Thursday, November 5, 2015

Wicked City: FAIL

My bride and I are fairly selective in our TV viewing habits, but sometimes when a new show comes along we’re willing to give it a try. Such was the case with a new offering from ABC called “Wicked City”. The promos looked good (they always do) but after viewing the second installment of the show last night (via DVR) we looked at each other and gave it a thumbs down.

It’s pretty typical network fare; there’s murder, violence, sex (and the network shows get bolder every year), and recognizable TV stars. One of the reasons I wanted to give it a chance is because one of the female leads is a young lady (Erika Christensen) who starred on the now-concluded NBC TV show “Parenthood”, which I liked. (I think I’m a lot like Zeke, for those of you who watched the show.)

The writing for Wicked City was what you’d expect of a show trying to appeal to that standard 25-54 demographic, and one of the things you must ask yourself is – what do a 25-year-old and a 54-year-old have in common? Not much, which is why that 25-54 demo has always puzzled me.

The show is supposed to be set in the mid-80’s in Los Angeles, which is another reason it appealed to me: I lived in L-A in the mid-80’s. But a few minutes into the show, I was annoyed by what a lot of TV shows trying to reach the younger demographic do: they intentionally and horribly distort what things were really like 30 years ago.

First of all, in the “establishing shots” for the locale, they use an image of the Los Angeles skyline like the one at the top of the post. Clue: the L-A skyline didn’t look like that in the mid-80’s. It looked like that in the 60’s. One of the more striking elements of the current L-A skyline is the U.S. Bank Tower, the stark white skyscraper that was called the First Interstate Bank Building when construction started in 1987.


This is what the L-A skyline looks like today. The U.S. Bank Tower is the tallest structure, right in the center of this photo. That's City Hall on the far right- the smaller white tower.

In one of the first scenes of the first episode of the show, the action takes place on Sunset Boulevard, one of L-A’s many famous streets. I noticed the cars were all 60’s models (they were focusing on a guy cruising the Sunset Strip in a ’66 GTO) but there wasn’t a single car from the 80’s anywhere in sight.

And all the cars had those old gold on blue California license plates. From ’63 to ’69, California plates were gold on black – usually three letters followed by three numbers – and from ’70 to late ’82, the plates were gold on blue, usually three numbers followed by three letters. Late in ’82 they started using a white background with blue characters, and there were seven characters on the plate. My ’84 California plates, which are still hanging on my garage wall, were “2EUM865”. 

They started out with a 1 and then three letters followed by three numbers; when they ran out of combinations they went to a 2 followed by three letters and three numbers, and now I think they’re up to plates starting with a 9 followed by three letters and three numbers. Who knows what they’ll come up with when the 9’s run out. And, in California, plates stay with the vehicle when you sell or trade it.

As usual, I digress.

That business of having a series supposedly set in the mid-80’s and using cars and plates from the mid’60’s has always annoyed me. But TV, and sometimes even movies, do this a lot. If a show is supposedly set in the ‘50’s, it’s pretty much a lock that the art directors will use vehicles from the 30’s and early 40’s. Why? Somebody once told me it’s to give the visuals a more “old-time” feel.

I’m not sure if that’s true, but it happens a lot and it annoys me. And with Wicked City, the crazy part was all the vehicles featured are 60’s cars, except the cop cars….which are mid-80’s Chevy sedans. Go figure.

Another thing the art directors, or whoever, deliberately did, is misrepresent the fashions. The skirts on the ladies are waaaaaaay too short for the mid-80’s, and in many cases are more like the mini-skirts of the 60’s. (As a confirmed “leg man”, I notice things like that.)

I guess the idea is that if they actually used vehicles and styles from the mid-80’s, when the series was supposedly taking place, that the millennials in the viewing audience would think it looked “too recent”.
Whatever the reason, it annoys me, there’s too much of it, and…sorry, ABC, but Wicked City is no longer being DVR'd at the Compound.


  1. So much TV presumes if they get the clothes right, that's all they need to do. One of the reasons I quit watching "That 70s Show" midway through the first season is that it came off as an impression of what people in the early 00s thought the 70s should look like.

    It wasn't what the 70s sounded like, either. A few years ago I read an analysis of TV dialogue that looked for anachronistic usage--words and phrases that weren't in use at the time a show is set. As I recall, "Downton Abbey" and "Mad Men," so often praised for their historical accuracy, were serial offenders.

    1. Thanks, Jim. I've always suspected that, about language usage, but have never seen an analysis like the one you mentioned. I'll have to hunt for it online.