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John Ridley's "American Crime" on ABC

 
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zolloh View Drop Down
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    Posted: Mar 05 2015 at 3:18pm
Who will be watching? Premieres tonight in the "How To Get Away With Murder" time slot after "Scandal". 

From the reviews I've read so far, it seems to be interesting and an uncomfortable look at race especially for network tv.



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American Crime

This new ABC drama is the most nuanced, intelligent take on race relations we’ve seen in years.




American Crime
, the impressive and somber new drama series written by John Ridley, the screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave, begins with a dreaded phone call. Robbery-homicide officers in Modesto, California, wake Russ Skokie (Timothy Hutton) in the middle of the night and tell him he needs to fly there immediately to identify what they believe to be the remains of his son, Matt, who appears to be the victim of a home invasion. Russ arrives that morning, gazes on his son’s corpse, learns Matt’s wife, Gwen, is in a coma, seemingly the victim of sexual assault, and asks to use the restroom, where he sobs loudly, like a wounded animal. It’s a blunt, immersive introduction to American Crime’s tough emotional palate. The series is one of the first network dramas in a cable mode that that does not feel seriously reduced, stupefied, or broadened by its network address, and that means the viewing can be very tough going.

Matt Skokie’s murder sets the series’ plot in motion, but not by turning the show into a whodunit. American Crime eschews the propulsive, entertaining genre beats of a mystery show: None of its main characters are detectives, lawyers, or crime-solvers of any kind. The title, American Crime, does not refer to any one act but a host of them, including Matt’s death; the lesser crimes surrounding it; the crimes in prosecuting it; and, hovering above it all, the crimes of prejudice and racism and their distinctly American flavors.

It’s a reflection of the show’s philosophy that the seemingly happily married white couple whose murder and assault kicks off the series remains largely mysterious and unknown: Matt and Gwen would be on the front page of the paper, but they are of the least interest to American Crime’s writers. Instead Matt’s death acts as a kind of dragnet, grabbing up a number of disparate characters that the show follows even as the immediate ramifications of the murder fade from their lives.

Those characters include Russ’ rigid, racist ex-wife, Barb (Felicity Huffman); Gwen’s parents, Tom (W. Earl Brown) and Eve (Penelope Ann Miller); widowed Mexican American garage owner Alonzo (Benito Martinez, who abruptly left House of Cards this season, probably for this role), his teenage son, Tony (Johnny Ortiz), and daughter, Jenny (Gleendilys Inoa); two lovebird meth-heads, the white Aubrey (Caitlin Gerard) and the black Carter (Elvis Nolasco), whose sister Aliyah (Regina King) is a devoted convert to Islam; and Hector (Richard Cabral), a tattoo-covered gangbanger from Mexico.

All of these characters have something to say about race. Barb, who raised her two sons in public housing after Russ, a gambling addict, left them with nothing, continuously refers to “those people”—“you wouldn’t believe what those people did to us,” for example. Upon hearing that the murderer might be a “Hispanic kid,” she immediately begins describing the maybe-suspect as an “illegal.” She wants to have her son’s death prosecuted as a hate crime. Alonzo tells a reporter that undocumented immigrants “always make the rest of us look bad.” He tells his children, “Be better than them. They just think you’re a Mexican,” and his children, in turn, believe that he “wishes he were white.” Aubrey and Carter, lovingly devoted junkies, rip out pages from fashion magazines that show beautiful biracial couples and hang them on the walls of their disgusting apartment. Aliyah believes her brother is being targeted because he is black and is so horrified by his relationship with a white woman that she keeps insisting he break it off. “You can hate whitey all you want,” Carter tells her, “but I love [Aubrey].”

All of this, as you can probably surmise, could very easily slip over into the territory of Crash, the hackneyed, pious Best Picture winner in which characters were stand-ins for hoary insights about race. It is true that American Crime, like Crash, is a kaleidoscopic look at racial relations, which do come up in every single storyline (and sometimes as ridiculously as a pair of junkies lining their apartment with aspirational biracial photo shoots). But Ridley’s insights are, generally speaking, much more complicated and nuanced than Crash’s, which ultimately came to the banal and head-scratching conclusion that everyone who seems racist deep down is not, and everyone who doesn’t probably is.

