American Crime: Episode 206 – A Tale of Two Schools (Review)

In episode six of season two, American Crime deals with a lot of issues. In essence, however, it really is turning into a tale of two schools.

TIMOTHY HUTTON, FELICITY HUFFMAN

In episode six of season two, American Crime deals with a lot of issues. In essence, however, it really is turning into a tale of two schools. Each of the educational institutes has issues, one with race, the other with sexuality. While Leyland is at the forefront, with the rape causing ripples that are turning into tsunamis, Thurgood Marshall and its beleaguered principle are fighting to keep things from getting worse.

The title of this episode could be called confrontation as that is the key theme throughout. The Hispanic students are confronting the entire school system at Thurgood Marshall, Taylor is confronting his issues, Terri LaCroix (Regina Kingconfronts Anne Blaine, Taylor’s mother and Michael LaCroix wants his cop buddy to confront Anne as well.

Meanwhile, Eric is feeling the brunt of Leslie Graham’s theme of misdirection, meant to protect the school, and Coach Sullivan is forced to confront, there is that word again, his own feelings about what Leslie is trying to do, which is avoid the truth.

In some instances, the whole Eric debacle proves that in high school sports and the minefield that is teen America, homophobia is alive and well. While Kevin LaCroix is willing to accept Eric’s gayness, his teammates are not so ready to live with his coming out.  Granted they all agree to attack Taylor, for being a little “b*tch” but that feels very similar to Leslie Graham’s ploy of misdirection.

After watching the basketball game, it is clear that if not for Coach Sullivan’s guidance the players would have little problem beating the hell out of Eric.  Although it may well be that all this hostility has more to do with Eric’s total lack of personality than his sexuality.

Anne Blaine  (Lili Taylor) has shifted her direction and wearing her angry mother-bear hat wants the school and Graham to suffer publicly for their handling of her son’s attack.  As Leslie herself admits, Blaine wants the school to bleed.  It is easy to side with Anne, after all, Graham went from marginally supportive at the beginning to threatening when Blaine refused to drop it.

Terri LaCroix has proven that money cannot buy everything, although it did keep her from getting arrested when she confronted Anne Blaine at her workplace and called her underage son a “whore.”  LaCroix, who seems to be unable to understand that her 18 year-old adult son is no longer a child, would never allow this type of behavior from the mother of another child.

REGINA KING
Terri LaCroix goes after Anne Blaine at work.

Over at Thurgood Marshall, Dixon has to confront angry parents who question his own motives for having their protesting children declared truant.  To give the principal credit, he is attempting to address the problem unlike Graham over at Leyland.

Watching the headmaster’s behavior, disregarding the woman’s  compulsive hand washing after each meeting where she continues her misdirection attack of the Blaine/Tanner issue,  it is pretty clear that this manipulative woman is heading for a meltdown.

What is also apparent is that she may take Dan Sullivan (Timothy Hutton) down with her. As all the adults struggle to deal with the issues at hand; rape, sexual identity, questions of responsibility, racism and refusal to address the real problem, the kids are also having trouble dealing with events.

Taylor (Connor Jessup) seems to be vacillating between “telling the truth” (whatever that really is) and confronting his own personal demons. The boy appears to be saying that he was not assaulted by Eric (Joey Pollariand that the whole thing is about his mother and what she is going through. Like Leslie Graham’s line of defense, however, this avenue feels like Taylor is using misdirection as well.

At the end of the episode, Taylor is being chased by Eric’s teammates through the recreation center car park and Michael LaCroix appears more than ready to cross a line. Anne Blaine, who may not be without sin herself, is now a target as she changes her attack from one of justice to revenge.

One gets the feeling that Taylor’s mother does indeed want a public letting of blood, but not from the school.  Anne is going after Leslie Graham, but she had better hurry as it does look like the headmaster is heading for a fall all on her own.

Graham’s plan to put the focus on Eric’s “coming out” has disastrously backfired with even Tanner reacting badly. The interview with the writer where Eric uses the word “fa**ot” in front of the openly gay man questioning him, causes Graham to panic.

