For those of you who are not aware of the show, American Crime Story is an FX anthology true crime series from Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski and executive producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, the latter two being best known for their roles in creating the anthology horror series American Horror Story.
The 10 episode first season, also known as American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson, follows the 1995 murder trial of former American Football star OJ Simpson. It is enjoyable American melodrama with some genuine twists and turns. However, the scarce production notes about the greenlit second season talk about the show’s second season focusing on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with the focus quite possibly being the investigate into the failure of levees in the greater New Orleans area. Today, I would like to share my suggestions for material for the second season:
- Patty Hearst: In 1974, the 19 year old grand-daughter of media magnate William Randolph Hearst was kidnapped by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, a leftist revolutionary group. However, in April of the same year, 2 months after Patty Hearst had been kidnapped; a video surfaced of Patty declaring that she had come to see her captors’ ideology and was now a member of the SLA. Less than two weeks later, Hearst was seen to be involved in an SLA bank robbery. Hearst was later involved in the primary phases of a plot to kill police officers with explosive devices.
Patty Hearst was arrested along with another SLA member in September 1975. While there were concerns regarding Hearst’s mental health, with one psychiatrist describing her as a “low-IQ, low affect zombie”, Hearst stood trial for the 1974 bank robbery. At her side was defence lawyer F. Lee Bailey, who would later go on to be part of OJ Simpson’s defence team.
The central question of American Crime Story‘s first season is ‘did OJ do it?’ and the general ambiguity and divisiveness of two opposing sides is what gives the show its fuel. A case like Hearst’s would raise similar questions, making for less of a cut and dry second series. Furthermore, the subtle links to the first season, such as reappearance of F. Lee Bailey, would make for a nice touch and be a half throwback to the way that American Horror Story shares a lot of its primary cast from season to season.
- Waco siege: In 1993, the FBI, ATF and Texas National Guard were involved in a 46 day siege with the Branch Davidians, a religious sect that had split from the Seven Day Adventists. The Davidians were secured in a large compound outside of Elk, Texas and accused of, among other things, weapons violations (hence the presence of the ATF), sexual abuse of members of the sect and holding people against their will.
After a failed initial raid by the ATF, both sides entrenched themselves and the siege began. While the Davidians waited for the government to try and take them by force, the FBI debated as to whether to try and resolve things peacefully or act with force. The issue was that they did not want to spark a mass suicide in the same vein as Jonestown and were eager to try and repeat the events of the 1985 siege of The Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord religious group in Arkansas, which ended peacefully. After 50 days, the FBI stormed the compound. The leader of the Branch Davidians, David Koresh was killed along with 75 other members of his group. 8 survivors would later go to trial.
While a seemingly cut and dry story, Waco could be covered in a unique manner by the writers and producers of American Horror Story– set before and during the trial of the eight survivors, the events of the siege could be told in flashbacks from both the Davidian and FBI perspectives, giving a ‘two sides to every story’ message to season. While it would be harder to garner sympathy for the Davidians in the same way the show would garner sympathy for OJ or Patty Hearst, a shifting perspective, as the first season does by splitting the runtime between prosecution and defence, would make for an interesting story.
- The Unabomber: Ted Kaczynski was a child prodigy and later assistant professor of mathematics at Berkeley. An undeniably gifted man, he abruptly resigned his post in 1969 and became a recluse in an isolated cabin in Montana. Between 1978 and 1995, Kaczynski would mail or hand-deliver bombs to locations around the United States, including: 6 universities; 5 towns or cities; Boeing Headquarters and an American Airlines flight. The Unabomber’s reign of domestic terrorism spanned seventeen years and claimed three lives while injuring a further 23 people.
Kaczynski was arrested at his remote cabin in April of 1993. Similar to the Patty Hearst case, there were concerns over the bomber’s mental health but he was eventually declared fit to stand trial. To avoid the death penalty, Ted Kaczynski pleaded guilty to all charges.
If the Unabomber was chosen as the subject of an American Crime Story season, it would be very much about the crime. Primarily focused on the FBI’s hunt for the perpetrator, it could be clever by drip-feeding the audience information about the bomber himself, such as his alleged involvement in unethical research while he was a student at Yale. A season focused on the Unabomber would take much more of a psychological insight, looking at what drives a man to commit such heinous acts for so long.
Have you been watching American Crime Story? What do you think? What would you recommend as a potential season arc?
American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson concludes on April 5th in the United States. Episode 8 airs on BBC Two on April 4th.