Welcome back to another season of American Crime Story. Last time we met, I was regaling you with tales of being a youthful college student in my native Los Angeles as OJ Simpson was tried and acquitted for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson, and we all fell profoundly and deeply in love with Sterling K. Brown. Today, we reconvene to discuss the murder of Gianni Versace — the 20th anniversary of which was just this last July — at the hands of serial killer and pathological liar Andrew Cunanan, in Miami. I was a youthful Los Angeleno just out of college when this happened, and I do not, therefore, have great personal insight to this specific milieu, beyond being alive and alert in 1997.
I can say, though, that as someone who remembers the summer of 1997 well: It was a weird summer. Versace was gunned down on the steps of his house, and six weeks later, Princess Diana died in a car accident. Mother Theresa died less than a week after that. The Heaven’s Gate mass suicide had happened in March and was still getting a lot of news play (related, we had a giant comet hanging over us that year, which I personally think scrambled people’s brains a little, even though if you asked me the direct question, I would tell you that I don’t believe in that). And I was newly out of college and had no idea what I was doing with my life, which certainly wasn’t globally noteworthy, but made me personally feel strange.
It is so interesting to be watching this story play out and remember the way it unfolded in a time without real internet. The internet existed, but not in the way it does today. If a major fashion designer were murdered on the steps of his house today, I assume we’d all be on Twitter for 72 hours straight. As it was, I mostly found out what was happening by opening the Los Angeles Times (which makes a cameo in this episode, which amused me; surely what most people in Miami were reading was the Miami Herald). Things change so quickly in our lifetimes.
But let’s discuss the episode! I’m not going to recap it blow-by-blow, but instead, thought we could talk about it in general here, before zipping through its amazing sets and wardrobe in the slideshow.
1. My god, EVERYONE is in this: Dascha Polanco! Will Chase! Stan from Mad Men! Schmidt from New Girl! Ricky Martin! Darren Criss, obviously. Penelope Cruz! Annaleigh Ashford, looking so plain-faced that it took me forever to place her! CATHY MORIARTY, popping up for me at basically the same time she popped up for Heather on This Is Us, leading to us wondering what is going on in the universe to lead Cathy Moriarty to appear simultaneously on both of our TVs. (It seems like a good omen.) Judith Light is going to appear later. It’s exciting!
2. Overall, I thought the pilot was very good. I didn’t read any reviews prior to watching it, but I saw a lot of tweets indicating that several TV critics thought it was very different than The People vs. OJ, and people who want what they got from OJ might be taken aback. Personally, I didn’t expect them to be particularly similar, but that is perhaps because I knew I wouldn’t have the same personal connection regardless. I think it was very well-acted — Darren Criss is great; it’s too soon to tell how Penelope Cruz is, as Donatella, but (a) even mediocre Penelope Cruz is probably gonna be pretty good, and (b) Donatella is a tough role to shoulder thanks to SNL.
2b. I did think there was one false note — and I am interested to hear from those of you who lived in Miami and/or followed this more closely than I did about others. When Detective Will Chase is questioning Ricky Martin, Det. Will Chase seems perplexed by the idea that Ricky Martin and Versace are romantic partners whose relationship is sexually non-monogamous. It’s 1997 Miami: There is no way he hasn’t come across that scenario before. I would not have been particularly phased by that at the time if I stumbled across it in the lives of some extremely rich adults, and I was a 22 year old with very little life experience. (I did read a lot of books, though.)
3. The tile in this thing is EXCEPTIONAL.
What did you think? As ever, I also recommend reading the coverage at Vanity Fair, which obviously covered this AT LENGTH when it happened, as Terrible Things Happening To Rich People is right in their wheelhouse.
(PS: There is one slide within that is potentially NSFW.)