Earlier in the episode Leslie tells the legal rep in front of her that Blaine does not want to settle and that she will, herself, not consider it. After the basketball game where Eric and his teammates have gay slurs shouted at them, and the interview, Graham rings up the lawyer and instructs him to settle.

American Crime‘s sixth episode ends with the feeling that both Taylor and his mother are in danger.  Out of the two schools and their problems, Leyland may well end up with an attempted murder charge to follow the first one of rape and Principal Dixon may solve his problems despite wanting to avoid confrontation.

JOEY POLLARI
Joey Pollari as Eric Tanner, infinitely unlikable…

The actors in this drama all acquit themselves impeccably.  The young performers all convince and Pollari comes across as genuinely unlikable.  Hutton’s character looks to be as doomed as Graham, mainly through that “guilt by association” drill that captures so many in its net.

In terms of doomed characters, it also seems that the Blaine family are not going to get out of this unscathed full stop.

This second series of an award winning series airs Wednesdays on ABC. Tune in and catch the escalating events in American Crime as they unfold.

 

American Crime: Season Two Episode One (Recap/Review)

American Crime, season two, episode one begins with a 911 phone call. A woman’s voice (Lili Taylor) tells the operator that she wants to report a rape.

CONNOR JESSUP

American Crime, season two, episode one begins with a 911 phone call. A woman’s voice (Lili Taylor) tells the operator that she wants to report a rape. The episode then begins to  show the backstory leading up to that call. Everything begins, after the 911 call,  and the first installment of season two starts by  focussing on Taylor Blaine (Connor Jessup). 

The teen student is speaking, apparently, with a school counselor at the private school he attends, Leyland.  Taylor talks about his chances at college and what he sees as potential problems.  Later the boy is seen watching the basketball team practice under the tutelage of Coach Dan Sullivan (Timothy Hutton).

As he looks on, Taylor starts receiving  pictures on his cell phone, photos that show him partially dressed and obviously intoxicated.  These images are shared on the net and with the entire school This  begins a chain of events that will turn this private school upside down.

Initially, the school’s officials react against Taylor Blaine by  suspending youngster for inappropriate conduct  that goes against the school’s guidelines. Even when Anne Blaine come in, the reaction by the school is to punish Taylor, regardless of the facts.

Anne Blaine (Taylor) is called in for the suspension and, after Dean Henderson refuses to show her the pictures, leaves with her son.  She is angry and upset, Taylor refuses to get into the car. As the episode progresses, Anne learns about a basketball “Captain’s” party that Taylor was invited to with his girlfriend. She also sees the pictures.

The players in this season of American Crime includes Anne and her son, with all their emotional baggage and pending backstory.  The Headmaster of Leyland Leslie Graham (Felicity Huffman), Coach Sullivan (Hutton) who worries about his winning team members and his daughter, Terri and Michael Lacroix (Regina King and André Benjamin) and their basketball captain son Trevor (Trevor Jackson)and another team captain Eric Lupton (Joey Pollari) appears to be involved as well.

FELICITY HUFFMAN
Leslie Graham self promoter and protector of Leyland

When Anne Blaine comes in to see the headmaster, Graham mixes her message to the mother.  The school head wants to lay the blame on Taylor and protect the school’s reputation.  Afterward Graham asks Sullivan to speak to his team and find out what happened.

This request upsets the coach, who feels he has a special rapport  with his players and he resents being put in the position of “bad guy.” For Sullivan it is all about trust, the same way he sees raising his 17 year-old cheerleader daughter Becca (Sky Azure Van Vliet) and the coach is annoyed and upset. 

Graham comes across as the ultimate self promoter. The headmaster is adept that telling parents, the school board, and the faculty what they want to hear.  She also puts the school’s reputation above the student’s needs, as evidenced by her reaction to Anne Blaine’s second trip to the school.

When Anne raises concerns that the school seems to be doing little about her son’s rape, Graham becomes threatening to the upset mother.  The headmaster bullies the woman which then results in Anne  making the 911 call heard at the start of the episode.

