'Wicked City': Why the show's extreme violence has TV critics saying enough

'Wicked City' centers on a serial killer in Los Angeles. Violence on cable and even broadcast television is nothing new, but TV critics are saying 'Wicked' is in 'poor taste' and 'vile and sadistic.'

Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP
'Wicked City' stars Jeremy Sisto.

ABC’s new series “Wicked City” premiered on Oct. 27 and centers on a serial killer (Ed Westwick) who preys on women in 1980s Los Angeles as well as the police detectives (Jeremy Sisto and Gabriel Luna) who are looking for him.

Various TV shows, including the Showtime series “Dexter” and HBO’s “True Detective," have centered on grisly crimes. But “City” has many critics saying that the show has gone too far.

“City” is billed as a 10-episode season (a number of installments that resembles the cable model, where, for example, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” often airs for 10 episodes). And according to ABC, the plan – if the show succeeds, presumably – is to have the show center on crimes in different eras, though the setting will remain the same.

Some have decried the amount of violence in movies and on television in the past. HBO’s “Thrones” often features graphic physical and sexual violence and AMC’s “The Walking Dead” has some gruesome battle scenes. Shows on broadcast networks have gotten complaints, too, with the intense violence of shows like NBC’s “Hannibal” and Fox’s “The Following” turning off some. 

What has made critics say “City” in particular is going too far? It may be the accumulation of all of these shows before it. “City” arriving after critics saw shows like “Walking” and “Hannibal” may mean “City” is just too much now. 

“If you’ve been thinking that there haven’t been nearly enough serial killings and butchered women in this fall’s new shows, Tuesday night is for you,” New York Times writer Neil Genzlinger wrote of the night on which “City” airs. “The real issue for this series is whether viewers will tolerate its tone. The premiere is drenched in an unpalatable sensationalism.”

Meanwhile, David Sims of The Atlantic wrote of “City,” “It’s time to bury the serial-killer drama… Hollywood has long casually mixed sex and violence in poor taste, but ‘Wicked City’ feels especially egregious,” and Mekeisha Madden Toby of TheWrap wrote of the show’s title as it relates to the crimes depicted, “[the crimes aren't] ‘wicked,’ it’s vile and sadistic.”

As cable TV continues to take viewers away, those who make programs for broadcast TV will most likely continue to try to bring in aspects of cable programs for their own shows in an attempt to draw an audience. But when it comes to over-the-top violence on these shows, some critics are saying it’s gone on too long.

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