man and is exec produced mainly by men (including Bret Ratner of Prison Break and Rush Hour ‘fame’), that the women involved are colluding to mess around with the Formula, embrace it and subvert it from within.

I’m not sure I can bear to sit through what, at face value might be the show’s second and third episodes, but which are in fact the 746 and 747 episodes of the never-ending Formula. But I might just do it for you guys. And girls.

Here’s a YouTube trailer.


Angie Harmon (Lindsay Boxer)

Paula Newsome (Claire Washburn)

Aubrey Dollar (Cindy Thomas)

Laura Harris (Jill Bernhardt)

Tyrees Allen (Warren Jacobi)

Rob Estes (Tom Hogan)

Linda Park (Denise Kwon)


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.