Blogging the TCA, Part 2: “Women’s Murder Club” aka “The Angie Harmon Show”

This is a live blog from the bi-annual Television Critics Association conference.
See more TCA live blog posts here.

It’s time for the panel on Women’s Murder Club, a drama based on the
novels by James Patterson about a homicide detective, a medical
examiner, a newspaper reporter and a young assistant district attorney who work
together to solve homicide investigations.

Or as I like to call it, The Angie Harmon Show. You’ll see why in
a moment.

The cast, creator, writers and director file onto the stage and take their
seats, with Angie Harmon perched in the center like the crown
jewel. She looks good, as usual- too thin, but great outfit: white pants with
a black sleeveless top and her black hair pulled back into a ponytail. Her co-hosts,
Aubrey Darling, Laura Harris, and Paula Newsome,
look happy and comfortable, James Patterson is patched in via a video screen,
and Joe Simpson (aka father of Jessica and Ashlee Simpson)
sits on the far right as an executive producer (huh?).

But I’m wondering, where is Elizabeth Ho, the show’s Asian
American character? She’s in some of the cast photos, but she’s not part of
the core foursome, so apparently she doesn’t rate an appearance. [Wednesday night update: an ABC publicist told me that Ho's character has been dropped from the show. Damn. One less Asian American woman on TV next season.]

There are two female writers on the panel, Sarah Fain and
Elizabeth Craft, but I can’t tell which is which (even though
they look completely different) because I was checking my email when they introduced
everyone. So I’m just going to attribute whatever either of them say to "SarahBeth."

Right out of the gate, a reporter asks about the femininity of the characters,
subtly praising the fact that they don’t seem like men who are women. SarahBeth
explains, "We don’t want them trying to be men in a man’s world, we want
them to be themselves trying to make it in a man’s world." Or something
like that. It was kind of convoluted. In response to a question about how closely
the storylines stick to the books, SarahBeth responds that the characters are
true to the book, but the storylines are new.

There are a bunch more questions about Angie’s character Lindsay, and more
questions about the challenges of making a show focused around women. You’d
think it was a show revolving around alcoholic monkeys, for all the curiosity
in the room.

SarahBeth says, "There’s a perception that women tear each other down,
but more often women buoy each other."

Joe Simpson pipes up and calls it a cross between NYPD Blue, CSI
and Sex and The City. Someone asks him what his involvement in the
show is, exactly, and he responds that he "got the ball rolling."
Whatever that means. The reporters are all still scratching their head.

Everyone agrees some of the best work in Hollywood is done on TV now, not film.

And we’re back to more questions about the marvel of a show about all women.
Angie explains that this show works because it’s the intersection of the women’s
work and personal lives (not that she actually used the word "intersection"),
that it won’t be all about their work because when women get together to talk
about anything, politics, their shoes, you always veer off into who’s seeing
who, who’s boyfriend’s doing what, I don’t like your shoes, etc. and "that’s
what they’ve managed to capture on the page" of this script. "Just
as much as it’s a procedural," she says, "it’s character-driven."

A reporter asks what it’s like not to be "the woman" on the show
– referring to how women usually play the wife or girlfriend of the male lead
– and Laura says half-jokingly, "I love chicks, they rock. I like as many
chicks as possible, that’s how I feel about it." Sadly, she doesn’t mean
it the way we wish she did..

Angie jumps in to talk about how the four of them lift each other up and support
each other. Sounds like a bra commercial.

Paula agrees, saying that what she likes about this series is that "we
bring things to the table that doesn’t even have to be said, that we just know
as a woman."

A (female) reporter asks about whether the lack of sexual tension between characters
is a challenge, or a good thing, and Angie jokes that "there’s lots of
sexual tension between us" and motions to the other women, while Paula says "Leave me alone, Angie, leave me alone!" Finally, a lesbian
moment!

It’s feeling. The reporter keeps trying to ask the question in a different
way, and Angie says "there are men in the show!" not once
but twice. I half-expected her to say it in Spanish, too, just to make sure
everyone got it. Although she seems just as exasperated as I am at the reporter’s
inability to grasp how they can build a show around just women.

SarahBeth to the rescue. "Instead of the women reacting while the men
do the cool stuff," she says, "in this show the women get to do a
lot of cool stuff and they’re not going to be undercut." But, she’s quick
to add, " we’re going to have really strong guys who are challenging to
the women."

A (male) reporter asks if there are better roles for women on TV, and Angie
says she thinks there are equally strong female roles available on film. Um,
what movies is she watching? ‘Cause that’s not what I see when I look at my
local movie listings.

In answer to some question I’ve forgotten already, Laura says, "people
want to see women working together successfully, and being successful."
I think I like this chick.

Patterson says that women and men deal with problems differently: women ask
for input, whereas men just blurt out what they think the answer is. I’m about
to blurt something out right now, like "can anyone ask a question that
isn’t related to gender?"

Laura volunteers that how everyone has a range of masculine and feminine qualities.
Now I know I like this chick.

I look her up and see that she was on Dead Like Me and Jake 2.0.
Maybe I’ll give them both another look.

Someone asks Joe Simpson if plans to cast his daughters on the show. It’s the
only reason anyone can think of for why he’s involved in this show, but Joe
says there are no immediate plans to bring Jessica or Ashlee. But he doesn’t
rule it out, either. I’m on pins and needles.

An older female reporter asks Aubrey Dollar if that’s her real name (it is)
and how she got the part (she auditioned).

Laura says she’s into organic gardening and playing the cello.

Someone asks Angie about being a "mom of two" and how she can balance
starring in this show with being a mother. She goes into a lengthy explanation
about how it’s working out just fine, but she’s "praying about it every
day". There’s a follow-up question about Law and Order , and she
goes into a careful explanation about how L&O is a wonderful show, but the
characters don’t have a backstory, and as an actor you start to hunger for that,
etc. But Women’s Murder Club is "a perfect balance of that."

Back to Angie’s personal life as a reporter asks, "Is your husband more
of a house-husband now?" Seriously? In 2007?

Angie explains that husband Jason’s a sports commentator, and he’s busy but
not ready to be away from their kids that much. He’s happy with his job and
where he is, her family’s in a really good place right now, she’s really happy,
etc.

With that, the session comes to a close. As the cast leaves the room, Angie
is mobbed by reporters with voice recorders, probably asking whether she plans
to have more children, and whether the women get in catfights on the set. Angie
stops to answer their questions until her frantic publicist finally pulls her
away. The rest of the cast make it out of the room unfettered by reporters. I try to make it out of the room without rolling my eyes.

(Read
Part 1 of my TCA blog here
)

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