Ryan Murphy’s ‘American Crime Story’ Likely to Focus a Season on the Lewinsky Scandal


Following the O.J. trial, anthology series American Crime Story already has a few more seasons’ worth of crime — and the sensitive subject matters therein — lined up. When the first installment in the series, The People v. O.J. Simpson, was announced, it was easy to fear that the show would fall into executive producer Ryan Murphy’s circus-like knack for shock, camp, and incoherent/un-nuanced storytelling. But the show turned out to be something else entirely, surprising audiences with its intersectional astuteness. The latest surprise: The ACS team is looking towards a potential focus on the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal for an upcoming season.

It won’t happen soon. The next season appears to be covering a topic that demands even more sensitive treatment — the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina — as that’d be a pretty gross thing to turn into a salacious spectacle. (Unless, of course, it’s focusing on bureaucratic ineptitude and disregard therein, in which case, sure, make it an absurdist free-for-all.) The third season is Versace/Cunanan: American Crime Story, which covers the case of the murder of Gianni Versace by Andrew Cunanan.

Entertainment Weekly reports that the ACS team have optioned A Vast Conspiracy, Jeffrey Toobin’s book about the scandal/impeachment, which has been described as “packed with news-making disclosures and secret documents published here for the first time,” a book that “unravels the three strands of a national scandal — those leading from Paula Jones, Kenneth Starr, and Monica Lewinsky — that created a legal, personal, and political disaster for Bill Clinton.” It was Toobin’s book about the O.J. Simpson murder trial, The Run of His Life, that served as the source material for the series’ first season.

Since we’ve only seen one season of the anthology series thus far, it’s hard to know whether the tone and approach will shift each season. (In covering the Lewinsky scandal, will the show give into the camp sensibility we’d expect from a Murphy joint, or will it — since Murphy has a relatively hands-off role in its development — continue to seriously mine aspects like the gross gender dynamics perpetuated by the media that went unexamined at the time? Or, perhaps best for this particular subject: could it do both?!)

It does feel safe to say that the out-of-proportion-ness of the Lewinsky scandal will appear all the more ridiculous now that we have an incoming (yes, tomorrow) president who both embodies just about every element of scandal-worthiness, and who’s managed to get away with every shocking move he’s made thus far. (And whose election was aided by the residue of scandal on the Clinton name that started in the 1990s.) Surely it’ll only be weirder when/if this season is released, however many years from now.