After more than a year of postponed releases, delayed productions and canceled projects, television seems to be back on track with a full fall lineup of highly anticipated series and season premieres. FX kicked off in September with the long-awaited thirinstallment of Ryan Murphy’s “American Crime Story” anthology series. Titled “Impeachment,” the 10 episode miniseries chronicles the dramatic saga of the 1998 Clinton-Lewinsky sex scandal and the crazed political circus that followed.
With the immense success of the first two seasons, “Impeachment,” has plenty to live up to. After all, both “The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” with a near-perfect Rotten Tomatoes score of 97 percent, and “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” with a sizeable Rotten Tomatoes score of 87 percent, took home the Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy Award for Best Limited Series in their respective years. All eyes are on the third season to keep up this streak of adoration from audiences and critics alike.
Murphy, the show’s creator, is certainly a big name in Hollywood, and while he is best known for “Glee,” “American Horror Story” and the slew of Netflix miniseries he’s conjured up, “American Crime Story” is by far his best work. I don’t think I’m alone in this assertion as Hollywood seems to know this as well. Never before have so many television icons been assembled in a Murphy project until “Impeachment.”
Beanie Feldstein (“Booksmart,” “Lady Bird”), leads the cast as the 22-year-old Monica Lewinsky, the fresh out of college intern who landed in the middle of the biggest American political sex scandal, possibly of all time. Sarah Paulson, a staple in all of Murphy’s work, (“American Horror Story,” “Ratched”) plays the disgruntled ex-White House employee, Linda Tripp, who convinces Lewinsky to document their affair as a means to get back at her former boss.
Others involved include Broadway-import Annaleigh Ashford as Paula Jones, Cobie Smulders (“How I Met Your Mother”) as Ann Coulter, Judith Light (“The Assassination of Gianni Versace”) as Susan Carpenter-McMillan, Margo Martindale (“Mrs. America”) as Lucianne Goldberg, Clive Owen (“Closer”) as Bill Clinton and Edie Falco (“The Sopranos”) as Hillary Clinton.
Of course, it’s difficult to recognize many of the cast members under the intense layers of prosthetics and makeup they wear to get into character. Paulson in particular is practically unrecognizable. She reportedly gained 30 pounds for this role in addition to the bodysuit worn under her costume. Talk about committing to your role!
As a viewer born in the early 2000s, I realize that watching “American Crime Story” is a much different experience for those a few decades older than me who watch these episodes with a recollection of the actual events as they unfolded on constant newsreels. The O.J. Simpson trial, the killing spree of Andrew Cunanan and the Clinton-Lewinsky affair are all tremendous pieces of cultural history from the 1990s, so this begs the question: is this only entertaining because I haven’t lived it? I’m not exactly sure how captivated I’d be watching a dramatic retelling of the Trump impeachment two decades from now.
One thing I found particularly interesting is that Monica Lewinsky herself is a producer of the series. Could this be a redemption piece to tell her side of the story to a new generation? One thing is for sure: she wants to enact a little revenge on Tripp. The audience is led to have no sympathies whatsoever for Tripp’s character. Instead of feeling sorry for the middle-aged single mother ousted from the job she held for a number of years, you see a backstabbing, self-serving woman eating microwavable Weight Watchers meals alone in her apartment.
While “Impeachment” will, by no means, be a perfect retelling of the exact events that transpired in the White House in the 1990s, it is certainly entertaining and well worth your time if you’re a drama-holic like myself. While the first episode left something to be desired, every story needs to start somewhere, and I have complete confidence that the assembled cast will put on a good show. At the very least, it is comical to watch a show set in an era when “impeachment” was an uncommonly used word.