Impeachment: American Crime Story

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Impeachment, the third season of TV megaproducer Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story anthology series on FX, premiered within two years of two real-life presidential impeachments.

The show details the 1990s events leading to Bill Clinton’s impeachment. The cast is populated with a combination of Murphy’s regular collaborators (Sarah Paulson, Judith Light) and oft-distracting stunt casting (Edie Falco as Hillary Clinton, Cobie Smulders as an eerily pitch-perfect Ann Coulter). The real Monica Lewinsky serves as a producer.

Paulson portrays a complex Linda Tripp, simultaneously pitiable yet unsympathetic: bitter and lonely, plagued by paranoia and delusions of grandeur. But Tripp, who struggles to connect with her own children, forms a seemingly genuine maternal bond with Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein)—ultimately betraying her friend not out of malice but from a sense of motherly duty.

Bill Clinton (Clive Owen doing a remarkably serviceable Southern drawl) might remind a viewer in 2021 of a more recent president facing impeachment. As lawsuits and investigations assail him, Clinton lashes out: “I keep getting sidetracked by this fucking witch hunt!” and “They’re trying to use the legal system to overturn an election!”

Though he was a vocal Hillary supporter, Murphy’s take on the Clinton impeachment has a bipartisan message: Power corrupts, and to those who possess it, any threat to that power feels illegitimate.

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