Everything you need to know about ‘American Crime Story’
The Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk media empire is ever expanding, to the point that we’re likely living in a simulation produced by the two of them at this moment in time. On top of productions like American Horror Story, Feud, and Pose, the prolific duo are also pulling the strings behind the scenes of anthology show American Crime Story.
Delving into a different true crime case every season, the series offers an insightful examination of modern American society by reflecting on criminal cases and the sociopolitical issues of the past.
By exploring crime stories that defined a particular moment and era in time, the show holds “a mirror to the world of today” as Murphy told Deadline while talking about what piqued his interest in particular subjects. So far, the show has done exactly that.
The People v. O.J. Simpson
As described by The Guardian in its review of the show, the critically acclaimed first season “beautifully and concisely adumbrated the racism, sexism, police corruption, and celebrity dazzle” surrounding the O.J. Simpson trial of 1995.
The season perfectly depicts the general milie, madness, and overall mood of 90s Los Angeles while offering a searing satire on how many of the attitudes and failings portrayed as being part of the case are still happening across America today.
Written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson, the debut season is sharp and evocative. It offers an in-depth look at a controversial criminal trial that split an entire country while ruminating on the racial divides of America.
The documentary also provides insight into a moment in time when power dynamics between men and women were still in a radical state of flux despite the conspicuous rise of third wave feminism.
Anchored by a phenomenal cast including Sterling K. Brown (This is Us), Sarah Paulson (Ocean’s 8), David Schwimmer (Friends), John Travolta (Pulp Fiction), and Nathan Lane (The Birdcage) doing some of the best work of their careers, The People v. O.J. Simpson was an immediate hit with critics and cleaned up at the Golden Globes and the Primetime Emmys where the season and its stars were nominated for and won just about everything you’d expect them to.
The Assassination of Gianni Versace
Speaking to TV Guide, American Crime Story executive producer and frequent Murphy collaborator Alexis Martin Woodall explained that every season of the show has to “have a social context” with “larger implications”, which is why this iteration of the anthology series chronicles an “assassination” and not just a murder.
“I think it’s really important to shine the light on the world FBI’s largest failed manhunt and why that happened,” Woodall commented.
As a result, the show chronicles how homophobia ended the life of a man it calls “a genius” but also how homophobia played a part in the manner with which the FBI botched their investigation in spite of a wealth of evidence, clues, and tips at their disposal.
In exploring the horrific murder spree of gay serial killer Andrew Cunanan (played by Darren Criss), the show also focuses on many issues impacting the gay community of the time. The AIDS crisis and gay rights feature strongly, as do some of the internalized homophobia of a closeted gay community that was afraid of the attention Cunanan’s sexuality could bring upon it.
The show drew some controversy for delivering what Versace’s former partner called “an inaccurate portrayal” of the immensely talented fashion designer and for offering a “misrepresentation” of their relationship. The season drew further ire for shooting scenes in Versace’s actual former home, including the murder scene on the steps where he was murdered in real life.
American Crime Story: Katrina: probably not coming
Originally slated to be the story for the second season of the show, American Crime Story: Katrina was being developed for S3 but has probably been dropped while FX waits for Murphy to choose the scenario.
Based on the book Five Days at Memorial by Pulitzer Prize winner Sheri Fink, Murphy told reporters in January last year the season would be “a more intimate version of that story . . . more interesting than topical. (It’s) a look at the healthcare industry and disasters and global warming.” He further teased that the “best scripts” they were working with were about “Memorial Hospital and the people who were trapped there.”
Murphy explained further:
Doctors who started out trying to save lives ended up euthanizing patients . . . There’s people of different classes and races, all in that hospital. There are people that feel like they’ve been abandoned by their government, and there are people who are making decisions about triage — who lives and who dies — that outside of that bubble look horrific.
Sarah Paulson was meant to return to the show to play a doctor who was on duty in the hospital when the hurricane struck.
Lewinsky: No longer in development
In April, Murphy announced he’d scrapped plans to develop a season centered around the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal of the 90s after acquiring the rights to Jeffrey Toobin’s A Vast Conspiracy.
Ryan Murphy suggested that though the idea has currently been dropped, it might not be gone for good, telling reporters, “I’m not in any rush to do anything now unless it’s done right,” adding he wants Paulson to play Linda Tripp and for a newcomer to depict Lewinsky.
Last year Murphy had indicated he was interviewing writers to develop the season and wanted to meet with Lewinsky to have her involved with it. We can only hope the story sees the light of day at some point – with Lewinsky’s involvement and blessing – as it’s arguably an incredibly topical tale for modern America.