A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that American Crime is a mature series that explores the aftermath of a violent crime from multiple points of view. Families are both brought together and torn apart as the town of Modesto, California, tries to find out who murdered war veteran Matt Skokie. The tone is bleak and subject matter dark; bloody wounds and scantily clad characters are visible, and there is discussion of sexual activity and violent acts. The language is strong ("bitch," "crap"; muted curses), and a main plot point hinges on illegal drug use. It's intelligent and complex, certainly pushing the envelope for network television, but may be too intense for younger teens.
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What's the story?
AMERICAN CRIME is a drama that explores family relationships, race, the drug trade, and how a single crime can affect the lives of many. Timothy Hutton and Felicity Huffman star as Russ and Barb, the divorced parents of Matt Skokie, a Modesto, California, war veteran who was brutally murdered in his home. Matt's wife, Gwen, was gravely injured in the same attack and fights for her life. Russ, Barb, and Gwen's parents (W. Earl Brown and Penelope Ann Miller) struggle to find justice as well as deal with the unexpected information the investigation turns up. As the families cope with the emotional and physical toll of navigating the prosecutorial process, the accused criminals also are facing challenges. Alonzo Guetiérrez (Benito Martinez) is trying to help his teenage son Tony (Johnny Ortiz), a suspect along with petty thief Hector Tontz (Richard Cabral) and meth addicts Car Nix (Elvis Nolasco) and Aubry Taylor (Caitlin Gerard). They all wrestle with the impact of Matt's murder on their own lives, and all find different ways to cope.
Is it any good?
Written and produced by 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley, the series explores the complexity and pervasiveness of crime in America from multiple points of view. It also highlights the many socioeconomic and racial tensions that emerge when a brutal crime is committed in a community.
People who like crime dramas will appreciate the intensity of this well-written series as well as the various plot twists that reveal themselves as each character finds ways to manage grief and fears in flawed -- but very human -- ways. It also unapologetically shows how seemingly minor crimes can be far-reaching and can lead to events that can destroy the lives of many. This drama packs a lot of issues into one show but doesn't feel preachy. It's also aided by powerhouse actors such as Huffman and Hutton, putting it on par with quality cable counterparts such as Breaking Bad -- and although its dark content can be difficult to watch, it's worth it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact crime has on families. How does the media's representation of violence, drugs, and other potentially crime-related behavior affect the way we understand the effect crime has on society?
What are some common stereotypes about crime and criminal behavior? How does the media reinforce or reject these generalizations?