‘Accused’ reviews: Star-studded FOX crime anthology features ‘engrossing mini-mysteries with twists viewers won’t see coming’

Emmy-winning producer Howard Gordon‘s (“Homeland,” “24”) latest creation, “Accused,” will premiered on FOX on January 22. The all-star cast includes Academy Award nominee Abigail Breslin and Emmy winners Michael Chiklis, Margo Martindale and Rhea Perlman. Rachel Bilson, Whitney Cummings, Jack Davenport, Wendell Pierce and Emmy nominees Molly Parker and Malcolm-Jamal Warner round out the ensemble.

In addition to the superstars on camera, the drama will features some heavy hitters behind the scenes as well. Stepping in to direct various episodes are Oscar winner Marlee Matlin, Emmy winner Billy Porter and renowned filmmaker Tazbah Rose.

SEE ‘Accused’ first look: All-star crime series features Abigail Breslin, Michael Chiklis, Margo Martindale [WATCH TRAILER]

Per the network’s press release, “Accused” is based on the BBC’s BAFTA-winning crime anthology, in which each episode opens in a courtroom on the accused without knowing their crime or how they ended up on trial. The drama is told from the defendant’s point of view. In “Accused,” viewers discover how an ordinary person got caught up in an extraordinary situation, ultimately revealing how one wrong turn leads to another, until it’s too late to turn back. The series currently holds a critics’ score of 64% on Rotten Tomatoes, with a perfect 100% freshness rating from audiences. Read our review roundup below.

Kristen Baldwin of Entertainment Weekly writes, “True anthologies — think a new story and cast every episode — are largely considered a relic of the ’50s and ’60s, when shows like ‘Fireside Theater,’ ‘The Twilight Zone,’ ‘Playhouse ’90,’ and ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ proliferated. In more recent decades, the most successful episodic anthologies have tended to fall into the horror and sci-fi category: ‘Goosebumps,’ ‘Tales from the Crypt,’ ‘Channel Zero,’ and of course, ‘Black Mirror.’” In the FOX series, the subject matter is full of “melodramatic tales of well-meaning people making bad situations worse.” Baldwin concludes, “Overall, though, ‘Accused’ offers well-cast, engrossing mini-mysteries with twists viewers (mostly) won’t see coming. In the Dark Ages of broadcast TV, that qualifies as a glimmer of light.”

Max Gao of AV Club praises the series, noting, “over the first five episodes that were presented to critics for review, the show largely lives up to its billing as a promising freshman series, telling a diverse array of stories that illustrate the blurring divide between guilt and innocence in today’s world.” No particular cast member is singled out, but the premise is noted for shining a light on unseen corners of the world. “Billy Porter and Marlee Matlin, for example, each direct an episode, and Michael Chiklis directs and acts in several.” Gao concludes, “And instead of simply chronicling the wrongfully accused, this anthology (so far) would benefit from delving into those who are rightfully charged like in the BBC series, asking viewers tough questions about what it would take for them to commit a crime.”

Cristina Escobar of RogerEbert.com was less impressed. While the cast is praised, “it turns out that 44 minutes is too few to deliver the kind of nuance ‘Accused’ is after.” She adds, “And without the time to ask complex questions, the episodes are emotionally manipulative–dropping the viewer into terrible situations with no real payoff.” As a result, tales that could work as a season-long series themselves are wasted. For example, “I’d happily watch [Stephanie] Nogueras’ Ava in a whole series, seeing her navigating her abusive mother, building a healthy relationship with her husband, and frankly, just doing more than gestating someone else’s baby. As it is, we don’t see her at work or with a passion project. Instead, we learn only of her alleged crime and that focus reduces her down to her Deaf identity—she’s a Deaf woman, advocating for Deaf rights but not much else.”

Brandi Powell of TV Fanatic praises the fact that the defendants take center stage. “Many crime and legal dramas often center on the prosecution and obtaining justice for the victim’s family, so this point of view gives the viewers a chance to weigh their judgment of the defendant.” Chiklis is especially praised for his performance in the first episode as a father being accused of killing his own child, “a troubled teenager who gets frequently expelled for making terroristic threats.” In conclusion, “’Accused’ is a show that brings insight to the viewer in pieces. The pace they told the story, and the way they built momentum in the storyline made it an excellent watch.”

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