'Red Widow,' 8 p.m. Sunday on ABC
Two stars (out of four)
It's hard to understand why anyone, in March 2013, would opt to invest in a dark, violent, overly complicated network TV drama populated by generally unlikable people.
We've been there already this season, with such shows as the quickly canceled "Do No Harm" and "Zero Hour" and the struggling "Cult."
ABC hopes "Red Widow," making its debut Sunday, will break the pattern. But that seems unlikely.
In what seems to aspire to "Weeds"-meets-"Breaking Bad" territory, "Red Widow" stars Radha Mitchell as Marta Walraven, who grew up in a Russian crime family but is now living a pleasant suburban San Francisco life with her husband, Evan (Anson Mount, in an odd, hippie mullet-plus-topknot hairstyle), and three kids.
Then Evan is shot in the driveway, in front of their adorable blond son. We watch him die a lingering, bloody death as Marta shrieks and the stunned grade schooler watches.
Shall I continue?
Bereavement is the least of her worries. Turns out, her husband and his business parter, who had been doing some innocent pot-dealing, were involved in using their boat business to run drugs for an uber-criminal, Schiller, played with such scenery-chewing evil by Goran Visnjic that he might as well be twirling an oiled mustache.
Schiller insists she "pick up where Evan left off," "importing" one "consignment" (of cocaine) for him. He'll also protect her criminal brother in prison, maybe. "And then you'll leave us alone," Marta says, hopefully. Sure he will.
We're supposed to be intrigued to watch as Marta proves Schiller right in his belief that she has crime in her DNA. She's pretty good at this outlaw business, even as she protests that "I'm a mom with a mortgage, car repairs and three grieving children" and complains over and over that she simply has no choice.
That's not actually true. She could simply have turned, from the get-go, to the upstanding FBI agent (Clifton Collins Jr.) who had promised her husband to put their family in witness protection. But, but, she can't, because she has NO CHOICE.
Adapted from a Dutch series that was surely better than this, "Red Widow" (from Melissa Rosenberg, who wrote the "Twilight" movies) is trite and tedious. Maybe 10 years ago, this soccer-mom-turned-drug-dealer premise would have been intriguing, but now we've been there and seen better.