There probably isn’t anyone who has watched TV in the last three decades that isn’t at least familiar with this phrase:
“In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important, groups: the police, who investigate crime; and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories”.
But what if you took that phrase and extended it to a third–those that are being investigated? Maybe gave them the chanee to tell the events from THEIR side of the story? Because, as we know, in real life, sometimes those kinda things do happen.
That appeared to be the impetus behind a BAFTA-winning showrunner named Jimmy McGovern when he created an acclaimed 2010 series called ACCUSED, which ran for two years on BBC. And that angle attracted the likes of some pretty prominent US producers, including Howard Gordon, one of the masterminds behind 24 and HOMELAND, and David Shore, the mercurial genius behind such hugely successful medical dramas as HOUSE and THE GOOD DOCTOR.
So with chops like that behind them, it’s clear that FOX used one of the few scripted and acquisition chips they can cash in these days on the US version of this series, which launched a limited run last night with as plum a lead-in as possible, a prime time NFL playoff game. It’s a very similar strategy that FOX often employed with seasoin premieres of 24, and one of the few ways a network can still use something in front of something that has a large enough audience to trickle in enough to matter.
The show’s anthological premise is described by FOX Flash as follows:
“Accused is a collection of 15 intense, topical and exquisitely human stories of crime and punishment. Each episode is a fast-paced provocative thriller, exploring a different crime, in a different city, with an entirely original cast. Based on the BBC’s BAFTA-winning crime anthology, each episode opens in a courtroom on the defendant, with viewers knowing nothing about their crime or how they ended up on trial.”
“Told from the defendant’s point of view through flashbacks, the show holds a mirror up to current times with evocative and emotional stories. In the end, audiences will discover how an ordinary person gets caught up in extraordinary circumstances, and how one impulsive decision can impact the course of that life – and the lives of others — forever.”
Like the Wolf procedurals, there is a regular cast of investigators and lawyers, including some familiar names as Rachel Bilson (The OC) and Wendell Pierce. But as the POV is from the case of the week, this allows for a casting tour de force of top notch guest stars. The opening episode that received the huge football boost is headed by none other than Michael Chiklis, who has a strong history with FOX and co-producer Sony. His character’s story is that of a tortured father whose son is involved in a mass shooting, which given the events of late (even yesterday in the Southern Caiifornia suburbs), is eerily “ripped from the headlines”, much as the opening episode of 24 dealt with a plane hijacking and was set to premiere shortly after 9/11. As Gordon explained to Deadline’s Katie Campione , though, sometimes timeliness can be cathartic:
:Trauma is very good for drama, in a way, and as a storyteller, you get to process that fictionally. So you get to take that real truth and process it adjacent to actual events. I think the writers are getting a chance to dramatize some of the questions that we’re all asking ourselves at this particular time in 2023. These are stories that really probably could only have been told, for a variety of reasons, today. I think they’re universal, and they’re very human, but at the same time, some of the subjects whether it’s race or gender or even social media plays a big part in three of the stories. Everything’s happening and changing so quickly that this was a chance to take these bite-sized fables and work through, hopefully compellingly and in tandem, some of those things that are haunting all of us.”
While Chiklis is the featured accused in the premiere, he won’t be the only familiar face with a Sony pedigree set to appear. Later ones will feature Abigail Breslin, the co-star of the quirkiest time travel series I’ve ever worked on, TIMELESS and Margo Martindale, the prolific and award-winning actress from, among others, JUSTIFIED. While there are others without a direct Sony link such as Whitney Cummings and Malcolm Jamal-Warner, all playing against type, it’s those names, and their connection to my former employer, that caught my eye,
While many of my peers that helped get this show on the air for Sony, now capable of actually selling shows to FOX in an era where the network no longer has an in-house drama production company, are recently departed, a few departments remain mostly intact, including casting. Their leader, Dawn Steinberg, has been at the studio for two decades, and many of her disciples are seasoned veterans as well, They champion relationships with talent and fight like heck for who they believe in. I admired their style when I was their colleague, and I respect it that much more after my life was changed forever by several actors. So it’s understandable why despite the lack of success some of Sony’s more recent efforts have had (including a one-season starrer for Chilkis called COYOTE which got dropped from the Paramount+ roster soon after its consolidation with other CBS units), the talent is readily available for work when casting calls.
I hem and haw about whether these people deserve an introduction to Dawn; as it turns out, there may even a history. I haven’t spoken to any of them for a while, so for now it’s a moot point. Besides, Dawn’s likely kinda busy these days breaking in a whole lot of newly elevated underlings.
I’ll merely reinforce what is clearly obvious–Sony’s a great place to work, there’s still a lot of great people around, and that rainbow on the lot is inspiring. I see that rainbow beckon me nearly every morning when I do my morning walk around the lot. Like these actors, I dream of getting a selfie in front of it again.
Maybe, since the regular time slot will be tougher and some deeper dive presentations will need to be created to help it get renewed, there might be a chance to even have coffee to discuss a chance for me to help?
I’m hopeful. I’m determined not to be accused myself.
Until next time….