Since premiering in 2015, American Crime has done well to tackle timely, real world topics, addressing hyper-relevant themes of issues like race, sexual orientation, and consent. Season 1 paralleled the racial tensions that underscore the American legal system with the murder investigation of a veteran. Season 2 wrestled with sexual identity and socioeconomic divides while peering into rape allegations of a high school student. Meanwhile, the ongoing season 3, which premiered March 12, examines forced labor, sex trafficking, and drug abuse amidst rural North Carolina.
It comes as no surprise, then, that if American Crime should land a season 4, it will spotlight a similarly weighty issue. During Deadline‘s Emmy-themed Contenders event on Sunday, executive producer Michael McDonald revealed that a potential fourth season would center on women in the workplace, citing recent sexual harassment cases including those at Uber and FOX News (particularly in regard to Bill O’Reilly) as touchstones. He said:
“There is a story that we want to tell. Seeing what’s happening on Fox News and what’s happening with Uber, you’re seeing the role that women play in the workforce.”
He went on to note that though they’ve already got a narrative in mind, they’re far from getting things off the ground, as they’ve yet to be green lit for a fourth go-round. He continued:
“Unfortunately with broadcast television it’s very hard to get an audience – our audience may not be there right now.”
While that may be disheartening for fans, it is realistic. Though the ABC anthology drama is a widely lauded critical gem, it’s never had the ratings to match. When the series was renewed for a second season in 2015, it came as a surprise, and doubly so when it was re-upped for a third last year. For reference, it was averaging 4.98 million viewers per episode during its freshman run, dipped to 3.72 million each week during its sophomore outing, and drew in only 2.67 million for its season 3 premiere.
Rave reviews have managed to keep the show afloat thus far, but with plummeting ratings, that will only get it so far before the network has to face reality. Spotlighting harassment and imbalances for women in the workplace would certainly make for a perceptive, powerful, and even necessary narrative, but whether or not that’s enough to score another batch of episodes remains to be seen. American Crime has been living on borrowed time for a while, and if things continue in the same direction, a season 4 doesn’t look likely.
American Crime season 3 continues next Sunday on ABC.