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Impeachment: American Crime Story Reviews Are In, Here's What Critics Are Saying About Clinton-Lewinsky Season

Clive Owen as Bill Clinton in Impeachment: American Crime Story

The American Crime Story anthology series tackles true crime cases retold with some of today’s top Hollywood actors through the eyes of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk — the men behind American Horror Story. In its first two critically acclaimed seasons, American Crime Story delved into the O.J. Simpson murder trial and the assassination of fashion designer Gianni Versace. The third season, Impeachment: American Crime Story, will dip its toes into 1990s politics, dissecting President Bill Clinton’s sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky.

Impeachment: American Crime Story will feature Clive Owen as Bill Clinton, Edie Falco as Hillary Clinton and Beanie Feldstein as Monica Lewinsky, along with a number of other A-listers playing household names from that political era. Critics have gotten a sneak peek at the series, and the reviews are mixed, with Impeachment being called everything from “trashy” to “riveting."

TVLine argued that while showrunner Sarah Burgess was credited with writing four of the first six episodes, Ryan Murphy’s fingerprints were all over it, and not in a good way. It called the mini-series a “trashy, exploitative train wreck.”

Despite its lofty pedigree, Impeachment is a disaster: a schlocky, overheated melodrama that’s only a degree or two removed from a Saturday Night Live parody. It might as well be a quickie TV movie that aired on Fox in 1998 with a title like Intern Affairs.Impeachment also falls victim to Murphy’s worst storytelling instincts: shallow characterization, shock value substituting for genuine surprise, and dialogue that tells instead of showing. The characters here say exactly how they feel and what they’re thinking — and loudly. (‘Stop worrying about Whitewater!’ one White House official yells to another.) The whole project has a gloomy, bad energy to it, feigning gravitas with ponderous cutaways to presidential portraits and justice statues.

The Hollywood Reporter said Impeachment: American Crime Story sounds good, but for a series exploring such an explosive moment in recent American history, there should be more momentum.

The problems begin with the show’s structure. Before cutting to the heart of the scandal, Impeachment spends its first three hourlong episodes (out of seven given to critics for review, and out of 10 total for the season) establishing the political landscape of the era and getting viewers up to speed on all the central players … Arguably, this is all important context. Impeachment seems intended as a corrective to the oversimplified framing of the story by pop culture, the media, the political establishment and our own prejudice or ignorance; to pare it down too much would be to undermine the show’s very reason for existing.But Impeachment goes about conveying this information by jumping back and forth across the 1990s and scattering its attention across dozens of thinly written individuals, which keeps those early episodes from building any real sense of momentum.

Entertainment Weekly gave Impeachment a B+, highlighting the portrayals of Monica Lewinsky and Paula Jones as flawed human beings rather than scorned women who will be redeemed.

The real Monica Lewinsky serves as a producer on Impeachment and consulted on every script, but this is not an exercise in redemption. The most empowering aspect of Impeachment's depiction of Lewinsky may be its determination to show us a twenty-something woman in all her flawed, vulnerable humanity. Feldstein captures the reckless bravado of a young adult both emboldened by and crushed under the weight of an overwhelming infatuation. Her Monica is whiny and self-absorbed, loyal and oversensitive, endlessly devoted and shamelessly exploited.Though she's burdened with a distracting prosthetic nose, [Annaleigh] Ashford is stunning as Paula Jones. The Lonoke, Ark. native was once dismissed as a ‘slut’ and 'trailer trash’ by the media and beyond, but there's not a hint of parody in Ashford's performance. Here, Jones is a trusting people-pleaser, easily manipulated by D.C. power players and her boorish husband (Taran Killam, regrettably outmatched), and too naïve to realize she's being used.

RogerEbert.com also had positive things to say, declaring Impeachment is a riveting retelling of the ‘90s political era, while warning viewers to leave their cigar and blue dress jokes at the door.

Some of Murphy and writing partner Brad Falchuk’s writing decisions don’t always work, but this is a propulsive, incredibly watchable show, not really pulling the curtain back on a story you already know but turning that story into high drama, filled with fantastic performances. It may not have the nuance of The People vs. O.J. Simpson, but few shows do—it remains Murphy’s greatest achievement—and it stands on the top tier of 2021 dramatic programming, allowing a look at one of the most memorable political chapters of the ‘90s through the modern lens of hindsight. It's part of how America got here.

Variety said that while we marvel at truth that’s stranger than fiction, Impeachment tries to do so much in such a way that it makes the story feel artificial.

Taking itself too seriously to be camp, but not seriously enough to avoid some of TV’s most obvious traps, the series struggles so hard to juggle every storyline it tackles that the scripts often force characters to be the most obvious versions of themselves. Given the chance to portray people who continue to have outsized influence on politics and the world today, Impeachment rarely resists the opportunity to remind the audience of that fact with lines so clunky they might as well be said through winks aimed directly at the camera. … Only a couple actors dig themselves out from underneath the weight of leaden dialogue, overt exposition and, in some cases, extremely distracting prosthetics.

The ten-episode season of Impeachment: American Crime Story premieres at 10 p.m. ET Tuesday, September 7 on FX. Be sure to check out the 2021 Fall TV Schedule to find the premiere dates for all of your favorite shows.

Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.