Why Women Kill should be much more than it is.
Mark Cherry assembles a truly magnificent cast for what is billed as a darkly comedic drama, but after two episodes (all that were available for me to review) it's very difficult to connect with the characters, and that's troublesome.
Marc Cherry is no stranger to a good comedic drama. In fact, he's a master.
With both Desperate Housewives and Devious Maids, he managed to capture lightning in a bottle. Twice!
With soapy twists galore, the characters on those series were still straightforward, and their motivations, while not pure, always came from a place of soapland logic.
Why Women Kill, on the other hand, is a little too heavy on comedy at the expense of character development.
The series doesn't hide its intent. Not only is it in the title, but the opening credits are a cute collection of comic book covers depicting different issues of Why Women Kill.
As already noted, the cast is delicious in its own right. There isn't a single character that was miscast or an actor unable to work with the material.
The strength of the cast is Why Women Kill's greatest ally. They're a joy to watch even when the inclination is to roll your eyes at what's unfolding on screen.
It shouldn't have come as a surprise that a series with this title would leap immediately into the notion that three of the characters we meet in the premiere are unlikely to make it out of the season alive.
Since this is an anthology in the vein of American Horror Story, according to Cherry, and the season only has ten episodes, maybe he didn't feel there was enough time to create an attachment to any of the relationships before the idea of offing someone connected to them.
But even with a comedic take on murder, it would be helpful to care about the potential victims.
Unfortunately, that's not the case.
Why Women Kill Season 1 revolves around the relationships of three women and their husbands in three different time periods.
What pulls the story together is the location -- all of the couples lived shared the same residence during different decades.
Ginnifer Goodwin plays Beth-Ann. A 1963 housewife married to Sam Jaeger's Rob. Picture Rob and Laura Petrie from The Dick Van Dyke Show.
The perfect husband with the perfect wife. He works all day while she stays home to make it the most inviting and comfortable environment she can for her man.
If they ever were happy, we are not privy to it. From the moment they move into their new home, it's evident that Rob treats Beth-Ann like more of a maid than a housewife, and their new neighbors even call him out on it.
Their neighbors are a hoot. As Leo and Shiela Mosconi, "They're Italian," Adam Ferrara and Alicia Coppola are instantly likable. With only one visit, they were more interesting than the lead couples. As it turns out, a relatively happy relationship is a lot more interesting than one that is not.
That will become more apparent as the time periods change.
Goodwin is a perfect 60's housewife, and she conveys all of the sorrow and anger that's appropriate for her character and the period.
Jaeger normally plays a good guy, so he's an inspired choice to play the unattentive cad. Karl should offer so much more to Beth-Ann, but a deep secret is tearing them apart.
Of course, it's easier to turn to another than it is to the person you love, and for Karl, that's a naive waitress named April (Sadie Calvano). Another perfectly cast character, it seems like she's in for a lot more than she imagined with Karl.
Infidelity is another common thread between the marriages.
In 1984, Simone and Karl Grove inhabit the home.
With several divorces under her belt, Lucy Liu's Simone desperately wants to find the perfect husband, but she can't quite hit the target.
On the surface, her marriage to Karl (Jack Davenport) is sympatico. They revel in the finer things and adore fashion and decor. Lurking underneath, though, is trouble.
While both try to one-up the other in who will have the last laugh (or the last word), infidelity creeps into their lives without explanation.
This couple is the most combative of the three. Think War of the Roses. It's not to that point by the end of the second episode, but you can sure imagine them hanging from a chandelier in their quest to remain in control.
In a move right out of the Desperate Housewives playbook, while Simone tries to save face with regard to her marriage, a young lover is standing by with a huge crush.
Leo Howard (Santa Clarita Diet) plays Tommy Harte, a hot young fella a tad too young to be luring Simone into his world, but who does it nonetheless.
It's this connection that softens Simone and allows viewers to understand her rash of husbands better as she recognizes what she's been missing.
The situation in 2019 is a bit more difficult to grasp, but it's leaning into the direction that a third wheel doesn't usually stay that way for long.
Kirby Howell-Baptiste has been giving hell to 2019. Co-starring on Veronica Mars, Barry, and The Good Place, taking a lead here suits her well.
She stars as a successful businesswoman named Taylor married to a man she loves very much. Eli (Reid Scott) is a stay at home husband, so the roles are somewhat reversed in their marriage.
He stays home to write a screenplay and cares for the home. When she returns to sling her coat over the back of a chair, a little spat erupts because how many coats will end up on that chair before she picks them up?
But little spats over housework aren't what really tests their vows.
The couple is in an open marriage with an agreement never to get overly emotional with an outside party nor to invite those parties into the marriage.
When Taylor's latest fling, Jade (Alexandra Daddario) needs rescuing, those rules get broken, and previous unseen traits of the partners rear their ugly heads.
Again, all of these roles are perfectly cast. There isn't a single reason why Why Women Kill shouldn't work on every level. But to get invested in the whodunnit and why, you need to care.
Since the marriages are essentially on the rocks within minutes of meeting all of the parties involved, knowing that someone isn't going to survive their tumultuous marriage doesn't matter by the end of episode 2.
There is a lot of potential here. The dramatical elements increase as the characters open up a bit, and you get an opportunity to forget about the premise for a minute.
It's a little difficult to follow at times because the three timelines play out almost simultaneously. For example, if there is a shower scene in one era, the shower it at play in the other two, as well, and the series jolts you in and out of the time periods to make that point.
Beth-Ann will be walking from a room in 1964, and the walk continues with Simone in the middle of the room, and Taylor exits out the other side. But as odd as it seems, it works to provide a bit of cohesion with three otherwise separate stories.
Not to harp on the obvious, but the cast alone is enough to watch. Add in Cherry's evening soap pedigree, and you'd be silly not to give it a whirl.
I just wish there was even one episode that offered a showcase for why each couple married in the first place and what it was like when their relationships weren't in jeopardy before tearing their happily never after to shreds.
Why Women Kill premieres today on CBS All Access.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.