Good luck finding a negative review of John Ridley’s new ABC drama series "American Crime," which premieres tonight, March 5, at 10pm (taking over the vacated slot that once belonged to Shondaland’s "How to Get Away With Murder," which wrapped up a very successful freshman season last week). Not that I was looking for negative critiques of the new series; but reading through numerous reviews of it, found via Google, it’s, without a doubt, a critical smash! I didn’t find one that even hesitated slightly in its praise, and I’m even now more interested in seeing what Ridley has given life to here.
Tonight’s the night!
"American crime," which Ridley is writing, directing and executive producing, follows a murder case and the trial that follows, as audiences will experience the murder and trial through the eyes of several different people who are, in some way, connected to the events. It frankly tackle matters of race, class and gender politics in the USA.
Here’s its official synopsis: "All over the news are reports about a young couple in Modesto, California, who were attacked in their home. Matt Skokie, a war vet, was killed, and his wife, Lily, is unconscious, barely hanging on. Both sets of parents are at her bedside hoping for a miracle while four suspects are about to be arrested. The case sends shock waves into the community stirring up tensions across racial lines in this gritty drama—from the point of view of the victims."
"American Crime" stars Felicity Huffman, Timothy Hutton, Regina King, W. Earl Brown, Richard Cabral, Caitlin Gerard, Benito Martinez, Penelope Ann Miller, Elvis Nolasco, Johnny Ortiz, and others.
This isn’t Ridley’s first TV venture; he’s been working in that space for about 2 decades, on series like "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," "Third Watch," "The Wanda Sykes Show" and much more, wearing various hats. But this might be the first time he’s won this many hats on one project, as writer, director, and executive producer. Really, it’s HIS project all the way, which means, more for him to lose if this doesn’t work.
But, by most accounts, thus far, it’s a win – a huge win, if the below sample of reviews is any indication. He’s already won an Oscar (for writing the "12 Years a Slave" screenplay), and has been nominated for, and won numerous other awards for his work; but no Emmy nomination. "American Crime" just might get him one – and maybe even a win!
A sample of what critics are saying about the series below; and underneath, you’ll find a character profile of the role Regina King plays in it, as well as a recent trailer:
From the LA Times: Though tonally divergent — "American Crime" is a gritty and politically intense examination of character, while "Dig" is more of a roof-leaping, international action thriller — each uses murder to study intersecting cultures in a demographically diverse region. And each employs well-known and accomplished casts to do it. But where one pushes against the notion of conspiracy, the other embraces it. With its frank examination of race, gender and class, "American Crime" is the more thematically provocative show, a gratifying breakthrough for television and a truly golden child of the age. Though Ridley uses the newly minted anthology style of "True Detective"— each 11-episode season focusing on a different crime and with a new cast — his gaze is wider, more critical, yet less judgmental. There are no moody metaphors in "American Crime," no meandering monologues. Instead, the narrative follows slipstream portraits of many lives, framed by the character’s own definition of context.
From Slate: Of all the series this season to take on race and diversity— Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, Empire, How to Get Away With Murder—American Crime is the most serious-minded. It has no sense of humor to speak of. It’s relentlessly focused on its themes. It can be harrowing and bleak. But what it lacks in fun, it makes up for in intelligence, complexity, and boldness. It’s a network show about heavy, difficult, uncomfortable topics, and it expects, quite simply, an audience. It deserves one, too.
From Variety: Already described as a broadcast-TV stab at doing a prestige-cable series, “American Crime” is produced with a stark sense of realism, from the unglamorous look of the actors to the near-absence of music. Telling the story from multiple perspectives, a la “Crash,” intersecting around a murder, writer-director John Ridley (“12 Years a Slave”) works to challenge perceptions and preconceived notions, as the evolving facts of the case sweep up the characters, but seldom shake their prejudices and convictions. This is, in any venue, ambitious storytelling, although the rarefied air it inhabits could wind up thinning the ratings as well.
From the New York Times: It’s a total immersion into the social collisions caused by one shocking, but not uncommon, violent attack. It’s also an intense, spellbinding look at a murder case in Modesto, Calif., where drugs and gangs may be involved, but nothing is simple or clear. Victims aren’t necessarily innocent, and the guilty aren’t always at fault. The 11-episode series, starting on Thursday, looks as stark as the Modesto landscape it is set in: a bleak, bleached stretch of freeway overpasses, industrial smokestacks and strip malls. Yet the people in it are so insightfully etched, their stories so artfully interwoven and drawn out, that it makes “American Crime” stand out. This is an ABC drama that is not just good, it’s startlingly good, as bracing in its own way as “True Detective” was on HBO last year.
From USA Today: This is America as we seldom see it — presented in a way we’ve never seen. And in TV terms, at least in the early going, it’s also something else: A triumph for Oscar winner John Ridley (12 Years a Slave), who created, produced and directed Thursday’s American Crime premiere (ABC, 10 ET/PT, four out of four stars), and a reconfirmation that Felicity Huffman is one of the best actors we have. That doesn’t mean the first four hours ABC made available for preview are easy to watch. The subject matter is as tough as it comes: A murder that sweeps across our racial, ethnic and class divisions and calls into question the depths of our prejudices and the worth of our justice system. Adding to the designed discomfort, Ridley’s directorial style is purposely, shockingly jarring. Images you normally expect to be in focus are not; conversations you expect to connect to the images don’t. Transitions are abrupt; emotions are raw. In lesser hands, the disruptive flourishes would come across as style for style’s sake; here, disruption is the goal. And in a lesser show, the characters would come across as a collection of social "types," chosen to represent their assigned issues. Here, they come across as real, deeply flawed people caught in a system that seems to care for none of them.
Watch Regina King’s character portrait below:
And here’s the series trailer: