The Desperate Housewives creator's new CBS All Access drama, revolving around three separate women in three separate decades (1960s, 1980s and 2010s), "feels a little unstuck in time, and not just because it flits between three timelines at once," says Meghan O'Keefe. "The show, which is Desperate Housewives' mastermind Marc Cherry‘s take on murderesses, has a campy detachment that feels retro. Its tone would have been at home in early ’00s television, the landscape that Cherry dominated. Now, though, in a time where women are at the vanguard of reinventing the crime drama, the show’s insipid vibe feels passé." O'Keefe adds: "In a world inundated with tremendous television, Why Women Kill is merely fine. That’s why it kind of died on arrival for me. It’s pretty to look at, fine to follow along with, but it says nothing new about crime storytelling or relationships. The best part of this show about murder is the killer fashion. It needs more bite to really slay."
Marc Cherry is the Mark Zuckerberg of complicated, high-camp women: "He gives us the product we think we want, but in the end, it still only feels like a facsimile of the real thing," says Robyn Bahr. "When sudsy mystery Desperate Housewives debuted in 2004, it filled the stiletto-shaped void left by Sex and the City and inadvertently gave birth to an entire reality TV genre that made Bravo a household name. It was a fun and audacious nighttime soap that helped reinvigorate then-flailing ABC (along with Grey's Anatomy and Lost), but the flavor of the show — five seemingly flawless upper-middle-class women and their infinite web of lies — indeed feels 15 years in the past. Then again, so does Cherry's newest project, Why Women Kill."
The best moments on Desperate Housewives were when the wives got to talking: "Which makes it all the more confounding that Cherry’s new soap opera, the CBS All Access drama Why Women Kill, is yet the latest show to fail to learn the lessons of one of the last truly huge network hits. His three protagonists — played by Lucy Liu, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Kirby Howell-Baptiste — exist in different timelines, each coping with a collapsing marriage and seeming to move closer to homicide with each slight. That isolation may be part of the show’s point: that these women are driven over the edge by the lack of camaraderie in their lives, a condition that recurs through the decades. But it makes for a deeply unsatisfying show cobbled together from vignettes, a show whose skittish leaps between storylines leaves good actors stranded."
Why Women Kill is a delicious Desperate Housewives successor: Cherry's new drama "is like Housewives boiled down to its most essential elements – death, sex, great actresses and mystery – with the freedom to curse," says Kelly Lawler. "Despite its partial period setting, Women is essentially a modern version of Housewives, mixing dark comedy with violence to illuminate the lives of its main characters."
Marc Cherry explains his ability to write for female characters: "There's a whole bunch of rules, and the cast will make fun of me because sometimes someone will do something, and I'll go, ‘No. You're not going to move on that line. Bea Arthur would roll over in her grave if you moved on the joke. Stay put.' Those lessons still come out of me, and I'm ridiculed."