The Women's Murder Club


Rating 2¾ and getting better

Created for television by Elisabeth Craft and Sarah Fain

Based on characters in the books by James Patterson

Written by Gretchen J Berg (2 episodes), Sherry Carnes (2 episodes), Elisabeth Craft (2 episodes), Sarah Fain (2 episodes), R Scott Gemmill (1 episode), Barbara Hall (1 episode), Aaron Harberts (2 episodes), Melina Hsu-Taylor (2 episodes), Robert Nathan (3 episodes, story only), Tom Postiglione (1 episode), Tom Szentgyorgyi (1 episode), Nichelle D Tramble (2 episodes) and Matt Witten (2 episodes)

Directed by Félix Enríquez Alcalá (1 episode), Sarah Pia Anderson (1 episode), Mel Damski (1 episode), Michael Fields (1 episode), Tawnia McKiernan (1 episode), Matthew Penn (1 episode), Michael Schultz (1 episode), Bryan Spicer (1 episode), Skipp Sudduth (1 episode), Brad Turner (1 episode), Rick Wallace (2 episodes) and Greg Yaitanes (1 episode)

Starring Angie Harman, Laura Harris, Paula Newsome, Aubrey Dollar, Tyrees Allen, Rob Estes, Linda Park, Coby Ever Carradine, Ryan McLaughlin, Jonathan Adams, Kyle Secor, Joel Gretsch and Gerald McRaney

Lindsay Boxer (Angie Harman) is a San Francisco homicide detective who devotes herself to her job at the expense of her private life. Her marriage to Tom Hogan (Rob Estes), another police officer who has been promoted to lieutenant and is now her boss, broke down when she became obsessed with the so-called “Kiss-Me-Not” killer, a brutal serial killer who targeted young women, torturing them and sewing their lips together. Jill Bernhardt (Laura Harris) is an assistant district attorney who works out of City Hall, where Boxer’s police division is also based. Dr Claire Washburn (Paula Newsome) is the medical examiner who works alongside Boxer and her partner, the veteran police detective Warren Jacobi (Tyrees Allen). Cindy Thomas (Aubrey Dollar) is a young reporter with the San Francisco Register who is promoted to the crime desk. Together, they solve a series of murders.


‘The Women’s Murder Club’ is based a series of novels by the celebrated American crime-thriller writer James Patterson, eight so far, published between 2001 and 2009. Patterson was one of the show’s executive producers. It was created for television by Elisabeth Craft and Sarah Fain, who had previously worked on ‘The Shield’ and before that Joss Whedon’s ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ spin-off ‘Angel’. They are now the showrunners for Whedon’s latest television series ‘Dollhouse’. The other executive producers were Joe Simpson, the father of Jessica and Ashlee Simpson; Brett Ratner, the film director responsible for the Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker ‘Rush Hour’ action films; and R Scott Gemmill, who worked on ‘ER’ over a number of years. Gemmill was the showrunner.

The show was affected by the Writers Guide of America strike in 2007-2008 and went off the air at the beginning of January 2008 after ten episodes. When it returned at the end of April 2008 for three final episodes, Craft and Fain were no longer involved. The show had average viewing figures of 8.9 million, with a high of 10.8 million and a low of 7.8 million. It was ranked number one in its timeslot eight times and never lower than number three. It was ranked number one for the night four times, although this dropped off from the sixth episode onwards. In May 2008 it was announced by the ABC network that a second season would not be commissioned.

As a comparison, the fifth season of ‘Cold Case’ on the CBS network, which was broadcast at around the same time (September 2007 to May 2008) averaged 10.8 million viewers. Previous seasons of that show had averaged between 14.2 million and 15.1 million. It should be noted that ‘Cold Case’ is traditionally broadcast on a Sunday night, whereas the first ten episodes of ‘The Women’s Murder Club’ went out on Friday night, which is considered to be a dead night for television by the networks. The final three episodes were broadcast on Tuesday nights.

The series gets off to a somewhat shaky start, but it does improve with each episode as the main characters begin to gel and the individual personalities are brought more into focus. There does seem to be an underlying theme that a woman without a man is only half a person, and a very pale shadow at that, which I found quite irritating, although this was not rammed down our throats quite as forcefully after the first few episodes. It is very generic, which is the nature of American police procedurals, and rarely rises above the clichéd, other than the “novelty” of having its four main protagonists all be strong female characters, something we could do with more of. However, I found it very easy to watch and increasingly looked forward to each episode. I was quite disappointed when I came to the final episode, even though I knew this was all there was, particularly when that episode ended somewhat abruptly on a cliff-hanger.

I think the show deserved to continue. The viewing figures were certainly not fantastic and perhaps the demographic did not meet the requirements of the advertisers, which would seem to be one of the main concerns of American television networks. The show was unlucky to get caught up in the writer’s strike. When it went off air it undoubtedly lost momentum. It would seem that some problems existed behind the scenes – Craft and Fain were apparently fired from the show, explaining their absence from the final episodes. Perhaps the network decided it was going to be too hard to sell a show like this, without a male lead, to its target audience. Having said that, ‘Cold Case’, to use that example again, a police procedural with a female lead, is now in its sixth season. Of course, there is also the classic example of ‘Cagney & Lacey’, one of the great highpoints of this genre, although that was a long time ago and the landscape of American television has changed a lot since then.

Angie Harman was previously in ‘Baywatch Nights’ and 72 episodes of ‘Law & Order’. Laura Harris, who I like very much, played Daisy Adair in ‘Dead Like Me’. Aubrey Dollar, who I first came across in a cheesy but rather enjoyable made-for-television disaster movie called ‘Trapped’, was in the short-lived and much unloved ‘Point Pleasant’, a show I adore. Gerald McRaney, a veteran actor of many American television series, including the recent ‘Jericho’, played Lindsay Boxer’s father, a disgraced former policeman who had been drummed out of the force for corruption. Christopher Wiehl, who was also one of the cast of ‘Jericho’ and several years earlier had appeared in what remains my favourite episode in the first season of one of the most iconic of American television shows of the last twenty years, ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, played the role of Tom Hogan in the unaired pilot episode. He was subsequently replaced by Rob Estes, who is now amongst the cast of ‘90210’. Ever Carradine, who played Heather Hogan, the new wife of Lindsay’s former husband Tom, is a member of the famous American acting family, the daughter of actor Robert Carradine.

Barbara Hall, the creator and executive producer of the wonderful ‘Joan of Arcadia’, was a consultant producer and wrote the second episode. Her previous credits include ‘Judging Amy’ and ‘Northern Exposure’.

Review posted 2 April 2009



Nancy said...

I started watching when GERALD MCRANEY was added to the cast.
I enjoyed it very much and would have continued watching if he had stayed on.

alienlanes said...

Given the cliff-hanger at the end of the thirteenth episode, I do wonder what was intended regarding Gerald McRaney’s character. I would have liked to have seen the series continue into a second season, ideally with the character Martin Boxer still on board. Oh well, wishful thinking.