‘American Crime’: It’s STILL the best show you’re not watching

The ratings for Sunday night, March 12, are finally in, and our sister site TVLine reports that ABC’s “American Crime” returned for its third season to a new all-time low with 2.7 million total viewers and a 0.5 rating in the key 18-49 demographic. That’s down from 3.7 million (0.9 rating) who watched the season-two finale last year, even though TVLine readers gave the episode high marks, and Gold Derby’s forum posters loved it too. So what gives, America? Why are you still resisting one of TV’s most accomplished shows?

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“American Crime” is an anthology series that tackles a new crime every season with a focus on social inequality. Season one dealt with the murder of a white man and the racial conflicts that surround the investigation. Then season two tackled income inequality and sexuality with its story of a rape investigation involving two high school boys. Season three couldn’t be more timely, addressing issues of immigration and those who profit from human trafficking, from pimps to businesses that hire undocumented laborers to save money.

The critics still adore “American Crime.” Season three has a MetaCritic rating of 90. So why aren’t audiences flocking? It’s not because the show is too dark: millions of viewers tune in every week for beheadings and eviscerations all the time on “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead.” And it’s not because the storylines hit too close to him: FX asked Americans to relive the O.J. Simpson murder trial last year and it was a ratings smash.

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There are a few glimmers of hope for “American Crime’s” numbers going forward. It could pick up millions more viewers from DVR and nonlinear viewing, much the way ABC’s “Designated Survivor” does every week. It could also benefit from positive word of mouth the way “Breaking Bad” did when it grew into a full-fledged ratings hit in its final seasons. Or if not it could be like HBO’s “The Wire,” another crime show that flew under the radar but which is still talked about as one of TV’s all-time greatest shows almost a decade after it ended.

Despite audience hesitation, “American Crime” has received a total of 14 Emmy nominations in its first two seasons, winning twice — both for Regina King as Best Movie/Limited Supporting Actress. King is back for season three, taking on a lead role this time as a social worker counseling victims of sex trafficking. Also returning for this new storyline are Felicity Huffman, Richard Cabral, Connor Jessup, Benito Martinez, Lili Taylor and Timothy Hutton, who also had prominent roles in previous seasons of “Crime.”

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