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TV Series Review

ABC's American Crime is the network's bid for prestige-drama buzz. The series starts a "fresh" narrative every season, à la FX's American Horror Story. But unlike the creepy-sexy-gory-campy vibe of that Ryan Murphy production, American Crime is deadly earnest.

American Crime is the brainchild of John Ridley, screenwriter for the Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave. The writing is just as taut as you would expect it to be. Season 1 deals with a complex murder investigation, with that single death impacting, damaging and destroying many other lives along the way. Season 2 tackles a crime no less disquieting: the rape of a boy from a public high school, allegedly at the hands of wealthy private-school basketball players. The acting is impeccable, with the most violent emotions roiling under the surface of faces desperately trying to keep it together. The drama deals with huge issues—sex, race, privilege—while still remaining intensely character driven. And the showrunners seem inclined to let the action take its time, step by discomforting step.

But let's emphasize that word discomforting here: While American Crime doesn't stoop to the ludicrously graphic lows of cable shows like True Detective or the aforementioned American Horror Story, it still feels dark and oppressive and harsh. It doesn't wallow in blood, nor does it blink and turn away from its reality. And emotional trauma equals or outweighs physical tolls. Terrible deeds are described in chilling detail.

American Crime tells us a great deal about what we already know: race relations are combustible, needing only the smallest of sparks to ignite; even the nicest of people can hold horrible secrets; and when it comes to the most cruel crimes, victims are rarely the only ones hurt. It's like a ghastly game of Six Degrees of Separation, wherein the ripples roll ever outward.

And perhaps that extends even to those of us who watch. Truth is, American Crime is a "good" television show—which makes the images here stick with you even longer. The misdeeds feel all the more visceral. It makes us absorb the pain, the anxiety, the revulsion. And that, obviously, can cut both ways.


Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

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Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

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Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

American Crime: Jan. 13, 2016 "Season Two: Episode Two"
American-Crime: 3-19-2015



Readability Age Range



Felicity Huffman as Barb Hanlon; Timothy Hutton as Russ Skokie; W. Earl Brown as Tom Carlin; Richard Cabral as Hector Tonz; Caitlin Gerard as Aubry Taylor; Benito Martinez as Alonzo Gutierrez; Penelope Ann Miller as Eve Carlin; Elvis Nolasco as Carter Nix; Johnny Ortiz as Tony Gutierrez; Connor Jessup as Taylor Blaine; Sky Azure Van Vliet as Becca Sullivan; Faran Tahir as Rhys Bashir; Michael Seitz as Wes Baxter






Record Label




On Video

Year Published



Paul Asay

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