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In ‘Accused,’ time works against one-off episodes

Andriah Bryan (left) and Abigail Breslin in "Accused."Robin Cymbaly/Fox

I’ve been watching “Accused,” the Fox series that was just renewed for a second season. On the show, each episode tells a completely different story, with a completely different cast, about a defendant on trial and how he or she wound up there. The stories include a man who retaliates against the man who abused his 10-year-old daughter, a Navajo man dealing with a traitor to his activism, and a mother whose son was killed in a school shooting facing an Alex Jones-like figure who denies her son’s death. The actors include Michael Chiklis, Rachel Bilson, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Whitney Cummings, Molly Parker, and Margo Martindale.

The show, which airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m., offers something similar to “Law & Order” and its spinoffs: a case of the week and no need to be up-to-date on the story line. “Accused,” based on a BBC series, is even more self-standing than “Law & Order,” since none of the characters — cops, judges, lawyers — recur from week to week, and the issues at stake in each hour rarely repeat. While I do enjoy ongoing story lines that build across seasons, there are times when a one-off suits perfectly.


Alas, while I keep waiting for “Accused” to improve, I have been consistently disappointed. An hour — well, really, 40-something minutes — is not enough time to set up and look into some of the complex issues the writers are addressing. The episodes skim the surface, ambitious with the ideas — a father at extremes to prevent his violent son from commiting mass tragedy, a drag queen dealing with a closeted gay man, a teacher who helps a student get an abortion — but unable to do full justice to them. Many of the episodes deal with marginalized communities, which only adds to the need for a sophistication that’s largely missing in this well-intentioned drama.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him @MatthewGilbert.