Impeachment: American Crime Story Overview: Oof, FX Turns the Lewinsky Scandal Into Trashy Tabloid TV

Reviews

TV docudramas all the time stroll a fantastic line between illumination and exploitation. However American Crime Story‘s first installment, The Individuals v. O.J. Simpson, broke the mildew by doing the inconceivable: It gave us a contemporary perspective on a narrative we thought we already knew so nicely. It had depth, it had nuance, it made us rethink the legacies of notorious media pariahs… and I say all that to emphasise that Impeachment: American Crime Story does none of this.

Regardless of its lofty pedigree, Impeachment is a catastrophe: a schlocky, overheated melodrama that’s solely a level or two faraway from a Saturday Night time Reside parody. It would as nicely be a quickie TV film that aired on Fox in 1998 with a title like Intern Affairs.

With Impeachment — debuting Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 10/9c on FX; I’ve seen seven of the ten episodes — government producer Ryan Murphy and showrunner Sarah Burgess purpose to convey the identical scrutiny that ACS dropped at the O.J. Simpson trial and the homicide of Gianni Versace, this time to the Invoice Clinton/Monica Lewinsky affair and the very public fallout that led to Clinton’s historic impeachment. It’s wealthy subject material, to make certain, with loads of juicy materials to work with. However Impeachment badly fumbles it with a muddled narrative that will get overextended in all instructions, together with an unseemly tabloid edge. (The choice to dramatize Vince Foster’s suicide with an America’s Most Needed-style reenactment within the very first episode units an unsightly, exploitative tone.)

Impeachment additionally falls sufferer to Murphy’s worst storytelling instincts: shallow characterization, shock worth substituting for real shock, and dialogue that tells as a substitute of exhibiting. The characters right here say precisely how they really feel and what they’re pondering — and loudly. (“Cease worrying about Whitewater!” one White Home official yells to a different.) The entire venture has a depressing, unhealthy vitality to it, feigning gravitas with ponderous cutaways to presidential portraits and justice statues. Murphy takes a backseat to Burgess within the credit — she wrote 4 of the primary six episodes — however his fingerprints listed here are unmistakable.

Impeachment American Crime Story Sarah Paulson Linda TrippThe central determine right here — you’d hardly name her a “hero” — is Linda Tripp (performed by Murphy staple Sarah Paulson), an embittered authorities bureaucrat who bristles at a demotion and strikes up a creepy bond with new coworker Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein), preying on her like a spider with a fly. Monica feels jilted when Invoice Clinton doesn’t convey her again to work on the White Home after his reelection, so she spills all to Linda about her clandestine affair with the President. Linda sees Monica as her ticket out of her grey authorities cubicle and begins taping their telephone conversations, setting in movement a scandal that shocked the nation and practically ended Clinton’s presidency. Impeachment will get too caught up within the build-up, although, and spends an excessive amount of time attempting to wring drama and rigidity out of banal dialog. Solely when the affair turns into public in Episode 7 does the sequence lastly begin to present faint indicators of life.

The casting is an enormous misfire, too: Murphy’s productions by no means fail to draw big-name expertise, however not often have the casting selections been this ill-fitting — or this distracting. Paulson is unrecognizable right here, slathered in prosthetics, and he or she’s taking part in one of the crucial unlikable TV characters in current reminiscence. Lumbering round like an ogre, Impeachment‘s model of Linda Tripp is a vindictive gossip, a Puritanical scold and an obnoxious ladder-climber who grates on everybody round her. She nurses a particular grudge in opposition to the Clintons, however she appears to hate everybody equally… and the sensation is basically mutual. It’s not a nasty efficiency, precisely, however it’s a deeply disagreeable one, and Paulson’s facial expressions barely register beneath all of the make-up. It’s onerous to empathize together with her, and even endure her firm for very lengthy.

The actual Monica Lewinsky is a producer on Impeachment, however it’s hardly a flattering portrait of her, both. Feldstein performs her just like the dizzy heroine of a rom-com: a squeaky-voiced, lovestruck gal who can’t cease obsessing over her man. (Feldstein doesn’t look very similar to Monica, both.) The scenes together with her and Clive Owen’s Invoice Clinton are admittedly compelling, in a seedy romance novel form of method, and Owen does an honest job of capturing Invoice’s aw-shucks allure. However in the end, the scenes appear ripped from a Lifetime film, they usually’re a bit too simple on outdated Invoice, too, letting him declare to be an harmless sufferer of conservative persecution. As for his spouse Hillary, Edie Falco doesn’t communicate a single phrase as her within the first six episodes, simply serving as a smiling face within the background. (Oddly, amid all the opposite prosthetics, they didn’t even try to make her seem like Hillary in any respect.)

Impeachment American Crime Story Annaleigh Ashford Paula JonesI ought to notice that there are a couple of attention-grabbing glimmers right here, across the edges. I’d gladly watch the total origin story of Matt Drudge, performed right here by Billy Eichner as a CBS reward store cashier turned Web sleuth, digging via dumpsters for scoop to publish on-line. And regardless of being saddled with a ridiculous pretend nostril, Annaleigh Ashford turns in Impeachment‘s finest efficiency as Clinton accuser Paula Jones, discovering humanity and sympathy in a much-maligned public determine, a la The Individuals v. O.J. Simpson‘s Marcia Clark. However Impeachment needs to have it each methods: We’re alleged to really feel unhealthy when the media treats Jones like a joke in a single scene, after which chortle at how dumb she is within the subsequent. (Casting Taran Killam as Paula’s risky husband was additionally a mistake: His presence makes their scenes play like a SNL digital quick.) It’s this clumsy mix of didactic “weren’t we terrible again then?” hindsight and sleazy sensationalism that in the end makes Impeachment one of many yr’s largest TV disappointments.

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: FX’s American Crime Story franchise plummets with Impeachment, a trashy, exploitative trainwreck that borders on parody.

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