Season two of American Crime looks to be another award winning effort.  Show creator John Ridley has given us a cast of characters who look to be as intense as the storyline itself.   The boy Taylor and his mother have some sort of dysfunctional backstory judging by their interaction, or lack of it and the family of Dan Sullivan has an interesting dynamic.

Dan’s wife Steph (Hope Davis) is worried about their daughter, but the pot smoking mother insists that her husband speak to Becca.  She also accuses Dan of becoming too serious because he will not join her smoking weed because of Leyland’s drug tests for staff.

TIMOTHY HUTTON
Dan Sullivan, the coach’s crown weighs heavy…

On the school side, Huffman’s character is focussed on her career above all else and bent on protecting it by keeping the school’s reputation spotless. Hutton’s character is weighted down by all the responsibility and concerns that the headmaster is trying to make him “dig the dirt.”

Peripherally, we are introduced to the Lacroix family and from the outset, father Michael is the “cool one’ and mother Terri is an unpleasant woman who pushes her son Kevin to do better. We also meet Taylor’s girlfriend Evy (Angelique Rivera) who tells Anne about the basketball party.

American Crime is gripping  with its second season storyline. Dealing with a private school and all its peccadilloes. The tendency to hide the “dirt,” punish the victim and sweep all that unsightly mess under the scholastic rug is one theme in the series this time around.

It also deals with sexuality and  preconceived paradigms being challenged by not only the youth of today but the effects of the Internet on our children and us. American Crime airs Wednesdays on ABC. Tune in and get caught up in an intense storyline and high quality acting.

American Crime Season Two: Tackling Deeper Issues

By episode 204 of American Crime and its second season the series is clearly tackling deeper issues than a sexual assault at a school party. Show creator John Ridley looks at the educational system in America.

FELICITY HUFFMAN

By episode 204 of American Crime and its second season the series is clearly tackling deeper issues than a sexual assault at a school party.  Show creator John Ridley looks at the educational system in America.  Private versus public and in this instance alone, American Crime‘s season two could be called “A Tale of Two Schools.”  This iteration of the series, however, is not so clear cut or simple.

Season two peels the layers back from the life of so called “privileged” students and their families. It also looks at the “lower” classed families with their struggles to survive a less elite scholastic system.  In the case of Taylor Blaine (Connor Jessup) and his mother Anne (Lili Taylor) their attempt to better themselves meets with bullying from Taylor’s schoolmates and indifference from the school board to the boy’s mother and her charges of misconduct.

This return to the world of American Crime looks at much more than a social and monetary discord between classes and races.  As Coach Dan Sullivan (Timothy Hutton) points out, an allegation of misconduct these days means that the accused will carry the stigma forever, via the auspices of Google.

Other characters realize, it is not just Google which allows their suspected crimes to be made public on the Internet. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, et al, all allow a sort of “name and shame” infamy to exist. Based upon accusations alone, a “suspect” can be scrutinized, bullied and judged all on the world wide web.

Through the storyline, the show also proves that online version’s of newspapers have a much farther reach than the old fashioned printed ones.  Like many other issues looked at and questioned in the second season, the electronic media is looked at and found to be almost too powerful.

Even without taking the net into consideration, there is the question of the school’s staff protecting all the students equally and fairly. In the case of Taylor’s private school, Leyland, the system fails.  Headmaster Leslie Graham (Felicity Huffman) immediately circles the wagons for the “rich” kids of her school while downplaying out the “poor” boy’s plight.

Headmaster Graham also takes sides against the victim’s mother in an attempt to bully her into dropping her allegations.

By the time the truth becomes more apparent, there are still deep seated issues, including  a closing of the ranks and an attempt to pervert the course of justice by the main school board members at Leyland.

Coach Sullivan is upset and judging by the way he interacts with his cheerleader daughter, full of potential guilt.

TIMOTHY HUTTON
Timothy Hutton as Coach Dan Sullivan

By the time episode four of American Crime season two ends,  issues of culpability, social status, private schools, rich privileged kids and their parents are all looked at.  On top of these scrutinized problems, the series looks at racism, real and perceived and a lack of harmony between faculty members who all have personal agendas.

