After focusing on violence, racism and bigotry during its first season, "American Crime" shifted its focus to a completely new story and set of characters (many of whom are played by returning cast members), shining a light on school bullying, privilege, socio-economic disadvantage, gender, sexual orientation and sexual violence.
Reviews for season two, which concluded Wednesday, have been even stronger than for the show’s first go-round, scoring an impressive 85 at MetaCritic. As such, "American Crime" could be poised for Emmy redemption this year.
Last year, "American Crime" earned an impressive 10 Emmy nominations, including bids for Best Limited Series and in each of the four acting categories (leads Timothy Hutton and Felicity Huffman, as well as supporting actors Richard Cabral and Regina King). However, apart from King’s surprise win for Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actress, it came up short in the wake of an "Olive Kitteridge" tsunami on Emmy night.
This season was set at Leyland Academy, a private high school. A troubled teen (Connor Jessup) alleges he was drugged and raped while attending a party thrown by the school's basketball team co-captains Eric Tanner (Joey Pollari) and Kevin Lacroix (Trevor Jackson). The story unfolds over 10 episodes from the perspectives of the school's headmaster (Huffman), basketball coach (Hutton), the victim's mother (Lili Taylor), fellow students and their families. We slowly make sense of what really happened and who is telling the truth.
The second season of "American Crime" focuses on topics very much in the zeitgeist. Prejudice against and violence towards LGBT people and campus sexual assault – a double whammy of social justice issues that many TV academy voters will want to recognise.
"American Crime" is one of the most-acclaimed of the offerings from the broadcast nets this season. ABC will get behind this prestige program, thereby ensuring Emmy voters are paying attention. Look for a repeat bid in Best Limited Series as well as a slew of acting nominations, plus writing, directing and other below-the-line mentions.
Among those giving it sterling notices are some of the nation’s leading TV critics:
Robert Bianco (USA Today): "The desire to examine issues that commercial television generally avoids, and the ability to do so in a manner that is intellectually challenging and dramatically satisfying, remains the same. None of this could be achieved without the stellar returning members of this now-anthology’s cast, led by Felicity Huffman, Lili Taylor, Timothy Hutton, Elvis Nolasco and Regina King. Each turns in a performance that is just as riveting as the first."
Matt Zoller Seitz (New York): "Scene for scene, it feels more attuned to the daily realities of life in 2016 America than any other drama on network TV. And because it’s a self-contained story that bears no relation to season one, you can jump right into it. I urge you to give it a shot if you aren’t already a fan. Just be patient. It’s one of those shows that needs a bit of time to work its peculiar magic."
Hank Stuever (Washington Post): "There’s something almost revolutionary about the complex and utterly human teenagers that Ridley has conceived here and that his young actors bring to life. This season will get right under the skin of parents who worry too much (or not enough) about their kids."
It’s early days yet, but according to our exclusive Gold Derby Emmy odds, "American Crime" currently sits in fourth for Best Limited Series behind FX’s "Fargo" and "The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” and the yet-to-air "Roots."
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