The internet erupted in cheers Tuesday when it was announced that Ryan Murphy’s excellent FX anthology series, American Crime Story, would return in 2020 for its third season—this time focusing on the 1998 Clinton presidency scandal, and with key player Monica Lewinsky on board as a producer. Per Deadline, the show will start production in February.
Much of the excitement revolved around the show's provisional cast, which includes Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp, Annaleigh Ashford as Paula Jones, and Beanie Feldstein—who was so terrific in Booksmart and Lady Bird—as Lewinsky herself. But the biggest deal of the entire announcement is that Lewinsky is directly involved. Her role in the incident, which for years was unfairly termed as the “Monica Lewinsky Scandal,” is really one of a victim (and a 22-year-old one at that) who was demonized and embarrassed in the media blowup that surrounded the story. In years since, Lewinsky’s been making incredible strides to change those stupid misconceptions, and that she’s helping shape the narrative of the forthcoming Impeachment: American Crime Story may be the most significant step so far.
Tuesday, Vanity Fair published a letter from Lewinsky about the show, which Murphy first started planning in 2017 but put on pause until he could get Lewinsky involved.
"I’m so grateful for the growth we’ve made as a society that allows people like me who have been historically silenced to finally reintroduce my voice to the conversation," Lewinsky wrote. "This isn’t just a me problem. Powerful people, often men, take advantage of those subordinate to them in myriad ways all the time. Many people will see this as such a story and for that reason, this narrative is one that is, regretfully, evergreen.”
This, of course, is true. Here's something just as cool: As a producer on the show, Lewinsky finally stands to make a bit of money from a story that chewed up her life, fueled countless news cycles, and tried to frame her as a pariah.
The only dark cloud on the horizon came from FX’s announcement of Impeachment's premiere date: Sunday, September 27, 2020, which means the show will be in the midst of its run right during the runup to the 2020 presidential election. Some journalists and critics—writer Mark Harris perhaps the most vocal among them—have complained that the timing of the show will be, at best, a distraction from the important issues of the election and, at worst, give fuel to the Trump campaign by examining everything horrible that Bill Clinton did as a Democrat president. Others don’t think it’ll be such a big deal, and have played down the influence a cable series can actually have on American culture at large.
The script for Impeachment: American Crime Story is written by Sarah Burgess and is based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President. It follows the first two seasons of Murphy’s American Crime Story, including the first season, 2016’s The People v. O.J. Simpson, which became a critically lauded sensation, and the more difficult second season, 2018’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace, which received more mixed reviews and didn’t capture quite the same conversation or enthusiasm. In retrospect, the Versace season, told in reverse chronological order, was pretty brilliant, delving into the impossibly dark character of Andrew Cunanan and hypothesizing about his troubled life with emotion, visual flair, and incisive storytelling. You should probably go back and watch it.
For now, Impeachment: American Crime Story lands on FX on September 27, 2020.