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Television Review

'Women's Murder Club' takes bite out of crime

Angie Harmon stars as homicide detective Lindsay Boxer in ABC's new drama series 'Women's Murder Club.' Angie Harmon stars as homicide detective Lindsay Boxer in ABC's new drama series "Women's Murder Club." (DANNY FELD/ABC)

How fitting that the last name of Angie Harmon's homicide cop in "Women's Murder Club" is Boxer. Detective Lindsay Boxer is a fighter, for sure, as she strides through San Francisco's grisliest crime scenes. In skintight jeans, a badge hanging off her belt, Harmon's always poised to throw a jab - physically and verbally. With her husky voice, she thoroughly nails traditionally male-cop patter, including "You are under arrest for pissing me off" while cuffing a perp.

Harmon stands out as the only passionate thing in ABC's "Women's Murder Club," which springs from the James Patterson novels to your TV screen tonight at 9 on Channel 5. This is a flat crime show pieced together by cooler heads than Harmon, hoping to create a hit in the ratings wasteland of Friday nights. Everything other than Harmon, who has thrown her "Law & Order" reserve out the window, feels unnatural and contrived. A light bulb went on - let's make "Sex and the City" meets "CSI," with a hint of "Grey's Anatomy" - and the manufacturing process began. It's the distaff version of ABC's equally prefabricated newcomer, "Big Shots."

In addition to Boxer, the unofficial murder club includes three types - I mean professional crime solvers. They share information about their cases and their romantic lives, sometimes while a corpse rots on the ground below them. Laura Harris plays D.A. Jill Bernhardt, but you'll come to know her as "the blond one." Her platinum hair is so bright on screen it must be positively blinding in person. The creators of "Women's Murder Club" make it exceedingly easy for us to distinguish Harris from Harmon, who is all dark hair and darker eyes. They know we're tired on Friday nights, and don't want to have to think.

Harris is moving in with her doctor boyfriend, but she's in lust with a lawyer played by Kyle Secor. Tonight, Secor sweeps everything off her desk so they can impulsively make love. Alas, "Women's Murder Club" doesn't have the padded hospital gurneys of "Grey's Anatomy" on which the characters can be scandalous. Paperweights beware.

The newest member of the club is a brittle newspaper crime reporter played by Aubrey Dollar, who has exactly one trait: ambition. She pushes her way into the ladies' information circuit tonight, as they look into the murder of another newspaper reporter.

And Paula Newsome plays the businesslike medical examiner with a husband in a wheelchair at home. She utters the line that haunts so many TV dramas about professional women: "Your job doesn't hug back." From "Prime Suspect" and "The Closer" to "Grey's," women with big jobs tend to pay for their commitment with stunted love lives. On "Women's Murder Club," Boxer's marriage to Rob Estes's police lieutenant was a casualty of her workaholism. Now her ex just happens to be her boss, and she just happens to still love him, and he just happens to be newly engaged to another woman.

The cases these women solve are very much beside the point. They are built to go easy on us. The "Women's Murder Club" writers throw together the murder plots - which are, essentially, a string of red herrings - as if they're mindlessly mixing up macaroni and cheese. Ultimately, the dead bodies are just an excuse to get together and dish without having to patronize coffee shops.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. For more on TV, visit boston.com/ae/tv/blog/.

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Women's Murder Club

Starring: Angie Harmon, Paula Newsome, Laura Harris, Aubrey Dollar, Rob Estes, Kyle Secor, Tyrees Allen

On: ABC, Channel 5

Time: Tonight, 9-10

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