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Sunday, March 8, 2015

PILOT REVIEW: American Crime


Starring: Felicity Huffman, Timothy Hutton, W. Earl Brown, Richard Cabral, Caitlin Gerard, Benito Martinez, Penelope Ann Miller, Elvis Nolasco, Johnny Ortiz

Created by John Ridley
Written by John Ridley, Directed by John Ridley

THE PREMISE: American Crime is a new crime drama anthology with each season being a long-form crime investigation. In the first season, it centers on the murder of Matt Skokie in Modesto, California. Heading up the cast is Matt's divorced parents, Barb (Felicity Huffman) and Russ (Timothy Hutton). Arrested for the murder is hispanic teen Tony Gutierrez (Johnny Ortiz), who has a protective father, Alonzo (Benito Martinez). Rounding out the main cast in a mostly separate (but sure to unite eventually) storyline are street thug Carter Nix (Elvis Nolasco), his druggie girlfriend Aubry (Caitlin Gerard), and veteran of the streets Hector (Richard Cabral).

THE GOOD: Everyone is saying this seems like a cable show and it does. That's a great thing for network TV as it has the prestige that some network shows need. That's because it's not an easy episodic drama like a crime procedural or an off the walls thriller like the Shonda shows or The Following. This is a slow-moving, well-crafted story that has no easy answers or resolutions. The show gives a slice of America as it is in 2015 with a race-related storyline that is very relevant. All the performances were solid in the pilot, but the real standout was Felicity Huffman in a complicated role. In just a few scenes in the pilot, she showed where she was coming from and how her prejudices may have been formed, however irrational.

THE BAD: I don't have a lot of bad things to say about this pilot. It was dark and depressing, and it was a little slow-moving, but it was intended that way. I guess I wasn't as interested in the street stories as the one with Matt's parents and the Gutierrez family. However, I'm sure those stories are bound to intersect more in the future. There had to be a lot of exposition which made some of the moments not too interesting, but I'm willing to trust where it's going.

BOTTOM LINE: The season-long murder mystery has been a bit of a trend this season on broadcast TV. Unlike the campy and melodramatic Secrets and Lies or the knockoff Gracepoint, this one seems truly original and interesting. I am far more interested in how this resolves but only because it seems to be more about the process than a typical "who did it" type of show. I want this show to work so creators and writers feel like they can do these types of shows on network TV.

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