While Leyland struggles more to protect its reputation, the public school principle Chris Dixon (Elvis Nolasco) works to meet expectations from several civic groups and to keep the students from interacting negatively.

This season of American Crime looks at sexual identity, gender roles, elitist schools, public schools, community, parents and how all these factions and issues intertwine.  Sometimes these mergers are difficult, accusatory and full of a deep sense of irony.

Episode 204 also holds the  first note of discord. A  finger snapping rhetoric session where the audience respond with a clicking of the fingers is far too indicative of the old poetry coffee house readings “back in the day…”

Regardless of this one jarring note, the series continues to have the same tightly written and expertly crafted storyline.  Season one of the American Crime won four awards, twice winning the Best Ensemble Satellite Award.

CONNOR JESSUP
Connor Jessup as Taylor Blaine

With the same high calibre acting from last season’s stars, Hutton and Huffman along with the new cast members, Jessup, Taylor, Joey Pollari, Hope Davis, Nolasco and the rest of what looks to be a winning ensemble cast, there should be some serious gongs handed out to season two come award time.

The characters are in-depth, realistic and many are not very “nice.” Huffman’s Leslie Graham, is a cold calculating woman who is not above bending the truth or lying outright to protect the school under her charge.  Regina King as Terri LaCroix; mother of one  team captain from the Leyland Knights, is particularly harsh, even with her own son.

Out of the school faculty, the one most easy to empathize with is Hutton’s Coach Sullivan who really wants what is best for his “boys” and tries to keep his growing daughter from straying into trouble.

This is quality drama with rich, flawed and all too human characters who are thrown into turmoil by an alleged assault at a school party.  The ripples of this “offense” reach out across families, schools and a legal system that is reluctant to get involved.  The second season gives us evidence that, just as in cases of bullying, the system punishes the victim and not the instigators.

REGINA KING, ANDRE BENJAMIN
Regina King and Andre Benjamin as Terri and Michael LaCroix

There is much to be found in this return to the American Crime verse.  A quality, tightly woven storyline which will captivate and already has at least one addicted viewer.  Tune in to this second season, the premiere airs  Jan 3 on ABC.  Miss this one and miss out on what looks to be one of the best returning shows on television in 2016.

 

 

Tis the Season: To Watch Screeners

In the run up to Christmas, a load of “film” screeners were received in the post. With the awards season rapidly approaching studios wanted their children to be seen and voted upon.

MARTHA PLIMPTON, JAY R. FERGUSON, NOAH GALVIN, MATT SHIVELY, BEBE WOOD
THE REAL O’NEALS ABC 2016

In the run up to Christmas, a load of “film” screeners were received in the post. With the awards season rapidly approaching studios wanted their children to be seen and voted upon. Now with the Yuletide actually come and gone, television is taking its own hiatus from regular programming.

Despite having access to a number of advance screeners via ABC, one of the few networks who allow easy access to screeners, unlike others who want the coverage but do not allow early screening,  this is the time of year where entertainment takes a “backseat” in terms of programming.

Seasonal films and specials dominate the airways and even reality TV, something that is not watched nor written about on this site, takes a break.  Ergo regular programming is left by the wayside replaced with festive folderol aimed at the great unwashed and uneducated masses.

Granted not all the seasonal shows on offer are pap and rubbish, there are the specials aimed at the youngster in all of us. For example anything Charlie Brown, or those splendid stop motions Christmas specials; re: Rudolph and so on… It goes without saying that all country music or other musical  Christmas shows were ignored.

Over the next few days, it will be necessary to review the last of the films from the studios and to have a look at more ABC offerings, such as the splendid looking American Crime; second season, and the odd new program. Other new shows would have been looked at in depth if only the networks wanted to allow early viewing…

As pointed out in an earlier article, nothing from CBS or CW will be reviewed except in the most minimal way possible.  Both these networks turned up their  noses at the “small” size of my site and refused access to photos and other press materials.   Hence no regular reviews of Supergirl, Arrow or The Flash apart from the amalgamated reviews of the latter two shows. (Not any  series from these two snobs will be covered…)

New shows coming up in 2016 on ABC  are: The Family; a drama and Uncle Buck (which has already been reviewed) and another comedic offering, The Real O’Neals.  Other programs returning for another season are Secrets and Lies, Galavant (reviewed already…twice) and the earlier mentioned American Crime, which MikesFilmTalk will be looking at further, since several episodes have been posted for viewing.

