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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

How Not to Write a Police Procedural with Female Leads

How Not to Write a Police Procedural with Female Leads

Please be aware this post has SPOILERS for Women's Muder Club ep 1.

So I just watched the first episode of Women's Muder Club and I'm hoping that it is an aberation and the rest of the season is better, because it get's one more chance and I'm done.

For those who don't know, Women's Muder Club is a TV show that aired back in 2007-2008 based on books of the same name by James Patterson and the reason it caught my eye is because it stars Angie Harmon of Rizzoli and Isles fame. I love Angie Harmon, but if the second episode does not portray the female characters better I am not watching any more.

It was so bad I made claw marks in the table cloth. What is disappointing is is looked so promising with many lead female characters, one of whom is a WoC and all about solving crime.

This is supposedly a show about a female detective (Inspector Lindsay Boxer played by Angie Harmon), a female deputy DA (Jill Bernhardt played by Laura Harris), a female medical examiner (Dr Claire Washburn played by Paula Newsome) and a female crime reporter (Cindy Thomas played by Aubrey Dollar) and yet the entire first episode was all about men.

I kid you not!

In the first ep Cindy isn't really a major player yet, so we will concentrate on the other three.

I'm pretty sure they did not manage to have one conversation that did not revolve around men, and I'm not even talking about the case. The first scene they are all in together is at a crime scene and do you know what they end up talking about? Let me tell you: Lindsay's ex-husband Tom. No, really, and Jill and Claire are trying to convince Lindsay to get back together with him.

BTW - I would like to point out at this point that I only know the women's names becuase I looked them up, but Tom's is forever stuck in my memory because they talked about him so damn much!

So for Lindsay there's Tom - who turns out to be her new Lieutenant too.

Then we have Cindy, who is apparently commitment shy (we aren't given any hints as to why in the first ep). In her first scene away from the murder site, her boyfriend is asking her to move in with him and they almost go at it in her office with the door wide open, but Lindsay interupts them. This woman is supposed to be a well respected Deputy DA and yet she has sex with a man (not her boyfriend) in her office later on without the slighest reguard for professionalism or even making sure the door's locked! This scene is only there to make her realise she really should commit to her boyfriend, BTW.

She only gets to shine once in the episode where she actually does her job and brings a public defender down to size (the same one she later sleeps with if you were wondering and it's him doing the instigating). It's almost as if a woman isn't allowed to dominate a man without there being payback or something.

Claire is happily married and seems to think everyone else should be too.

The only female character with a major impact on the plot whose life does not revolve around a man is the reporter who is killed, Theresa Wu. Yep, that's right the murder victim and she is portrayed as a lonely workaholic, which is what Lindsay is desperately tyring not to turn into.

The entire message of this episode seemed to be that a woman needs a man and is only whole with one. Now I love my husband and I consider him in my life decisions, but I do manage to have whole conversations on a daily basis that don't even mention him - especially when I'm working! I also know many, many women who are perfectly happy without a man in their life at all!

Even the villain of the piece in the first episode is motivated by a man. She is a doctor who runs a free clinic and her husband is a womanising restaraunt owner. The dead reporter was having an affair with her husband, but that wasn't why she killed her. No, the reporter was working on an expose, which was why she was banging the husband to get access to their house. The doctor had been fraudulently claiming money off the government for non-existent drugs by using homeless people, which she was only doing because her husband's resturant was failing and she needed to help him.

In the end she even confesses to save her husband, not because the police  have the evidence or anything, but because they are accusing her husband.

If this had been a rom-com with a police detective in it, I might have forgiven it some of the dialog, because it would have been about romance, but Women's Murder Club is supposed to be a police procedural.  It's supposed to be a show about leading women. I can't be sure, because I was tuning half of it out by the end, but I don't think it even passed the Bechdel test!

This is not how to write a show with leading female characters! What I really don't get is that the shows creators are two women as well. What were they thinking?

Maybe the first ep was a blip. I'm praying it was and the writing will improve, but I'm not holding out much hope.


So we've watched the next few eps and they aren't as terrible as the first, but the show does make me wince at regular intervals. The women still have relationship talks at the oddest moments, but they are able to have entire conversations without mentioning their significant others or their potential significant others. However, they don't seem to be able to solve a whole case without doing so.


  1. Oh dear - and when you told me about it I had such high hopes. :(

    1. The second and third eps aren't as bad as the first - not great, but bearable. Angie makes up for a lot ;P

  2. That sounds terrible. Even moreso than most procedurals, which are legally required to be terrible.

    If it makes you feel any better, it only got a half-season and the best review for it I could find called it "competent."

    I really can't decide if studios really don't know how to make certain types of shows starring women, or just choose not to.

    1. I have to admit I enjoy police procedurals - I think the problem with this one is that they have female leads so they got confused with cosy mysteries! Those seem to have a formula (at least the ones on Hallmark), part of which is always the lead looking for love or being happily married.

      The subeqeuent eps weren't as bad at the first one, but I can see why it didn't get renewed.

      Given how sexist the industry can be, I suspect it's a bit of both - they don't know and they don't care to learn. At least these days some are trying - it's much better than it was even 10 years ago.

  3. It doesn't sound very good. Sounds pretty cliche despite their attempts at what I'm guessing is "girl power".

    1. It's like going for girl power and the acutal point went flying over their heads :). Like I mentioned to C.D. above, its as if the writers through women could only investigate crime in a Hallmark cosy mystery, even though it's supposed to be a police procedural.


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