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Early in the premiere of the new ABC drama "Wicked City," a serial killer viciously murders a young woman as she is performing oral sex on him.

While not overly graphic — this is a broadcast network, not a premium cable channel — it's a very disturbing scene. It's also pretty much par for the course on TV.

Violence against women has become a television staple. Crime drama thrive on it. It drives their plots. It's what the networks use to promote their shows.

In the case of "Wicked City," it's the show's reason to exist. That and becoming the umpteenth crime drama to focus on the exploits of a serial killer. Or killers.

If there were as many serial killers in real life as there are on TV, we'd all be dead by now.

"Wicked City" focuses on Kent Grainger (Ed Westwick, "Gossip Girl"), a handsome, charming murderer targeting women in 1982 Los Angeles. On the Sunset Strip, to be exact.

He offers to help various young women with their careers. "Kill me, I like to give back," he says repeatedly … before he kills them.

If that's not wretched enough, Kent quickly hooks up with Betty Beaumontaine (Erika Christensen, "Parenthood"), a single mother and nurse who falls for Kent … even though he likes her to pretend she's dead while he's having sex with her. And, before long, Betty becomes Kent's partner in crime.

It's sick and twisted. And we're supposed to be entertained as LAPD detectives Jack Roth (Jeremy Sisto, "Suburbia") and Paco Contreras (Gabriel Lunas) try to hunt him down.

This first of 10-episodes in this anthology series — one story per season is the plan — drips with cliches. Kent phones radio stations with dedications to the women he's murdering. Jack and Paco don't get along — the new kid annoys the veteran.

That might not have been entirely played out in 1982, but this sort of thing makes "Wicked City" feel dated in ways that have nothing to do with the period setting.

With the exception of some great 1980s music, it's all rather mundane and uninspired. Which speaks to just how ubiquitous violence against women has become on TV.

Show-runner Amy B. Harris was quick to point out that "the majority" of the writers are women. And that "it was very important to us that we not depict graphic violence."

By that, she means we see the knife and spurting blood; we don't see the knife plunging into the body, which doesn't make it any less disturbing.

"But we also want to acknowledge that they are killing people. There's no way where we can say that they aren't. That's the story we are telling."

The most disturbing thing about "Wicked City" is that it's not unusual. It's not original. It's not particularly interesting.

It's just the latest series driven by violence against women.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune . Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.

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