ABC is returning to L.A.'s sordid past with its new drama “Wicked City,” conjuring up serial killers, crooked detectives and the sex-, drugs- and rock-'n'-roll-addled era.
The anthology series' five-minute teaser, which was presented at the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour in Beverly Hills on Tuesday, showcased several familiar tropes and quickly drew comparisons to “True Detective,” “American Horror Story” and “American Crime.”
Set in 1982 on the Sunset Strip -- the murder and serial killer capital of the country -- the ensemble procedural stars Ed Westwick of “Gossip Girl,” who returns to the small screen as a whole new suave, pathological liar: A serial killer named Kent Galloway whose MO appears to be dedicating a song to his victims on the radio. He teams with Betty (Erika Christensen of "Parenthood”), a sociopath herself.
FULL COVERAGE: All the news from the TCA summer press tour
“He’s a master manipulator and he can become whoever he wants to achieve his goals,” Westwick said of Kent.
Betty, in turn, becomes the Bonnie to his Clyde.
“What really struck me about Miss Betty is how quickly she might change from the outset,” Christensen said. “You get the sense that she’s all in with Kent. I’m betting she goes down the rabbit hole with him.”
The show is going for more historical accuracy than camp, the showrunners said, promising to make the music and the Strip vital characters in the series.
“We want you to live in series, not feel like you’re watching a museum piece,” executive producer Amy B. Harris said.
The writers are planting Easter eggs into the drama, mentioning the nascent MTV and bringing back rock stars from the period in an effort to to keep contemporary viewers interested. And filming is being done on the Sunset Strip.
“It’s really important to us to bring in the real world into our fiction and bring out fiction into the real world,” creator and executive producer Steven Baigelman said. “When you watch the show, you’re not going to watch it from the place of nostalgia, you’re actually going to feel like they’re there.”
Since most of Kent’s victims appear to be women, the showrunners said they can’t avoid criticism that the show depicts violence against women, but they’re planning to avoid it turning into "violence porn” because it’s being used to tell the story of the time.
“It’s very much about the violence and degradation [these women go through] to get ahead and get close to the band, and [we] acknowledge that as truth of the time,” Harris said.
“The stories are not just about violence. All these characters are looking for love, recognition and family," Baigelman added.
On the crime-fighting side, "Suburgatory’s” Jeremy Sisto and "True Detective’s” Gabriel Luna play homicide detectives. Sisto plays crooked cop Jack Roth and Luna plays Paco Contreras, a Vietnam war vet.
“Like a lot of driven characters, they’re not very good at life outside the job,” Sisto said, adding that the “hollow and dark era” makes for “good TV.”
Rounding out the cast are Karolina Wydra, an undercover cop who gets close to Jack, "The Hunger Games” films’ Evan Ross as sketchy paparazzo Diver and Taissa Farmiga as aspiring journalist Karen, who becomes the voice of Kent’s murder victims.
“Wicked City” premieres on Tuesday Oct. 27.
Follow me on Twitter @NardineSaad.
MORE FROM TCA: