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ABC's new 'Club' involves women, murder

Susan Young
Contra Costa Times (MCT)

WOMEN'S MURDER CLUB - 9 p.m. EDT Friday - ABC

Sisterhood is powerful, and ABC hopes it will be a formidable enough force this Friday to tackle "Friday Night Lights" and out-vamp "Moonlight."

"FNL," one of the best dramas ever to grace the small screen, got a considerable boost last week in its second season start when critics across the country begged viewers to give it a chance. The sexy vampire series "Moonlight," however, was widely panned by critics and still managed to come in at almost a dead heat in the ratings last Friday.

So much for critic influence.

Competition on Friday has just gotten fierce for the first time in years, and the shows seem to be aiming squarely at a distaff audience. "FNL" has spiced up the series with more teen romance and a dicey murder element, while CBS hopes hunky Alex O'Loughlin can reel in women hankering for a dangerous man who wants to be good.

ABC counters those series with the one-two punch of a returning favorite and a woman-centric buddy series. Returning to the schedule is the long-awaited "Men in Trees," with New York transplant Marin (Anne Heche) determined to shed the depressing baggage of her breakup with Alaskan outdoorsman Jack (James Tupper). The episodes sent out for review have sucked us right back into the eccentric lives of the denizens of Elmo, Alaska.

Leading into "Trees" is the new series "Women's Murder Club," based on writer James Patterson's best-selling book series. While the books have the depth of a kiddie pool, the series proved to be rather enjoyable. Angie Harmon is great as career-obsessed homicide inspector Lindsay Boxer, whose marriage did a Humpty Dumpty when she couldn't get over her obsession to catch a serial killer.

Now, not only is the killer back, but so is her husband and he's her new boss. Lovely. "Melrose Place" fans can rejoice in seeing Rob Estes again as Lindsay's ex.

While her former soul mate couldn't take coming in second to her work, she's got her girl pals covering her back. Married medical examiner Claire Washburn (Paula Newsome) copes with juggling work obligations with her family and disabled husband. Assistant D.A. Jill Bernhardt (Laura Harris) has the hots for a slightly sullied defense attorney while she tries to stand by her nice surgeon boyfriend. Tumbling into the mix starting in the premiere episode is reporter Cindy Thomas (Aubrey Dollar).

What's not to like about watching women bonding while solving heinous crimes? This isn't the most challenging series, but it's an enjoyable escape that dovetails nicely into "Men in Trees."

"Murder Club" is set in San Francisco, so to pick a nit, it got very annoying when the characters kept referring to BART as "the subway." No one calls BART "the subway." And they don't generally put a pronoun in front of it. The BART? C'mon people.

Still, we'll forgive them their gaffes and settle down for some mindless Friday entertainment. It goes without saying we'll be watching the recorded version. Our heart still belongs to "Friday Night Lights."

___

Negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers have started to break down dramatically. The last major WBA strike was in 1988.

The key point of contention is residual payments for digital downloads. It seems as if a strike could happen as early as Nov. 1, the day after the current contract expires. It is more likely the strike would happen in January. A strike would put a major hurt on this new season and next, because potential pilots for 2008-2009 start production in December and January.

If the walkout happens next month, it could mean some new shows with borderline ratings could be canceled. "K-Ville" is certainly in jeopardy, but so are "Bionic Woman," "Chuck," "Aliens in America" and other series that have either slipped, or never gripped, in the ratings. Late-night talk shows would be the first to get the heavy hit.

If a strike does happen, get ready for a slew of game and reality shows - which would not be affected by a writers' strike. Please, don't make us have to watch shows like NBC's "Baby Borrowers."

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