Andrew Southam, ABC
Aubrey Dollar, Paula Newsome, Angie Harmon and Laura Harris.

Angie Harmon was on "Law & Order" for three seasons (1998-2001), and, while she has nothing negative to say about the show, she does express the same frustration as a lot of other ex-cast members.

"It's a wonderful show, but ... there is no backstory," Harmon said. "You don't know what's going on with those characters. So as an actor you became frustrated because there are muscles that you don't ever exercise.

"You never know — why do we come to work in a bad mood? What happened at home that night? After a while, you start to hunger for that. You really want it."

She's got all that and more on ABC's new series "Women's Murder Club," premiereing tonight at 8 p.m. on Ch. 4. Based on the best-selling novels by James Patterson, it's about four women who work together to solve crimes.

And their personal lives play into the scripts as much as the crimes they're trying to solve.

Harmon takes the lead as San Francisco police detective Lindsay Boxer, who's obsessed with her job, which just got a little more complicated because her ex-husband is her new boss.

And she gets more than a little help from her friends. One, Claire Washburn (Paula Newsome), is a medical examiner who's got an interesting home life (revealed at the end of Episode 1).

Another, Jill Bernhardt (Laura Harris), is an assistant district attorney whose boyfriend wants her to move in with him — but then he doesn't know she just slept with an obnoxious public defender.

And trying to break into the group is ambitious young newspaper reporter Cindy Thomas (Aubrey Dollar), who provides a bit of comic relief as she's raising the eyebrows of the others.

While there are murders to solve every week — and one plotline about a serial killer that seems destined to span at least several episodes — this is definitely not "Law & Order."

"All of these women (are) intelligent. They're witty. They're fantastic. They're talented. They're driven. They're all those things that you want your characters to be," Harmon gushed. "And then they're also completely flawed, and they have their personal lives. You know why they came to the crime scene that way or what happened to them the night before, and that's an actor's dream to be able to have both of those things visible to the audience that you can play."

As for her contention that it's a "perfect balance" between crime drama and personal drama, well, they're still working on that. The original pilot was scrapped in favor of tonight's episode, which plays up the personal side of the story a bit too much. In the two episodes provided to critics, the backstory overwhelms the main story at times.

"Women's Murder Club" isn't going for deep, social commentary, however. Much like a good mystery novel, it's escapist stuff that's designed to entertain.

It does that fairly well, if you're looking for light entertainment interspersed with grisly crimes.

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