Marc Cherry seems delighted to be working on a streaming show. In interviews given ahead of this week's premiere of Why Women Kill, the Desperate Housewives creator has celebrated the shorter episode count, the ability to use more mature language and themes, and getting a much bigger budget than he ever did on his ABC series. But watching What Women Kill, it's clear that Cherry isn't just working on one streaming series. He's working on three.
The soapy drama follows three generations of women who all live in the same Pasadena house at different points in time: Beth Ann (Ginnifer Goodwin) in the ‘60s, Simone (Lucy Liu) in the ‘80s, and Taylor (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) in the present day. Each is happily married, until each couple is rocked by some sort of affair. Beth Ann's husband, Rob (Sam Jaeger), is cheating with a local diner waitress. Simone's husband, Karl (Jack Davenport), is gay and sleeping with men. And in a twist, Taylor and her husband Eli (Reid Scott) have an open marriage, but Taylor is infringing on their rules in her relationship with Jade (Alexandra Daddario).
While the stories' themes do connect them, the narratives have nothing to do with one another canonically, and play out in entirely different silos every episode. It's akin to what Modern Family and This Is Us were originally sold as — separate, parallel stories — without the twist that they're all actually connected. Goodwin, Liu, and Howell-Baptiste never interact, and are simply bound by real estate.
This indeed makes Why Women Kill feel like three different shows. But which is the right one for you? We've broken down each of the storylines based on other TV series that feel most like them.
...you'll love Beth Ann's travails in the 1960s. That's partially because this very much feels like Mad Men's version of the early ‘60s: suburban, very ‘50s in aesthetic, and an affair exposed by a nosy neighbor. Goodwin is so perfect in the role of a housewife betrayed that you wonder why she was never on Mad Men. This is also the quietest and most conventional of the three storylines; you know exactly what you're getting here. The most excitement you can hope for is a naked Beth Ann at the dinner table, trying to recapture her husband's wandering eye.
...you'll love Simone's story, both for the subject matter and the general ‘80s fabulousness of it all. This one isn't an exact match, seeing as Pose is much grittier and centers on a cast of trans women of color, but in keeping with Pose's spirit of whimsy, this is also easily the most fun of the three storylines. This is where you can feel Cherry's soapy spirit come through the most. The reveal that Karl is gay is played for utmost drama, and Liu's flirtation with her friend's 18-year-old son is very Gabi and the gardener from Desperate Housewives.
...you'll probably love Taylor's plot, although admittedly this is our biggest stretch. Really, Taylor's story is just a modern romantic dramedy, albeit with the wrinkle of the open marriage. What got us thinking about The Good Place is Howell-Baptiste, who is truly having a moment on TV right now. She's excellent as Taylor, just chill enough to appeal without ever transcending into full Cool Girl. And the fact that hers is the infidelity in this case — emotional infidelity, at least — lends this plot a little Good Place-esque twist.
Ultimately, if you're watching Why Women Kill, you're watching all three shows. But shows like these encourage viewers to play favorites. Depending on your taste, there will definitely be moments your eyes and ears will perk up more than others. The great news, of course, is that you don't really have to choose.
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Kevin O'Keeffe is a writer, host, and RuPaul's Drag Race herstorian living in Los Angeles. Follow his musings and rantings on Twitter @kevinpokeeffe.