“Wicked City” (ABC) pilot preview: Another serial killer, because there are never enough!


Previously entitled “The LA Crime: The Sunsetstrip“. Written & produced by Steven Baigelman (Get On up, Feeling Minnesota). Co-produced by  David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman (Monk, Fighter, Warm Bodies, The Proposal) & Laurie Zaks (Castle). Directed by Tom Shankland (The Missing, The Fades, Ripper Street). For ABC, ABC Studios & Mandeville Prods. 64 pages.

Description: Anthology exploring sex, politics and popular culture across various noteworthy eras in Los Angeles history. In Season 1, two LA cops are searching for a Bonnie & Clyde-esque serial-killing team amidst the coke-infused rock ‘n’ roll, revelry of the 1980s Sunset Strip. 

With Adam Rothenberg (Ripper Street, The Divide, The Immigrant), Ed Westwick (Gossip Girl, J. Edgar), Erika Christensen (Parenthood, Six Degrees), Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story, The Bling Ring), Gabriel Luna (True Detective, Matador), Darrell Britt-Gibson (The Wire, You’re the Worst), Holley Fain (Gossip Girl, Grey’s Anatomy), Anne Winters (Tyrant, The Fosters), Karolina Wydra (True Blood, Justified), W. Earl Brown (True Detective, American Crime)…

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Is it me or the serial killer trend never ends on television? First there were Criminal Minds & Dexter, then The InsideHannibal, The Following, True Detective, The Fall… This summer, NBC premieres Aquarius with David Duchovny, about the hunt of iconic serial killer Charles Manson in 1967, during the era of free love and drug experimentation. As interesting as The LA Crime sounds like on a paper – a good idea for an anthology- and as unsuccessful and unnoticed Aquarius may end up, it seems a little unnecessary to launch such a similar show a few weeks or months later on another network. It unfolds more than a decade later, but the ingredients are exactly the same: Los Angeles, sex, drugs, rock’n’roll and of course the killing thing! And LA Crime doesn’t have David Duchovny to help selling it.

As you can imagine with such a story, it’s dark. Dark and twisty. It takes a dangerous road for a network show because of the way the serial killer called Clark Gallagher operates. He picks up the poor girls in the trendiest bar of the Sunsetstrip, take them on the hills of Los Angeles, ask them to give him a blowjob but he can’t get it hard unless… he kills them. With a knife. And when they’re dead, he fucks them. Then he cut their head (which shows up later at strange places). Because why not? Oh and I forgot: he also calls anonymously radios to dedicate a song to the soon-to-be dead girl. Isn’t it charming and romantic? In fact, it’s a way to place more and more music in the show, and there’s a lot (the opening scene starts with a Van Halen concert). Of course, the necrophilia part of his modus operandi is not directly shown on camera. It’s just the detectives giving us the information during the investigation. We’re not on HBO.

All along, we’re following the story through different point of views: the killer’s, the investigators’, a young journalist’s teaming up with a paparazzi (Nightcrawler‘s style for those who’ve seen the great Jake Gyllenhall-starrer movie) and the next victim’s, or at least the girl he thought he would kill before he discovers a deep connection with her. Because she’s a mom first -he clearly didn’t solve his Oedipus- and most of all because she likes it rough, and dirty, and when it hurts and when it’s strange and dangerous. I think it’s her story that I liked the most. In the end, she discovers she’s a killer like him. It’s an unexpected journey, rarely told (Dexter tried in season 5 and ultimately failed making it real) and one I’d be insterest to follow if it’s picked up. Sadly, the detective characters are dull, seen a million times. There’s a rivary between the two men partenering on the investigation, a mysterious shared past we don’t really care about. Probably a woman they both wanted… Nothing engaging and original.

My biggest fear has nothing to with the script but with the cast they assembled. I totally imagine Ed Westwick in the serial killer role but I’m pretty sure he will go over the top, multiply the devious smiles and that will turn out to be very irritating very quickly. I can’t imagine Erika Christensen as his partner in crime. I really do think she will be fantastic, but I can’t imagine her in bed with him. Something doesn’t work. Maybe the age difference? (In fact, she’s only 32, younger than I thought… that’s because of Parenthood). But I may be wrong. I’m conflicted about Taissa Farmiga too. I don’t think she proves to be exceptionnal and that charismatic in American Horror Story. She really doesn’t fit with the idea of the character -the young journalist- I made up in my head while reading. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the cast didn’t make it work ultimately. That happens.

The LA Crime: The Sunsetstrip can be compared to American Crime, even though it’s clearly less smart and emotionnally charged than the John Ridley show. But they have in common the fact that they don’t belong to a network, and especially ABC, or the idea we have of a network actually. It’s great trying to change the rules of the game. And even when it fails, it’s a victory in a way. It helps changing the perception of the audience, step by step. Hannibal does that to NBC too. So, if ABC orders it, so be it! It’s an easier sell than American Crime. But I’m not sure in this crowded television landscape, already full of serial killers, this show has something more to offer…

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