In the most powerful storyline of the first four episodes, Alonzo arrives at the police station where his son, Tony, is being questioned. Alonzo insists that Tony, who has been bridling under his father’s overprotection, tell the police everything. Tony does and is afforded no protection under the law. No one can quite believe that Alonzo didn’t get his son a lawyer. “White cops, interviewing a brown boy, and you didn’t do anything?” his brother-in-law asks. Did Alonzo just want to please the police officers, to prove he was not like “them”? Or was he acting like a good father and citizen of any color, expecting honesty from his son and good faith from law enforcement? Wasn’t, after all, Tony behaving like any teenager? But what if expecting such good faith from the cops, while brown, makes one a decent citizen and also a negligent parent? Alonzo is trying his best, but the system isn’t just rigged—it’s quicksand.

This question of how to protect your children, imperfect as they are, also occupies Matt’s and Gwen’s parents. Gwen’s father, Tom, becomes fixated on his daughter’s sexual proclivities and increasingly disgusted with her, even as she lies in bed in a coma. Tom’s not in denial, but his love is increasingly conditional, which makes him a counterpoint to Barb, who goes into a kind of emotional lockdown. She will hear nothing ill of Matt, even if that involves living in a fantasy world about his lifestyle. Huffman, with the most abjectly racist role in the series, is excellent playing a character who is both awful and in real emotional pain. She makes herself detestable and pitiable at the same time, a mother who really does love her children, however limited she may otherwise be. And as prejudiced as she is, it’s not all that she is—which is the key to avoiding the Crash trap. She is motivated by a sense of herself as single mother, survivor, and protector, the one person looking out for her kids, however delusional that may be.

Of all the series this season to take on race and diversity— Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, Empire, How to Get Away With MurderAmerican Crime is the most serious-minded. It has no sense of humor to speak of. It’s relentlessly focused on its themes. It can be harrowing and bleak. But what it lacks in fun, it makes up for in intelligence, complexity, and boldness. It’s a network show about heavy, difficult, uncomfortable topics, and it expects, quite simply, an audience. It deserves one, too.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gkisses Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar 05 2015 at 3:21pm
I will be tuning in
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote femmefatale85 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar 05 2015 at 3:23pm
im considering it

im just not sure if i need to be more pissed at white people right now lol
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote EPITOME Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar 05 2015 at 3:23pm
this is the guy that was fighting w/12YAS creator right?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote zolloh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar 05 2015 at 3:23pm
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‘American Crime,’ John Ridley’s New Series on ABC


John Ridley, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “12 Years a Slave,” has high hopes for his new 11-episode ABC series, “American Crime.”

A father receives a call in the middle of the night that his son is dead. Killed.

He wails with grief in a bathroom.

“They think it might be a Hispanic kid,” he tells his former wife.

She responds reflexively: “Some illegal?”

Then a teenager cries out to his father for help as he’s placed under arrest.

Those moments from a commercial for “American Crime” telegraph the impression that ABC wants to convey of its latest foray into the prestigious limited-series game. This is an intense and provocative show, punctuated with moments of raw emotion. It’s not too surprising that it’s the creation of John Ridley, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “12 Years a Slave.”

The 11-episode series is a trenchant, sorrowful exploration of race, faith, gender, class and addiction centered on a violent home invasion in Modesto, Calif. Taking the time slot previously filled by the labyrinthine “How to Get Away With Murder” and airing after the briskly plotted “Scandal,” it has a purposefully slow and deliberate pace, Mr. Ridley said recently in an interview at The New York Times.

“I think every week we do have this emotional resolution, but it’s not about having a real episodic closure,” he said. “Rather, it’s about building toward something over time” — a device generally left to, say, HBO or AMC or Netflix — “and that was new space for the network.”

