Michael Chiklis is one of many heavyweight names giving acting turns in a new anthology drama on Seven.

Accused was a 2010 British anthology series conceived by acclaimed writer Jimmy McGovern (Cracker, Redfern Now, The Street) in which names such as Christopher Eccleston, Benjamin Smith, Juliet Stevenson, Andy Serkis, Sean Bean portrayed individuals on trial -with the audience left to conclude if their characters were guilty or not.

Now a US is put into the hands of formidable producer Howard Gordon (24, Homeland) who has assembled a similarly impressive cast.

Commercial TV doesn’t offer up much in the way of anthology drama, which is a shame because the audience can really witness some acting chops. The genre tends to attract names who are drawn to material that allows them less commitment than a series. It’s the attribute that stands out for me most with Accused.

Michael Chiklis (The Shield, The Commish, Fantastic Four) stars in the opening episode “Scott’s Story” as a neurosurgeon who becomes concerned that his teenage son Devin (Oakes Fegley) is so rebellious and reclusive that he could be violent. Is Devin really bad? Well, he is dropping rocks from the freeway so there’s not much grey area there.

When Scott discovers a journal detailing Devin’s plans for his local school, alarm bells ring. But how to address this crisis when his son won’t talk to him or follow parental rules? Wife (Jill Hennessy), who appears combative and protective, is equally horrified by Scott’s discovery.

Part of the plotting of Accused‘s storytelling is not to initially outline quite how the defendant came to be charged, or indeed what they are charged with. The bulk of the episode is in flashback, dramatising how the Accused arrived at their circumstance… in other words, it’s not really a courtroom drama.

In “Scott’s Story” there is empathy for a father torn betwen protecting his son and protecting the community, and in trying to avert a tragedy. That Scott ends up on trial is a red flag that not everything went to plan, but I will avoid further spoiling.

Chiklis is the reason to watch this first episode, always underplaying his characters with considerable gravitas. This is despite some fairly ludicrous scenes loaded for American audiences.

Episode two is more even in which deaf actress Lauren Ridloff plays a surrogate for a hearing couple (Megan Boone / Aaron Ashmore), but is distraught when she learns of their plans when the baby is also found to be deaf. The premise is also a better example of a moral dilemma for the lead character, which helps lean into the division of guilt or innocence for the audience.

This episode is directed by Marlee Maitlin meaning the material is handled with considerable care.

Further episodes will feature Whitney Cummings, Jack Davenport, Margo Martindale, Rhea Perlman, Abigail Breslin, Wendell Pierce and Aussie Aisha Dee, amongst others. Directors will include Billy Porter, Michael Chiklis, Jonathan Mostow, Tazbah Rose Chavez and Aussie Michael Offer.

Accused may not have quite the same subtlety as that which we view from British television, but there are still treats to be found.

Accused screens 9pm Tuesdays on Seven.

2 Responses

  1. Dreadfully written melodramas set in a world where everyone is insane and facts and logic have no place i.e. modern America. For Americans it probably works because things really are that crazy there, everybody loves it there and thinks the writing and acting are terrific. Simply hand the diary into the police, as procedures require and many have, the school reports Devin such actions are done every day in the US. But no it is up to Scott to murder his teenage son for the greater which he gets off with because the prosecutor and judge go for jury nullification after bottled it and helped his some commit murder. Here cochlear implants are hailed as technology that has improved the quality of life of millions, not demonised with superstitious mumbo jumbo.

    McGovern created some way out twists, but he created good characters and stories and grounded them with detail in every day life.

  2. Looking forward to this. I only just caught up with the excellent English version last year on iView, so it will be interesting to compare. While it’s not at all surprising, it’s a shame that the American version has gone straight into so many (14?) episodes for the first season… Especially since it has already been renewed for a second season.

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