I wish I could say that ABC’s new crime drama “Killer Women” is great television. But I can’t. Given that it was shot here in New Mexico, it would be nice to heap praise on a product that contributes to the local economy and could bring gainful employment to New Mexicans for years to come. But “Breaking Bad” this ain’t.
The show—executive produced by “Modern Family” actress Sophía Vergara and developed by Hannah Shakespeare (who worked on “Ghost Whisperer,” “Bionic Woman” and “The Playboy Club”)—brings a refreshing, female-centric point of view to what has been a very male-dominated genre. Tricia Helfer (“Battlestar Galactica”) stars as Molly Parker, a ballsy, beautiful woman who’s one of only two ladies in the Texas Rangers. (Albuquerque does a respectable job of subbing for San Antonio thanks to the Texas flags that appear in nearly every shot.) Parker is portrayed as a cowboy-hat-wearing tomboy who’s uncomfortable in a dress. Although Helfer comes across as one tough lady, there’s no mistaking her for a tomboy. She looks like a supermodel even when she’s waking up in the morning. But that’s the least of the show’s problems.
“Killer Woman” pushes its female angle by featuring—as the title implies—murderous women each episode. But that doesn’t exactly make the show a feminist groundbreaker. The pilot, for example, started out with the silly image of a red-hot Latina in a bright red micro-mini strutting down the aisle of a crowded church, pulling out a gun and shooting a bride in front of hundreds of shocked witnesses. That more or less sets the tone for this pulpy, borderline campy series. Between the lurid color washes and the random freeze-frames stolen from Sergio Leone Westerns, it’s clear producers are trying to ape the grindhouse atmosphere of a Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez movie. But it takes a great deal of movie history savvy and self-awareness to pull off that kind of B-movie homage without sinking into outright parody. It’s a balancing act “Killer Women” can’t quite handle.
Helfer’s southern drawl drifts in and out like the West Texas wind. (Also we’re expected to believe she plays trumpet in a Tex-Mex band, which is just the icing on the goofy cake.) The cinematography borders on comedy. (As in a gut-busting sex scene where the lovemaking between Parker and her DEA agent booty-call is framed lovingly by a pair of intertwined handguns.) The plot is preposterous. (At one point Parker and the DEA hottie sneak across the border, down some tequila shots and raid a drug cartel safe house to rescue some witnesses.) To top it off, the dialogue is simply ridiculous. (“Texas Rangers may be the world’s greatest interrogators, but ...” notes a San Antonio cop. “You think you can dig deep and find the truth?” shouts a murder suspect. “There’s an excellent chance we’re gonna die in Mexico tonight,” deadpans the DEA hunk in the pilot’s most quotable line.)
“Killer Women” has got energy all right. It jumps breathlessly from scene to scene, leaving you hardly any time to contemplate the total lack of realism. It’s just a shame no one involved in the making of this show thought to turn it into the all-out, Airplane!-esque spoof it very nearly resembles.