Accused was a 2010 British anthology series conceived by acclaimed writer Jimmy McGovern (Crackers, Redfern Now, The Street) in which names like Christopher Eccleston, Benjamin Smith, Juliet Stevenson, Andy Serkis, Sean Bean portrayed individuals on trial, with the public left to decide whether their characters were guilty or not.
Now the United States is in the hands of the formidable producer Howard Gordon (24, Homeland) who assembled an equally impressive cast.
Commercial TV doesn’t offer much in the way of anthology drama, which is a shame because audiences really get to witness some acting chops. The genre tends to attract names drawn to material that allows them less engagement than a series. It’s the attribute that stands out the most to me Accused.
Michael Chiclis (The Shield, The Commissioner, Fantastic Four) stars in the opening episode “Scott’s Story” as a neurosurgeon who worries that his teenage son Devin (Oakes Fegley) is so rebellious and lonely he could be violent. Is Devin really bad? Well, he’s dropping rocks off the highway, so there’s not a lot of gray area there.
When Scott discovers a diary detailing Devin’s plans for his local school, alarm bells ring. But how to deal with this crisis when his son doesn’t talk to him or doesn’t follow his parents’ rules? His wife (Jill Hennessy), who appears combative and protective, is equally horrified by Scott’s discovery.
Part of the plot of AccusedThe narrative of not is to initially outline how the defendant was accused, or even what he was accused of. Most of the episode is in flashbacks, dramatizing how the Accused come to their circumstance… in other words, it’s not quite a courtroom drama.
In “Scott’s Story” there is empathy for a father torn between protecting his son and protecting the community, and trying to avert a tragedy. That Scott goes on trial is a red flag that all hasn’t gone to plan, but I’ll avoid further spoilers.
Chiklis is the reason to watch this first episode, always underplaying his characters with noticeable gravitas. This despite some quite ridiculous scenes uploaded for American audiences.
Episode two is more even as deaf actress Lauren Ridloff plays a surrogate for a hearing couple (Megan Boone/Aaron Ashmore), but is devastated when she learns of their plans when the baby is revealed to be deaf as well . The premise is also a best example of a moral dilemma for the main character, helping to lean into sharing guilt or innocence for the audience.
This episode is directed by Marlee Maitlin, which means the material is handled with considerable care.
Other episodes will feature Whitney Cummings, Jack Davenport, Margo Martindale, Rhea Perlman, Abigail Breslin, Wendell Pierce and Aussie Aisha Dee, among others. Directors will include Billy Porter, Michael Chiklis, Jonathan Mostow, Tazbah Rose Chavez and Aussie Michael Offer.
Accused it may not have the same subtlety as what we see on British television, but there are still delicacies to be found.
Screens charged 9pm Tuesdays out of seven.