THE SHOW "Wicked City"
WHEN | WHERE Premieres Tuesday night at 10 on ABC/7
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Los Angeles, 1982, and a serial killer is prowling the Sunset Strip. Kent Grainger's (Ed Westwick) MO: He seduces his victims, usually at the Whiskey a Go Go, then beheads them. The heads are then lovingly restored to be made to look like . . . Marilyn Monroe.
Kent almost seems to be taunting hard-boiled Det. Jack Roth (Jeremy Sisto) and his new partner, Paco Contreras (Gabriel Luna). Then they get a lucky lead. Maybe ambitious rookie journalist Karen McClaren (Taissa Farmiga) can lead them to him.
Meanwhile, Kent -- basically just a lonely, misunderstood psychopath -- finds a new friend: Betty Beaumontaine (Erika Christensen). Together they become the Bonnie and Clyde of L.A.'s burgeoning serial killer scene.
This is an anthology series (which means the Kent and Betty story wraps by the end of this season).
MY SAY Any series that calls itself "Wicked City" is pretty much asking for ridicule ("Sin City" already taken?), but to then go ahead and stuff the sausage with grade A baloney? That, my friends, is a demand.
Something this target-rich also means the objects of scorn, or pity, have to get in line: Those Marilyn Monroe heads? Hilarious, sure, but also one more posthumous insult to a star who has suffered her share of them.
Nice, wholesome Julia Braverman-Graham of "Parenthood" re-imagined here as nurse and mother-of-two by day, serial killer consort by night? (Eat your heart out, "Criminal Minds.")
Or maybe it's just the whole miserable, lurid idea -- young women, oral sex, beheadings and a perp who looks and sounds like "Gossip Girl's" Chuck Bass.
It's easy -- too easy -- to upbraid a network series for using violence against women as a narrative hook. Lots of successful series do that, from "Criminal Minds" to Emmy Award-winning ones like "True Detective." But that doesn't make it any less dispiriting. Wasn't TV supposed to be in some sort of "golden age," or at least a more enlightened one?