ABC has two new crime dramas vying for your attention. “Secrets and Lies” is looking to snag a spot in your Sunday viewing rotation, while “American Crime” is making its play for Thursday nights. Each centers on a brutal murder and the fallout for families, neighbors, and entire communities, as those left alive try to put the pieces back together and hold the culprits accountable. Each also stars a cast of heavy-hitters from Felicity Huffman to Ryan Phillippe.
But if your dance card only has room for one new murder procedural, how will you pick the one that’s worth your time? Lucky for you, we’ve already tackled this conundrum. Take a look below to see how these dramas stack up and which one deserves your undivided attention.
“Secrets and Lies” takes a look at how quickly a man can go from Good Samaritan to public enemy number one. In a media frenzy reminiscent of “Gone Girl,” Ben Crawford (Phillippe) becomes the primary suspect in the murder of his neighbor’s son after discovering the boy’s body.
Another son is the victim of foul play in “American Crime,” although this one is a fully-grown adult. War veteran Matt Skokie and his wife, Gwen, are viciously attacked in a home invasion; Matt succumbs to his injuries while Gwen is left on life support.
Winner: “Secrets and Lies”
No matter how horrific each crime is, the death of a child just punches us in the gut in a way that few other things can. Not to diminish the brutality of “American Crime’s” home invasion, we’re calling the boy discovered in the woods the more compelling mystery.
The Star-Studded Cast
“American Crime” boasts a lineup that includes Oscar winners Huffman and Hutton, but they aren’t the only shining stars in this ambitious drama. The enigmatic Penelope Ann Miller, who won a Tony award for “Our Town, and the engaging Benito Martinez, from “The Shield” and “Sons of Anarchy,” show up as Gwen’s grief-stricken parents.
In addition to standouts Juliette Lewis and Phillippe, “Secrets and Lies” also features comic actor Dan Fogler and modern scream queen KaDee Strickland.
Winner: “American Crime”
While both casts are impressive, it’s impossible to ignore the weight carried by Hutton and Huffman as they take the helm for “American Crime.” No doubt all the players will have ample opportunity to dig deep and, even though I’m betting on former Oscar winners, I’d be just as happy to be blown away by what Lewis does in what’s probably the straightest role she’s played in years.
The Bigger Issues
Each of these shows goes beyond the specifics of their respective crimes and dives into the other, subtle issues at play in the aftermath of such horrific acts. From the undue influence of overblown media interference and salacious coverage to a white victim and three ethnic suspects, there are bigger issues at play in both of these dramas.
In addition to skewering the role the media plays in high-profile cases, “Secrets and Lies” examines the deceptions and whispers of the families and neighborhood impacted by the murder. And Lewis’ hardboiled Detective Andrea Cornell makes sure no one is above suspicion.
As Skokie’s parents, Matt (Hutton) and Barb (Huffman) twist in the winds of their grief, “American Crime” introduces racial and class tensions to the mix. Shining a light on racial tensions and socioeconomic disparity, “American Crime” explores the way tragedy can be a catalyst for either unity or destruction.
Winner: “American Crime”
Even though both shows attempt to delve into deeper, contemporary issues, only “American Crime” has the balls to take on the timely issues of racial profiling and resentments between the one percent and all the rest of us.
It looks like our recommendation is to clear your Thursday night schedule for newcomer “American Crime.” You won’t want to miss a second of this compelling new drama, so making plans to tune in live is a must. But that doesn’t mean you have to dismiss “Secrets and Lies” – just set your DVR to record that whodunit and tune in at your leisure.
Photo Credit: Entertainment Weekly