I confess! I thoroughly enjoy Women's Murder Club. Neither self-serious nor campy, the new ABC police drama is just what I've been craving amid all the businesslike Law & Orders and CSIs. This pleasantly retro show harks back to when detective series were run on personality and playfulness: It's Josie and the Pussycats meets Columbo. Based on James Patterson's best-selling book series, WMC centers on workaholic San Francisco detective Lindsay Boxer, played by Law & Order's Angie Harmon who, it turns out, is the Charlize Theron of above-average TV. Smart-alecky and surprisingly genuine despite her hot-tomboy looks, she anchors the show with ease strutting through hospital corridors, snapping for coffee, chasing bad guys into ponds and handcuffing them underwater. Unlike TV's gorgeous, whiny single-woman archetype, Harmon is actually believable as a wary divorcée forced to work with her nice-guy ex, who's now her superior (Melrose Place's Rob Estes, nailing the act of looking bemused and/or befuddled). The native Texan lets her twang go unhampered, but the writers have resisted massaging in annoying ''Southernisms'': Lindsay has yet to messily chow down on barbecue, talk about ''how we do things back home,'' or even mention where she's from, which is a relief.
We only see Lindsay on the job. She has a chagrined, wiser partner, Jacobi (Alias' Tyrees Allen), who has not actually said ''I'm too old for this s---,'' but is clearly thinking it. The two have a teasing, young gal/avuncular guy friendship that's unlikely to get more complicated on WMC, men are expected only to react good-naturedly or exasperatedly to the women. Harmon's fellow Murder Club members include neurotic assistant district attorney Jill (Laura Harris), who has commitment issues; sensible coroner Claire (Paula Newsome), whose husband is adjusting to life in a wheelchair; and spunky reporter Cindy (Aubrey Dollar), who's young and intrepid. The women combine forces to solve murders while talking about guys. It's more than girl power...it's BFF power! And just like a great Quincy, M.E. episode, the crimes are ultimately quite crackable: Some trace evidence here, a suspicious husband there, and boom! the suspect is soon coughing up an unwisely detailed confession, so the women can get back to girl talk and chocolate.
Occasionally, all that sugar-fueled banter can get a bit too Sex and the City Morgue. The women gather around a fresh body and joke about a corpse's bikini wax, and they obsess over one another's relationships: ''How did we go from the autopsy report to my sad sex life?'' Claire asks, and it's a worthy question now and then. Another query might be, When is the Kiss Me Not Killer, so ominously referenced in the first three episodes, going to actually show up? It's time. Everyone knows a good Murder Club needs strong, engaging women, lots of supportive sharing, several bottles of pinot grigio, and a really insane, unstoppable, gruesome serial killer. B