By Elena Tafone
While the new series “American Crime” has no relation to the national sensation that is “American Horror Story,” it’s not without its own chills. It’s less supernatural and more realistic, making it all the more terrifying.
The story takes place in wake of the death of Matt Skokie, a returned war veteran who was murdered during a home invasion that left his wife Gwen beaten, violated and in a coma. It follows those affected, from Matt’s divorced parents (Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton) to those who are suspects of the crime and their family members. “American Crime” is like a car crash: brutal, but intriguing, so much so that you may have trouble looking away.
While shows about crime, police investigation and courtroom procedure are nothing new — like “Law & Order,” which has been running for over 20 years and spawned innumerable spinoffs — “American Crime” is different.
“It’s not a procedural,” said John Ridley, the show’s creator, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s not about the next piece of DNA evidence — it’s about people dealing with a situation they never asked for, they don’t want to be a part of and will not resolve itself in a week, in a month and sometimes even a year.”
Ridley, who is known for his work on “12 Years a Slave” — which won him the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2013 — wanted the show to examine race relations among other things. These issues are centered around the character of Anthony “Tony” Gutiérrez (Johnny Ortiz), who is initially suspected of having some kind of involvement in Matt’s death and Gwen’s assault. Tony, the son of Mexican immigrants, is forced to face how his heritage paints people’s perception of his involvement in the crime and how he is treated by the criminal justice system.
“I honestly hope that it doesn’t deliver a verbal message,” Ridley told The Hollywood Reporter when asked about how the show addresses these issues. “I believe and hope the writing is good, but it’s not about preaching to people; it’s about having an emotion and people getting pulled along and not even knowing how they arrived there.”
The series is an anthology, meaning each season will focus on a new story with new characters. The first season, which centers on the Skokie murder, made its premiere on Sunday, March 15, and consists of 11 episodes, six of which have already aired. With its beautiful cinematography, artful editing and powerful performances, it’s sure to be a major contender at this year’s Emmy Awards.