American Crime Story is an FX true crime docudrama anthology series, exec. produced by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk — the masterminds behind anthology sister shows American Horror Story and Scream Queens. Much like American Horror Story, each season of American Crime Story dramatizes a different real-life crime.
Its first season, The People v. O. J. Simpson, covers the infamous O. J. Simpson murder trial that spanned eleven months between 1994 and 1995. Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as Simpson himself, while the cast is rounded out by Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran, Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden, John Travolta as Robert Shapiro, David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian, Selma Blair as Kris Jenner (formerly Kardashian), Nathan Lane as F. Lee Bailey, and Billy Magnussen as Kato Kaelin.
Its second season, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, details the murder of the legendary fashion designer committed by Andrew Cunanan in 1997. Edgar Ramirez stars as Versace, while other main cast members include Penélope Cruz as Donatella Versace, Darren Criss as Cunanan, Max Greenfield as Ronnie, Ricky Martin as Antonio D'Amico, and Finn Wittrock as Jeffrey Trail.
Its third season, Impeachment, details President Bill Clinton's impeachment, specifically the scandal involving his affair with Monica Lewinsky. This was initially a concept for the fourth season. However, in August 2019, it was revealed that this season would go ahead as the third season, with Lewinsky serving as a producer for the season. It starred Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp, Beanie Feldstein as Monica Lewinsky, Annaleigh Ashford as Paula Jones, Clive Owen as Bill Clinton, Billy Eichner as Matt Drudge, Anthony Green as Al Gore, Edie Falco as Hillary Clinton, and Cobie Smulders as Ann Coulter.
Originally, the third season, slated to follow The Assassination of Gianni Versace, was announced as being centered around Hurracane Katrina, named Katrina, but the third season was later confirmed to no longer be centered around Hurricane Katrina. To quote the article, "FX CEO John Landgraf revealed that there are four ideas for the series in the works, but the order in which they will be made is unclear." Its cast originally included Annette Bening as Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco, Sarah Paulson as Dr. Anna Pou, Matthew Broderick as Matthew D. Brown, and Dennis Quaid as President George W. Bush, but it's since been stated that only Paulson is likely to remain in her role, with the others possibly being assigned new ones. Its scope was also narrowed to Memorial Medical Center, where the staff were stranded for five days after the hurricane and left to care for hundreds of patients without electricity, ultimately deciding to euthanize many of the worst cases. Whether it will ever actually come to fruition is currently unknown.
Another season is reportedly in development as well, tentatively titled Studio 54. It is planned to tell the story of entrepreneurs Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager and the titular Studio 54, the world famous Manhattan disco nightclub founded by the two in 1977, and detail how the opulent, sex filled, drug fueled parties of their club came to an end when they were caught and convicted for tax evasion. It is currently unknown if it will directly follow Impeachment.
The success of American Crime Story has led to other anthology series (also airing on FX and produced by Murphy) based around real-life events. Feud focuses on infamous rivalries in history, with its first season focusing on the feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Shortly before the premiere of Impeachment, FX announced two further spinoffs: American Sports Story (with season one following the tragic life of NFL player Aaron Hernandez), and American Love Story (with season one following the doomed romance between John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette).
American Crime Story seasons to date:
- The People v. O. J. Simpson (2016)
- The Assassination of Gianni Versace (2018)
- Impeachment (2021)
- Season 4 (TBD)
American Crime Story generally provides examples of:
- American Title: Obviously, the series is about some of the most significant crimes in American history.
- Foregone Conclusion: Anybody familiar with the cases covered will know how they end.
- Lighter and Softer:
- Downplayed, when in comparison to its sister series American Horror Story. It's not as gory or gritty as AHS, but everything is still played with utter seriousness.
- Impeachment is this to the series itself, to a certain degree, since it doesn't revolve around or involve a murder.
- Studio 54 is set up to be another example, as its focus is the fall of a nightclub due to its owners' tax evasion scheme, rather than anything explicitly violent.
- True Crime: Dramaticizing them.