At first reading, “American Crime” feels a bit like a neatly contrived package of archetypes: the deceased, an upstanding white war veteran; his beautiful wife, sexually assaulted and comatose; and four suspects — a hustler (Richard Cabral) mired in his many bad choices; a Mexican-American teenager (Johnny Ortiz) who may have unwittingly become an accomplice; and an interracial couple (Elvis Nolasco and Caitlin Gerard) addicted to drugs and one another — in custody. Case closed.

But soon those characterizations begin to blur, slowly turning what we thought we knew about the scenario, and those involved in it, on end.

“There was a beautiful emphasis on character and behavior,” Timothy Hutton said of his character, Russ Skokie, a recovering gambler haunted by years of mistakes who, after the death of his son, is forced into an uneasy reunion with his embittered ex-wife (Felicity Huffman). There wasn’t, he said, “this usual reliance on exposition, where you feel that you have to know everything about people in the next 10 minutes.”

Mr. Ridley, who directed three episodes of the show and wrote five, returns to TV, where he started in the early 1990s as a writer on “Martin” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” after a few years doing big screen work — as a co-writer of the screenplay for the Tuskegee Airmen movie “Red Tails,” directing Outkast’s André Benjamin as Jimi Hendrix in last year’s “Jimi: All Is by My Side,” and of course, winning the Academy Award for “12 Years a Slave.”

It was that film’s success at last year’s Oscars that, for many, brought this year’s nominations into relief. “I was just rewarded a year ago, so it comes off maybe a little disingenuous for me to be the one who rallies about change,” said Mr. Ridley, when asked about diversity (a word he dislikes for its “throwback” connotations) and the Academy. “At the same time, I think we in Hollywood can do a better job, I think we should do a better job, but I don’t think we should look at one year and decide

Race, and the friction it can lead to, is one of the main themes of “American Crime.” And it’s in the character of Barb Hanlon, Russ’s former wife, that we see that discomfort come to a head in a way that feels downright shocking and even repugnant. As Barb, Ms. Huffman portrays perhaps the series’ most unlikable character: a mother seeking justice for her son. Her motives are understandable, but are undercut by her sometimes casual, sometimes direct bigotry.

Mr. Ridley was adamant about not creating what he called “straw people,” particularly in Barb’s case, “because I had an opportunity to write a white woman who may have viewpoints that are exceptionally different from mine, but they’re coming from a place that she believes is real,” he said.

He excelled, Ms. Huffman said, at shaping a nuanced survivor whose parched inner life and adversarial relationship to the world have given rise to prejudices that she explains away as pragmatism.

“We’re past the broad, sweeping generalizations of ‘those people are inferior, those people are this, those people are that,’ ” Ms. Huffman said. “Which is why people think, ‘Oh, aren’t we done with racism?’ And you go, ‘No, no, there’s a whole new face of racism.’ And I think that’s possibly Barb.”

Mr. Ridley knows he has created an ugly person on his show. And he hopes she does her job. “There may be people who believe what Barb believes,” he said. “And to a degree I want them to go, ‘O.K., good, you go, girl.’ But then they’re going to have to take that same journey that Barb is taking. And if they do, are they ready to come along for the ride and see all of the ramifications?


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote zolloh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar 05 2015 at 3:26pm
Originally posted by EPITOME EPITOME wrote:

this is the guy that was fighting w/12YAS creator right?
Yeah Steve McQueen and John Ridley were fighting during 12YAS and John didnt thank Steve during his Oscar speech leading to the infamous air clap:


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gkisses Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar 05 2015 at 3:30pm
Lol i didn't know that
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote zolloh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar 05 2015 at 3:34pm
and when McQueen spoke when accepting the Oscar for Best Movie a few mins later, he didnt thank John either LOL...thank God we were mesmerized by Lupita...such drama LOL
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ladycoils Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar 05 2015 at 3:48pm
I looks interesting and from the article the previews makes sense now. I'll watch
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote EPITOME Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar 05 2015 at 3:51pm
Originally posted by zolloh zolloh wrote:

and when McQueen spoke when accepting the Oscar for Best Movie a few mins later, he didnt thank John either LOL...thank God we were mesmerized by Lupita...such drama LOL

nahh i distinctly remember their shade...i was like the QUEEN are out tonight!!LOL

and John hugged everyone but Steve
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