Accused is the new anthology series on Fox, and if you thought it was a legal drama starring Michael Chiklis instead of an anthology series, I wouldn’t blame you. The first episode opens with Scott Corbett (Chiklis) sitting in a courtroom facing unknown charges. Over the course of the episode, the case against him is revealed through flashbacks. In this case, we slowly learn the circumstances surrounding the death of Scott’s son, Hunter (Oakes Fegley), a brooding sociopathic high-schooler whom both his father and anguished mother (Jill Hennessy) are worried about.
I won’t reveal much more for those who might want to watch the episode, except to say that at the end of it — once you’ve finally invested in the characters — a judge makes a decision, the episode ends, and you never see those characters again.
That’s the nature of an anthology series, of course, and it’s also why I suspect viewers aren’t going to stick around for long, and I don’t care who the creator is (Howard Gordon of 24 fame) or the fact that it was based on a popular British anthology. The “twist” — viewers are introduced to a defendant in a courtroom before learning what the crime is — is not all that novel, and it doesn’t exactly redefine the genre.
Moreover, the first case is not that great, and the second episode (which aired last night) is already a step down. It might be fun to see familiar faces from television (the second episode features Megan Boone from The Blacklist, Aaron Ashmore from The Rookie, and Lauren Ridloff from The Walking Dead), but when is the last time — excluding Black Mirror — that an anthology series amassed a consistent audience?
Let me tell you: Accused is no Black Mirror, which at least has a thematic through-line. Based on the first two, Accused episodes are unrelated morality tales set in a courtroom written by people who do not understand the law. Spoiler here, but in the second episode, a deaf surrogate kidnaps a deaf baby from the mom because the surrogate is afraid the father won’t love a deaf child. The surrogate escapes consequences in court because the parents decide midway through the trial not to pursue the case because they are so moved by the surrogate’s signed testimony. They are so moved, in fact, that the parents whose child was abducted invite the kidnapper to come around for frequent visits. Brilliant parenting!
The first episode of Accused was the highest-rated and most-watched debut on network television or cable in the last three years. Was it because it was good? No. It was because it followed a Sunday night playoff game between two popular teams in two of the largest markets in the country, Dallas and San Francisco. A 1998 rerun of Nickelodeon’s Double Dare would’ve gotten a 1.5 in the demo in that time slot from drunken Cowboys fans who passed out with the television still on. Most of those viewers will not carry over to its regular time slot on Tuesday. Even if they did, most will probably bail after 1) they realize that Michael Chicklis and his sociopathic son aren’t in it any longer, or 2) they watch the underwhelming second episode.
Don’t fear the FOMO. The Accused isn’t worth it.