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While CBS All Access quickly made its name as the home of the “Star Trek” TV universe, the ViacomCBS-owned streaming service is home to plenty of other high-quality original TV series (“The Twilight Zone” and “The Good Fight,” for one). A more under-the-radar choice: “Why Women Kill,” the colorful, murderous comedy-drama from “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry.
The series follows three women in three different decades — Ginnifer Goodwin’s ’60s housewife Beth-Ann, Lucy Liu’s ’80s socialite Simone, and Kirby Howell-Baptiste’s present-day attorney (with an open marriage) — who all live in the same house in Pasadena, all deal with infidelity in their marriages, and are all, somehow, involved in a death.
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IndieWire’s Hanh Nguyen wrote in her review of the series’ 2019 debut that “Why Women Kill” is a “visual treat ranging from the almost Technicolor palette used for the ’60s to evoke a Douglas Sirk-ian melodrama to the ultra-fabulous excesses of Liu’s Alexis Carrington-inspired duds and environs. Marc Webb (‘500 Days of Summer’) directs the first two installments provided to critics for review, and he utilizes clever and delightful transitions to indicate switches between decades.”
The performances from each of the main stars are “equally enjoyable,” wrote Nguyen, “with Goodwin’s Beth-Ann evoking the most pathos, while Liu makes an eight-course meal (with wine pairings) of her character’s unselfconscious superficiality. The ubiquitous Howell-Baptiste is solid as always, although her usual British accent is missed. The erring husbands (Sam Jaeger, Jack Davenport, Reid Scott) are also all played with energetic aplomb, each bouncing off the energies of their onscreen spouses.”
In addition to the bold color palate in the series itself, the show has a cheeky comic book-inspired opening title sequence set to Michael Feinstein’s version of the Nat King Cole classic “L-O-V-E” that creator Cherry actually wrote into the show.
“I had never done this before, but I wrote a main title sequence into the pilot. It was just a series of women killing men,” he told IndieWire. “In my original conception, I had eight sequences. We were going to shoot it live action, but then we were presented with how big the budget would be to kill different men in different eras, and we were going over it.”
Eventually, he settled on an animated sequence that shows men being murdered in various ways in a ’60s-inspired style. And unlike plenty of mainstream American entertainment in the ’60s, the opening title sequence features many non-white characters.
“It was something that was brought up early, which is, I think for a lot of people, white characters are the default. And I think we live in a time now where everyone takes a moment to remember, ‘Let’s broaden that horizon,’” said Cherry. “I want people to see themselves reflected in my work. And why should only white women be killing their husbands? I’m sure there’s women of many different creeds and colors who would love to take out the man they married. So I want to honor that.”
The opening titles ended up setting the tone not just for the series, but the message Cherry hopes viewers take from the show.
“Once I saw it all put together with the orchestration and everything, I was very proud of it because it really sets the mood and reminds everyone that this is a show about women giving men their just rewards,” said the creator. “The show is far more complex in terms of what happens and why and, indeed, who is killing who. We have some plot twists in our show that I hope will delight and surprise our audiences.”
The full season of “Why Women Kill” is available to stream on CBS All Access.