Television review: ‘Wicked City’ is wickedly bad

Oct. 27, 2015, 10:01 a.m.

In the eyes of many, the ’80s heralded the beginning of the end for America’s soul. The sun was setting on the peace, love and marijuana of the ’70s, and an ominous moon was rising over the violence, corporate greed and cocaine of the ’90s. In between was a disquieting twilight, where evil was sneaking into the fabric of daily life but the dreams of the previous era still survived.

“Wicked City,” an ’80s crime drama, plays out this tension between dark and light in the form of a serial killer (Ed Westwick) and the detectives on his trail (Jack Roth and Gabriel Luna). Though the show ostensibly examines the conflictedness that defined the ’80s, it approaches the topic far too broadly, shining a harsh artificial light on an era defined by its shades of gray. Rather than explore the intricacies of the ’80s twilight, “Wicked City” embraces the soulless spirit of the ’90s and panders to the lowest common denominator.

“Wicked City” is a show that exudes profitability. In every aspect, the show feels like a moneymaking vehicle: sweeping shots of cities, pithy one-liners, tried-and-true character archetypes, occasional thrills delivered at a measured pace and a color palette in line with the latest cinematographic science. It is a show dreamed up in a studio executive’s office, not in the mind of a visionary director. Easy to follow and pleasing to look at, “Wicked City” will likely do well in the demographic of elderly people, semiconscious couch potatoes and people who accidentally left their TV on, and will, with any luck, satisfy its creator’s dream of buying a new set of jet skis. Akin to an 8 dating a hard 5, people with better options will settle on this safe, simple show that is unlikely to disappoint but equally unlikely to entertain.

For those of us with the opportunity to be more selective in our media consumption, this is a show best avoided. Our time in this world is fleeting and finite, and since you have likely planned already to waste it on TV, you might as well waste it on a show worth watching. In all likelihood, you will not have a bad time watching “Wicked City.” Each straightforward, unambiguous episode will leave you with a hollow satisfaction and maybe a few talking points with your friends the next day, but you will leave a tiny piece of your soul behind each time. Worse yet, committing valuable time to “Wicked City” will suffocate better shows and encourage studios to continue producing similar, thoroughly middle-of-the-road fare.

Regardless of the genre you want to watch, there is a better option than “Wicked City.” For a gritty noir with a good dose of thrills, “Narcos,” available on Netflix, is a far better option, featuring more excitement and saucier accents. For a stylized show with a great mystery at its core, “Twin Peaks is also available on Netflix, boasting fantastic characters and a truly well-construct plot arc. For a more conventional crime drama, you can watch “Fargo,” which is currently in its second season, or “The Wire,” both of which tackle more interesting cases in more interesting ways. There is an enormous world of phenomenal shows, both contemporary and classic, to explore that should preclude any reason to spend your time on “Wicked City.” As a passive-aggressive mother might say, I won’t be mad if you watch “Wicked City,” just disappointed.

“Wicked City” premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on ABC.

Contact Ryan Holmdahl at ryanh ‘at’

Ryan Holmdahl is a television critic at the Stanford Daily. He has a soft spot for trash TV and is currently seeking ways to appear on his favorite show, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” To contact him with ideas, please email ryanlh “at” Ryan is a sophomore from Seattle, Wa. pursuing degrees in computer science and philosophy.

Login or create an account

Apply to The Daily’s High School Summer Program

deadline EXTENDED TO april 28!