On ABC Freeform, ‘nee Family, The Fosters are returning for their fourth season and also have a screener on offer.

Television aside, there are a few more films to be discussed, Listen to Me Marlon, Song of Lahore, Meru, What Happened Miss Simone?, Winter on Fire, Shaun the Sheep and The Armor of Light (Abigail Disney’s directorial debut)All but one are documentaries and some are more interesting than others. All have something to offer, even the films which can only be described as a “hard slog.”

Tis also the time of year to look over the odd  Netflix series or two. Jessica Jones, the Marvel “noir-ish” heroine, who could also be seen as a sort of superhero escapee from Frank Miller’s Sin City, is on offer right now. Apart from offering a splendid villain in the guise of David Tennant, who seems to be channeling his inner “grumpy”  from Broadchurch (Gracepoint) to good effect, this dark Marvel offering is entertaining and addictive.

Other projects, such as short films, will be addressed in this “slow” period as well. Stay tuned for more reviews and previews of upcoming attractions and returning favorites, in the meantime, “tis the season for screeners.”

 

American Crime: Season Two Premiere Looks Intense

John Ridley, who is a solid winner with awards and winning projects to prove his talent as creator, give American Crime a second season with a premiere that looks intense and uncomfortable. Issues dealing with teen sexuality, a clear class system in the American educational system as well as racial issues.

FELICITY HUFFMAN

John Ridley, who is a solid winner with awards and winning projects to prove his talent as creator, gives American Crime a second season with a  premiere that looks intense and uncomfortable. It includes Issues that deal  with teen sexuality, a clear class system in the American educational system and  racial issues.  In the opening episode a mother’s son is temporarily “expelled”  after “inappropriate” pictures of the boy turn up on social media.

Taylor Blaine (Falling Skies’ Connor Jessup) is shown drunk and partially dressed.  When his mother (Lili Taylor) learns of the expulsion and the pictures she is outraged and upset. Talking to her son she learns that the boy was drugged and sexually assaulted. Going to Taylor’s school, she speaks to the headmaster, played by Felicity Huffman, who then asks the basketball coach (Timothy Hutton) to investigate the charges. 

American Crime is following the example of American Horror Story; that Ryan Murphy created, and will offer up many actors from the first season as different characters in a completely different storyline.  Huffman, who played Barb Hanlon in season one is back and Hutton, who played Russ Skokie, has also returned.

Timothy Hutton returns as does Felicity Huffman in season two of American Crime.
Timothy Hutton returns as does Felicity Huffman in season two of American Crime.

The premiere starts the second season by  offering drama with a capital D.  Questions of ethics, class divides in the school system, as well as society, and school officials who are anxious to cover up any hint of a scandal makes for heavy duty television.

It is all too easy to become swept up in the storyline and it would be a hard hearted viewer who does not empathize with both Taylor and his bewildered mother.  Each of the characters introduced come with a bag full of issues. The episode offers up dysfunctional families, parents struggling to deal with their children’s issues and a closing of the ranks by a prestigious school more concerned with its reputation than justice for an the victim.

Anyone not having seen the first season of American Crime  can tell by the caliber of the performers in the show  alone that this will be one powerhouse season. With three actors on the roster that are award winning;  Hutton has an Oscar for his performance in the 1980 film Ordinary People, and Hoffman was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Transamerica. Lili Taylor has a multitude of awards as well.

Watching the premiere, of episode 201,  it is immediately clear that if a television series could have a pedigree, American Crime would be that show.   Serious, deep and disturbing, the second season will become necessary water cooler TV for 2016. Tune in and catch the premiere on January 6, 2016. Prepare to be impressed, disturbed and to think.