Show of the Week: Accused

In a crime drama landscape populated by slow-burning whodunnits, Accused is a welcome respite; an anthology series focusing on ‘regular’ people who find themselves on trial for various crimes.

Created by acclaimed scribe Jimmy McGovern and running for two seasons from 2010-2012 on BBC One in the UK, the show eschews the trappings of police procedurals to instead explore why someone committed a crime and what the jury decides their punishment should be.

Accused is different from other legal dramas in that it is not so much about the law and the intricacies of how a criminal might get caught, but about how and why a character might get into the situation that has led to that moment in court,” explains the show’s executive producers Roxy Spencer and Sita Williams.

“It means that there is much more identification with that lead character – not just as a criminal, but as a person just like ourselves, who gets into trouble. We should be shouting at the screen saying, ‘Oh, don’t do that!’”

It is this focus on character and the ordeal they are going through that makes Accused stand out, emphasise the execs: We know the truth about whether the person is innocent or guilty, but at the end of the episode we will find out what the jury thought and what the verdict is. We may not agree with the jury.”

The series is currently being remade by Fox in the US, helmed by 24 and Homeland’s Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, and House’s David Shore. The remake will be co-produced by Sony Pictures Television and Fox Entertainment and is expected to premiere in the 2022-2023 season.

During its original run, the UK series attracted numerous high-quality performers, each given the chance to take centre stage in standalone episodes, including Sean Bean, Andy Serkis, Olivia Colman and Naomie Harris.

Spencer and Williams believe that the format will be a perfect fit for US audiences – in-fact, they have long-imagined what the show would look like if taken Stateside.

“It is very exciting how the US remake writers will respond to the format,” say the execs. “We could always imagine the stories set in the US. It was a game we had – casting it in different states in the US, or in other countries of the world, rather than the UK.”

While more than a decade has passed since Accused first aired, the format is far from in need of an update. If anything, as Spencer and Williams point out, the genre has evolved in the intervening years to more closely resemble the type of stories Accused was already telling: ‘Crime drama is now much less procedural – as Accused was. Audiences are more interested in exploring both sides of the story. Who are the heroes and who are the anti-heroes?”

Broadcaster: BBC One

Producers: RSJ/Big Story Films

Distributor: All3Media International

Logline: Character-focused legal drama delving into why criminals carried out their crime and what punishment they receive