'Wicked City': TV Review

Wicked City - H 2015
ABC/Eric McCandless

Wicked City - H 2015

A serial killer kills women and chops their heads off, etc., in a serialized fashion. 


Offensive, predictable and awful, 'Wicked City' hits the trifecta of bad pilot issues. ABC, which programs to women, should be embarrassed at how much this degrades its target audience — and the network.

You would think that in the "Too Much TV" world we live in, people who make mediocrity would be flushed out of the system or that such efforts wouldn’t be greenlit in the first place. Why would ABC make something as offensive and tedious as Wicked City, which so desperately wants to mimic something better on cable, when there’s already so much vastly better material than this on cable? Why wouldn’t ABC say something along the lines of, "This is weak and it will make us look bad in comparison, so please pitch us something we can actually use."

But clearly ABC didn’t say anything like that because here we are with Wicked City, which panders to some outdated notion that we don’t have enough serial killer storylines. And it goes about it in a manner that uses violence toward women with reckless, unjustifiable abandon. And so it was that as I was watching the review copy, the Disney logo popped up immediately after a woman was stabbed repeatedly in the back of the head while giving a blowjob and then shown at a cemetery in all of her decapitated glory.

The killer does keep the body cold so maybe there’s a 'Frozen' tie-in, Disney?

Set in Los Angeles in 1982 so that viewers can suffer through even more Billy Idol, Wicked City is ABC’s latest stab (see what I did there?) at a limited series that apes cable tendencies — mature storytelling, etc. What it gets right is absolutely nothing. You don’t get "edgy" cable points for slashing up women, something all of broadcast television has yet to learn. Frankly in 2015 it’s more offensive than ever.

The tone-deafness of the drama is apparent within mere minutes. Crazy Kent (Ed Westwick, who seems doomed to play these twisted types) surveys the female victim possibilities while roaring up and down Sunset Boulevard, which Wicked City uses as some 1980s New York equivalent for the dangerous side of town. Crazy Kent sets up a future kill (or potential kill), then phones in a radio request (his signature) and takes a coked-up woman into the hills and stabs her repeatedly while her face is in his lap.

Just so you know what you’re getting into if you haven’t already written this one off, Wicked City is a big fan of blowjobs and how Kent’s limpness is a signal that he can’t get off unless it's kinky knife time. Oh, and he has either mommy or daddy issues and doesn’t like to kill women who have kids. To show you that he’s got a code, Wicked City has him babysit the neighbor’s little girl. Yes, creepy, but then unintentionally funny when the girl says, "I think you’d be a good daddy," as he allows her to draw pictures in front of the TV while watching the news about serial killers in Los Angeles and his latest headless victim.

Another touching Disney moment!

Jeremy Sisto is wasted here as a detective who has partner issues with Gabriel Luna, and girlfriend issues with a woman who is not his wife, with whom he’s clearly also having issues. None of that — not even milliseconds of any of these scenes — is interesting. Creator and writer Steven Baigelman seems content to deliver every cop cliche you’ve ever seen, possibly because he understands that the real hook here isn’t the dialogue but the pandering and salacious murders of stalked women. Of course he’s not alone in the world of network writers doing this kind of embarrassing and shameful work, but he is the latest.

Crazy Kent eventually finds someone he likes — a divorced mom of two young kids named Betty (Erika Christensen) — a nurse who likes to pull apart spiders and rip out the stitches of elderly patients (yes, all true).

As for the dreadful dialogue, when we turn from the criminal to the crime fighters, we get this sort of thing — Luna's character sa "You’re asking us to find a needle in a haystack." To which Sisto’s character replies: "So maybe we make the needle come to us."

Um, what?

I’m assuming the needle eventually goes into some woman’s ear or whatnot when she’s blowing Crazy Kent, but I won’t be around to see it. You shouldn’t bother with any of it.

Email: Tim.Goodman@THR.com

Twitter: @BastardMachine