Over recent years, television has become more violent with each new TV season. Networks try to find the newest, most shocking stories to share and through it all, we the viewers, are getting more desensitized. More violence and sexual acts are being portrayed in new ways, but we are becoming less shocked by it. ABC’s new “Wicked City,” premiering tonight is just the latest.
Unlike shows like CBS’ “Criminal Minds,” where good people are working hard to take down the evil ones, Wicked City is filled with people with messed up lives trying to take down other people with messed up lives and in the end, viewers may feel like victims themselves, by partaking in it.
“Wicked City” takes place in 1982, has a “killer” soundtrack of classic 80’s music and has an intriguing storyline to invite in those who are curious. The show focuses on two groups of people: the killers and the cops. The killers includes Kent Grainger (Ed Westwick) who has a thing for leading on women at a popular dance club on the Sunset Strip, taking them to his car for sex and then killing them for fun. His next victim could be single mother and nurse Betty Beaumontaine (Erika Christensen), who is just looking to meet a nice guy for her and her kids. But we learn early on that she has a few issues herself in that she says the creed of “do no harm” but doesn’t seem to believe it. When Kent meets her, sparks slowly spark and we get the distinct impression that he just might be interested in grooming her for more adventurous dating.
The cops include Detective Jack Roth (Jeremy Sisto) who has just been informed that he has a new partner, Paco Contreras (Gabriel Luna) who is rumored to use short cuts in climbing the corporate ladder in their police world. Roth isn’t so great himself. He says that he wants to be a good person, but clearly does the opposite. His wife and children would like to see more of him and he uses the excuse of being busy with work but that it only partially true. Roth is having an affair with a woman who may or may not be dealing cocaine and may or may not be an undercover police officer working at a strip joint.
“Wicked City” is not visually as gruesome as some other shows (the violence and sexual acts are mostly unseen) but it’s gruesome in other ways. First, there is no real person to root for. Each character, at least in tonight’s pilot episode, has large flaws. Some will argue that showing flawed heroes will make the show more believable and while we know that our world is filled with imperfect people, shouldn’t we strive for at least one or two characters who are morally upstanding? It is almost as if the creators of the show are attempting to show that murder is the worst sin of all, while dealing drugs and cheating on your wife can be excused.
Sisto is a great actor (even if he tends to play the same type of character over and over again) and Westwick is sufficiently creepy. In the end though, the show is more nauseating than it is a thriller. The story is over the top, unbelievable and just like when you overeat at a buffet, you’ll finish tonight’s episode feeling like, “what did I just eat?”
For those who actually care, “Wicked City” airs on Tuesdays at 10:00 p.m. on ABC.