AMERICAN CRIME, SEASON 2 PREMIRE PLOT SUMMARY:
Taylor Blaine (Connor Jessup) and his mother (Lili Taylor) are met with resistance when they accuse members of the school basketball team of sexually assaulting Taylor after lewd photographs surface online.
American Crime is truly an oddity for a number of reasons. Despite having a modest audience, it received numerous nominations during last year’s Emmys. In fact, actress Regina King even won the Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie, and the show is nominated in that category, Best Limited Series, and Best Lead Actress in a Limited Series for this year’s Golden Globes. But the peculiarity doesn’t stop there, since the show feels like somewhat of an odd fit for broadcast television given its focus on controversial issues. That’s not to say network shows don’t do that from time to time, it’s just there’s the prevalent idea that they don’t have the edge cable (regular and premium) and streaming shows have.
But whatever the reason, creator John Ridley worked with ABC to come up with this show. And it seems that the studio is giving him a good amount of creative freedom (other than censoring some strong language), considering the show is an anthology series, similar to True Detective and American Horror Story. As in American Horror Story, the actors from the previous season carry over but they’re playing different roles. Some viewers might find this distracting, but it’s a great way to allow the actors to show their range, in my opinion. And the show luckily doesn’t go halfway with it, giving each returning actor a character unlike his or hers in Season 1.
A more important difference between Season 1 and Season 2 is the handling of the storylines. Season 1’s premiere tried much too hard to connect all of the characters’ storylines for the sake of making a statement about multiple social issues, including racism, rape, gambling, and drug use. Fortunately, the Season 2 premiere does not fall into this pit, as it is quite clear the focus of this season is sexuality. This is a much more organic topic to use several characters with, considering we all have to deal with sexuality in our daily lives, both in a positive and in a negative way. That’s one of the things about being human.
While the show does set up a few other potential plotlines, it’s clear that the main issue the premiere is dealing with is sexual assault and rape. American Crime might actually generate more buzz in its sophomore year because of this specific subject. Ridley is pulling no punches; he’s out to challenge what our notions of rape are. Many people would not consider any sort of sexual assault on a male to ever be rape. John Ridley disagrees, apparently. Even the dictionary is somewhat on his side; the Merriam-Webster dictionary describes rape as usually occurring through traditional intercourse, but it does not rule out other forms of violation. The word itself might actually be less important than dispelling the notion that sexual assault is less traumatic for a male.
If there is one flaw with the premiere, it’s that it’s mostly set-up. In fact, much of the plot can be ascertained from just watching the promos. This isn’t much of an actual flaw, but more of an explanation on why the premiere, while intelligent, isn’t the most engaging until perhaps the final 10 or 15 minutes. The premiere provides us with crucial information, such as how illustrious the school and basketball team are. The story is a little reminiscent of a sex scandal at a prep school not too long ago. These things do happen, unfortunately.
We can take some solace, at least, that shows like American Crime have the guts to tackle problems such as these, and in a way that is not exploitative. I can’t speak for Season 1, but if Season 2 ramps up in a way that doesn’t feel forced, American Crime might be up for more Golden Globes this time next year.
RATING: 7.5 OUT OF 10 (GOOD)
AMERICAN CRIME AIRS WEDSNEDAYS AT 10PM ON ABC
Aaron Sarnecky is Pop-Break.com’s television editor and covers Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter, among other things. He is a graduate of Rowan University with a degree in Television and Film. He probably remembers that show you forgot existed. Follow him on Twitter: @AaronSarnecky