The arrival of spring marks the beginning of many things. Better weather and longer days are obviously at the top of this list. For television addicts, however, the new season marks the arrival of a new slate of mid-season dramas and this year is no different.
Immediately after CTV announced that they had picked up Academy-Award winner John Ridley’s new ABC series, American Crime, I knew that the show would be the crown jewel of this year’s mid-season lineup. The gritty drama can best be described as a small-screen version of Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic with multiple storylines that collectively intersect to offer a powerful socio-economic commentary.
Tonight’s series premiere begins with the murder of war veteran Matt Skokie (Grant Merritt) and an assault on his wife Gwen (Kira Pozehl). Over the course of the hour, the audience is introduced to four suspects. Tony Gutierrez (Johnny Ortiz), an unassuming teenager who found himself in the middle of the storm even under the strict supervision of his father, Alonzo Gutierrez (Benito Martinez). There’s also Hector Tontz (Richard Cabral) who has lived on the fringes of society and is willing to do whatever it takes to survive. Carter Nix (Elvis Nolasco) and Aubry Taylor (Caitlin Gerard) are a couple of lost lovers, paralyzed by their addiction to drugs and the final two characters in the mystery.
Even after screening only one episode in advance, I can vouch for the addictive nature of this program. The only thing more compelling than the characters was the writing as I found myself immediately making my own conclusions about what happened on the night of the murder. The storyline intersections were seamless and while I saw elements of ABC’s other big murder-mystery hit, How To Get Away With Murder in this show as well, this series just felt more real. It is raw and visceral. It took a only few seconds for me to be completely and totally engrossed.
There is no question that American Crime is a hit. It’s just a question of how long it will take for the show to find its audience. My guess is that this will happen immediately.
Over the summer, I caught up with American Crime’s Benito Martinez, Elvis Nolasco and Caitlin Gerard to discuss the series. While I spoke to many actors during the Upfronts, this trio seemed the most excited about the series and Gerard was quick to point out that the show isn’t just another procedural. She explained that the murder not only affects the victim’s family but that it serves as a much larger perspective on the nation’s views on race relations. This is especially critical in a time when cases like the George Zimmerman shooting are so widely debated and discussed. The cast also discussed the benefits of being part of a serialized series, where viewers need to decide whether or not to invest immediately or risk being left behind. This was undoubtedly one of my favourite interviews and this is undoubtedly my favourite show of 2015.
Murtz Jaffer is the world's foremost reality television expert and was the host of Reality Obsessed which aired on the TVTropolis and Global Reality Channels in Canada. He has professional writing experience at the Toronto Sun, National Post, TV Guide Canada, TOROMagazine.com and was a former producer at Entertainment Tonight Canada. He was also the editor at Weekendtrips.com.