An edgier, darker 'Murder Club' returns
By Mike Hughes
Gannett News Service
By Mike Hughes
As Hollywood scurried into its post-strike flurry, something was missing.
What about ABC's "Women's Murder Club?" After doing fairly well on Fridays, it had simply disappeared.
"We were beating everyone on that night," says Angie Harmon, who stars. "Then the rug was pulled out."
Now — after a six-month absence — the show is back tomorrow. It borrows a better night (Tuesdays) for three episodes that should determine its future.
Those three hours offer a shift in approach, says James Patterson, whose novels launched the series.
"They're more dramatic," he says. "There are stronger stories. There are no slow parts."
Harmon agreed. "The shows are a lot edgier, a lot darker."
That may make it similar to the cop shows that are already successful. The trick is also to keep what makes this unique: Four women huddle in secret to solve murders.
"Women tend to be a lot more collaborative," Patterson says. "Men go into a meeting and say, 'I've got the solution.' Women say, 'What do you think?' "
His view of this comes from his earliest days.
Growing up in Newburgh, N.Y. — where both parents were newspaper reporters — Patterson was surrounded by women. This was his grandmother's house; also there were his three sisters and an aunt.
Patterson has written plenty of male characters — including his Alex Cross series — but he wanted one featuring women. Lindsay Boxer (Harmon) is a tough police detective who secretly huddles with an assistant district attorney, a medical examiner and a reporter.
That last one is a bit of a stretch, he granted. "I just thought it would be fun to include a journalist. And I don't think it would be impossible."
These people care intensely about their work — but will often turn the subject to someone's life and love.
Harmon says that's one of the things that attracted her. She played a tough prosecutor on "Law & Order," but this character also has a life.
"I really like 'Law & Order' and I miss all of the people I worked with there," she says. "(But) once you get it down, there is no acting required."
In "Women's Murder Club," a lot is required. Lindsay is great at work, but botches life.
"I think it's like that for a lot of us," Patterson says. "If you spend a lot of time at one thing, you're not so good at something else."
Occasionally, people might grasp both. Harmon is thriving in her career and is married to Jason Sehorn, a retired defensive back who's now a TV football analyst; they have two young daughters.
She's returned to 14-hour workdays for the three key episodes of "Women's Murder Club."
Even before the strike, says Patterson (one of the show's producers), there was talk that the crime stories should be improved. "I always felt that, from Day 1."
After the strike, ABC announced the return of other shows, but not "Murder." It put Robert Nathan, a former "Law & Order" producer, in charge and ordered only the three-episode sampling.
Then filming resumed, at TV speed. "It's a lot of fun, because it happens so fast," Patterson says.