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Hercules Says This Year's AMERICAN CRIME STORY Is Not As Good As The O.J. Version!!

I am – Hercules!!

All episodes of “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” were written or co-written by British TV writer Tom Rob Smith (“London Spy”), who had nothing to do with 2016’s addictive and engrossing “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” – so it’s probably a mistake to expect both miniseries to exhibit the same level of quality.

And the Versace tale does indeed fail to match the storytelling power of the O.J. saga.

The focus this time around is not on the celebrity in the title, but rather the gay Versace’s murderer, a closeted gay con man and serial killer named Andrew Cunanan. (The TV version of Cunanan inspires more than one TV critic to reference “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”) Cunanan is played by Darren Criss, who played an openly gay man on gay “Versace” director Ryan Murphy’s “Glee.”

Is “Versace” still worth watching?

I’m saying maybe. The mystery of Cunanan’s motives is compelling enough to warrant one’s time, and it’s attention-grabbing to see how the hetero FBI man (“Mad Men” man Jay R. Ferguson, who played a very different FBI man in “Twin Peaks”) tries to wrap his brain around the lifestyle of a very rich gay man. It was no chore to move on to episode two after the first hour, and hour two grows electric when Cunanan reveals his plans for a rich old man seeking companionship on the beach.

A flaw in the series: In “Versace,” the life of the world-famous fashion designer turns out to be much less exciting than the life of a nobody serial killer. A lot of time is devoted to the former and I found myself hankering for more scenes with the latter.

Penelope Cruz’ portrayal of Donatella Versace may inspire new respect for Maya Rudolph’s (hilarious) portrayal of the fashion icon on “Saturday Night Live”; the American Rudolph I think flew a lot closer to the real Donatella’s Italian accent.

Edgar Ramirez (“The Girl on the Train,” “Gold,” “Bright”) plays the titular Versace. Menudo refugee Ricky Martin, 47, looks like Jonathan Frakes now and plays Versace’s number-one boyfriend.

Uproxx says:

... Those expecting a spiritual sequel to The People v. O.J. Simpson — with its sprawling casting of characters, deft mix of tones (which allowed Courtney B. Vance’s fiery but real Johnnie Cochran to somehow co-exist with whatever John Travolta was doing as Robert Shapiro), and vivid recreations of famous events — will likely be disappointed by the long-delayed second season. So, for that matter, will people expecting the story to primarily focus on fashion designer Gianni Versace (Edgar Ramirez), his sister Donatella (Penelope Cruz), and his romantic partner Antonio D’Amico (Ricky Martin), since the main character is Cunanan, with the Versaces popping up intermittently. …

Time says:

... Even when the result falls flat – which it often does – the impulse to create it makes sense … Between their separate story lines, Cunanan and Versace (Édgar Ramírez) take a sort of Forrest Gump tour through every milestone for the gay community in the 1990s–coming out, the AIDS crisis, high society, crystal meth and “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” …

The New York Times says:

... a surprisingly inert, if lushly imagined, tale. … Mr. Criss is impressive and haunting as the mediocre con man and murderer, but “Assassination” is never quite sure what to make of its central figure, his narcissism or, perhaps, his sociopathy. …

The Washington Post says:

… watchable yet incrementally disappointing … the Cunanan sequences play like reheated “Dateline” episodes while the Versace scenes are like paging through a stack of old Vogues. …

The San Francisco Chronicle says:

... Though at times excruciating to watch, it is a riveting and provocative indictment of both homophobia and, on a larger level, our obsessive fascination with celebrity, both real and manufactured. …

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:

... “Versace” is not perfect — some episodes meander a bit and anytime the story takes viewers back to Versace and away from the other victims, it becomes less compelling — but it marks an early, strong entry for one of the best series of 2018. …

The Boston Globe says:

... There are moments in FX’s outstanding “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” when serial killer Andrew Cunanan comes off like a horror movie villain. Played by Darren Criss, now many miles from “Glee,” Cunanan widens his eyes with loathing as if he’s about to explode into Leatherface from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” …

The Boston Herald says:

... C+ … Ramirez does an outstanding job capturing a gentle man and his passion for his work. Penelope Cruz (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) co-stars as his doting sister Donatella, who has absolutely no use for Antonio. (That animosity is well documented.) Criss’ portrayal is brittle and needy (and not such a far stretch from the character he played on Murphy’s “Glee”). …

USA Today says:

... What it does well, it does extremely well, and its mix of beauty and horror will stick with you long after its episodes conclude. …

The Hollywood Reporter says:

... juggles three storylines and an innovative crimes-in-reverse structure in a way that yields a disturbing character study and an assortment of strong performances. Still, through eight of the nine episodes, it isn't quite as convincing or thematically unified as The People v. O. J. Simpson. …

Variety says:

... the heavy-handedness slows down the story — or belies the fact that compared to “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” has much less story to tell. …

10 p.m. Wednesday. FX.

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