Writer Marc Cherry (Desperate Housewives, Devious Maids) is back championing more female characters caught up in twisted relationships in Why Women Kill.
The 10 part 2019 series takes place in a grand Pasadena mansion, but is set across three different eras.
Cleverly, these unrelated couples are resident in the same house across 1963, 1984 and 2019. Two of them are rather fun while the third is such a stretch I struggled with its credibility.
In 1963 Beth Ann (Ginnifer Goodwin) moves into the stately mansion with her aerospace engineer husband Rob (Sam Jaeger), attracting the attention of nosy Italian-American neighbours Sheila (Alicia Coppola) and Leo (Adam Ferrara), Newsflash: Marc Cherry always writes in nosy neighbours. While the splendid design looks perfectly Mad Men, domestic bliss is disrupted when Sheila tells Beth Ann that Rob was seen kissing a local waitress (Sadie Calvano). It prompts her to contemplate her future for the very first time.
“I don’t have a job, or a hobby, all I do is take care of you… but when you’re not here anymore, who will I be?” she asks.
In 1984 socialite Simone (Lucy Liu) is throwing a party with husband Karl (Jack Davenport), evidence of their perfect life. But when she discovers he has been having a gay affair it’s enough to make her Dynasty-shoulder pads implode. What will she do next?
Finally in 2019 bisexual lawyer Taylor (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) has an open marriage with screenwriter Eli (Reid Scott), that is so modern Taylor’s latest hook-up Jade (Alexandra Daddario) moves in for the week, and fits right in…
“She cooks, she cleans, she juices,” says Eli.
“She’s the life we always wanted,” agrees Taylor.
As is Cherry’s trademark style, this is wicked and entertaining, rippling with black comedy. Once all three stories are established it’s easy to swing between eras without the need for on-screen titles. Like Desperate Housewives there are big dramas happening within each family unit -and even a toyboy waiter instead of a sexy gardener- but no likelihood of meeting up for weekly gossip.
Ginnifer Goodwin is the standout here, bringing emotional depth to what could otherwise be a hackneyed storyline. Lucy Liu has fun in a Gabrielle Solis-style when faced with her betrayal. The most extreme of the scenarios surrounds the open marriage, where a husband offers little resistance to his wife bringing her girlfriend home. I struggled with the likelihood of this (yes, even in 2019), but also because it felt like Reid Scott’s story rather than Kirby Howell-Baptiste.
But Cherry writes breezily and the action chugs along. Special mention to the gaudy production design and lighting, which has fun with the period tales.
This isn’t demanding, and I’m ok with that. All 10 episodes are also available for you to dig into. The most intriguing aspect of the title, which is what will bring me back, is it isn’t apparent just whom these three ladies will actually bump off….
Why Women Kill drops at SBS on Demand on Thursday July 16.