Let’s be frank, ABC did not do John Ridley or “American Crime” any favors by moving the third season of the anthology series to Sunday nights at 10 PM. It’s hard to get attention for any show during this Peak TV era, but “Crime” was directly up against FX’s “Feud: Bette and Joan” in the same timeslot and HBO’s “Big Little Lies” only an hour beforehand. For a nuanced and not-so flashy drama like “Crime” that pretty much splintered its older prestige audience and it showed in the ratings. Season three lost almost half its audience from the previous season that aired on a less congested Wednesday timeslot (season one aired on Thursdays). The question now is whether Emmy voters will catch up on screeners and give “Crime” the recognition it once again deserves.
Oh, and if we haven’t made it clear enough, you should take the time to catch up on it yourself. It’s better than half the shows on your favorite streaming service.
This installment of “Crime” centered on slavery in America in all forms and it pulled no punches. The storylines did not intersect as much as previous seasons, but all of the action occurred in the confines of North Carolina. Needless to say, it was not flattering to either the state or many of its residents.
The Hesbys (Felicity Huffman, Dallas Roberts) are trying to do the right thing keeping their farm afloat, but have contractors who are hiring migrant workers and using tactics of intimidation and economic slavery to keep them in inhumane housing. Shae (Ana Mulvoy-Ten) is a 17-year-old former prostitute who feels trapped in a social welfare system that she believes protects her less than her first pimp did. Kimara (Regina King) is the welfare worker that is struggling with a lack of resources to help kids such as and the exorbitant expense of in vitro treatments (a necessity to have a child after committing to much of her life to getting kids off the streets). Luis (Benito Martinez) has left his family in Mexico to try and find his missing son, but gets ensnarled in the migrant worker trap the Hesbys farm perpetuates. The Coates (Timothy Hutton, Lily Taylor) have a furniture company that is barely staying afloat and a French-speaking Haitian nanny, Gabrielle (Mickaëlle X. Bizet), who quickly realizes there may be no escape from working for a rich white family in North Carolina (it’s the true “Get Out” horror) .
Once again Ridley and his writing staff (notably Steve Harper, Kirk A. Moore) as well as an impressive directing core including Jessica Yu, John Krokidas, Ramsey Nickell and So Yong Kim found a way to make a statement on a number of social issues without hitting audiences over the head with it. The drama wasn’t just realistic, but as in previous seasons, relatable. Ridley continues to find an “in” to these stories that make the threads that have unhappy endings heartbreakingly poignant without over-the-top theatrics. That’s pretty much a rarity on network television.
Not surprisingly “American Crime” has numerous accolades to its credit including 10 Emmy nominations in 2015 and three in 2016 (disappointing since the second season was arguably superior to the first). The series did earn key Best Limited Series nominations each season and in both cases star Regina King overcame tough competition to walk away with Emmys in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie category.
The drop in nominations from season one to season two is notable, however and “Crime” is now battling a slew of contenders in the Lead Actress, Lead Actor, Writing, Directing and Creative Arts Emmys. It should land a third Limited Series nod, but ABC is going to have to campaign hard to remind voters of just how acclaimed the series still is. In fact, it ended up with a 90 grade on Metacritic that is the highest score the series has earned to date.
King should earn her third straight nomination while Huffman, who is arguably the best she’s ever been and a two-time nominee for the show, faces a very competitive Lead Actress field. Hutton, who earned a nod in 2015, has an excellent chance in Lead Actor and Martinez has a shot in Supporting Actor. In a perfect world, Taylor (another former nominee), Bizet and Mulvoy-Ten would join King with Supporting nods, but it’s likely only one of the three will join her (if even that). Shockingly, the series didn’t earn any writing or directing nominations last year, but season two earned a WGA Awards nod that the first season had not. That could mean more people are paying attention.
And, one final reminder, if you haven’t watched it take a break from the reality fluff and catch up with it. There’s nothing better than network television that makes you think and “Crime” does that masterfully.
Program: “American Crime”
Category: Limited Series
Network or Streaming Service: ABC
Key Creative Forces: John Ridley (created by)
Described in 140 characters or less: Season three drama with too many great performances to count and it will make you never want to set foot in North Carolina ever again.
Airdates: March 12, 2017 – April 30, 2017
Major Player: Regina King or Felicity Huffman
The Competition: “Big Little Lies,” “Feud: Bette and Joan,” “Fargo,” “Genius” and “The Night Of” as well as any individual talent from those programs.
Biggest strengths: Regina King. She’s a two-time winner in the Supporting Actress category for this series and even in this competitive field has an excellent chance at going for a three-peat.
Major Concerns: Can the writers and directors earn nominations after getting snubbed after an amazing season last year. And, more dramatically, will Huffman be the odd nominee out in the insanely competitive Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie category.
Categories and nominees currently in contention:
Outstanding Limited Series
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie – Felicity Huffman
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie – Timothy Hutton
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie – Regina King
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie – Lily Taylor
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie – Mickaëlle X. Bizet
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie – Ana Mulvoy-Ten
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie – Connor Jessup
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie – Benito Martinez
Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special – Victoria Mahoney, Jessica Yu
Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special – John Ridley, Julie Héber
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Limited Series or Movie
Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie
Outstanding Makeup for a Limited Series or Movie (Non-Prosthetic)
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Limited Series or Movie
Previous contender deep dives: