At a time when about half of crime movie ideas seemingly stretch to seven or eight episodes, “Accused” cleverly goes in the opposite direction, laying out neat little threads in a single hour. While there’s a hit-and-miss element to that, the best entries in this Fox anthology series keep the suspense going from start to finish, while drawing in top stars with their unique approach.
Based on an award-winning BBC crime series, each episode begins with the defendant in a criminal trial, gradually providing the backstory of what he is accused of and what really happened, including the identity of the victim. Those flashbacks take place from the defendant’s point of view and conclude with a verdict.
In an old-fashioned scheduling maneuver, Fox introduced the show, with an episode starring Michael Chiklis as a father concerned that his teenage son might act with disturbing and violent tendencies, after the NFL playoffs on Sunday night. , and was rewarded with the highest prize. viewership for the debut of a broadcast or cable series in three years.
Moving on to its regular Tuesday slot, the second episode, subtitled “Ava’s Story,” is among the strongest anticipated, featuring a deaf woman (Stephanie Nogueras) who acts as a surrogate mother to a wealthy couple, directed by Marlee Matlin.
Another featured hour centers on a drag performer (J. Harrison Ghee) who becomes involved in a secret relationship, directed by Billy Porter (who recently directed his first film, “Anything’s Possible”).
Adapted under the direction of producer Howard Gordon (whose credits include “Homeland” and “24”), each episode of “Accused” plays like a little puzzle, adding pieces that gradually bring the picture into focus.
The intricate and often surprising nature of the twists helps set it apart from standard criminal proceedings, while providing the satisfaction of a stand-alone story and resolution within every hour. Other installments will feature Margo Martindale, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Wendell Pierce, Rachel Bilson, Rhea Perlman, Betsy Brandt, Keith Carradine and Jason Ritter, among others.
Of course, for the series to work, viewers will need to come to terms with the format, anticipating a new foray into crime and punishment every week. How well that will hold up remains an open question, but based on the first batch of episodes, “Accused” makes a pretty strong case.
“Accused” makes its regular time period debut on January 24 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.