Seasonal anthology series. Season 1: The lives of the participants in a trial with significant racial motives are forever changed during the legal process.Seasonal anthology series. Season 1: The lives of the participants in a trial with significant racial motives are forever changed during the legal process.Seasonal anthology series. Season 1: The lives of the participants in a trial with significant racial motives are forever changed during the legal process.
There are two seasons, the first of eleven episodes, the second of ten, and both track the consequences of a crime that has already happened. The first series, set in Modesto, California, concerns what is apparently a murder-rape by lowlifes of a golden all-American young couple. The second series, set in Indianapolis, deals with an unsavory sexual incident at a party held by the basketball team of a private school. The lives of staff and students at this entitled institution for the wealthy are contrasted with their counterparts at a typical local high school.
The simple, unsensational title is a clue to what this series is trying to do. It aims to be nothing less than an anatomy of contemporary American society. It persuades us that these crimes and their repercussions reveal a great deal about national attitudes to race, education, money, sex, violence, guns, drugs, policing, journalism, social media, the justice and penal systems—you name it. And as with The Wire, a series which had similar ambitions, one comes to understand and sympathize with these characters and their predicaments, even if one doesn't like them. Here is America today in microcosm, and it's not a pretty picture. But Americans are not as exceptional as they sometimes imagine. As this series suggests, the characters' problems are human problems, and you certainly don't have to be American to identify with them.
What is quite unusual is that several of the main parts in the two series are played by the same actors, as in repertory theater. This may be a gimmick, but it works, as the standard of the acting is very high and the effect is to draw attention to the Shakespearean theme of appearance vs reality. The performances of Felicity Huffman, who plays both lead female characters, both unlikable in different ways, are astoundingly good. It helps, of course, that the rest of the cast, the dialogue, camera-work, editing, even the score are of the highest quality.
American Crime is grim and as far from light entertainment as you can imagine. But its final effect is not depressing. Lies are relentlessly exposed for the damage they do. Deeper and more difficult truths, the only kind it's safe to build trust on, start to emerge. And those are perhaps the most important messages that come from this outstanding series.
- Sep 13, 2016