Well, I guess we aren’t Mayberry anymore.
Three new TV shows premiere this month with strong North Carolina roots, but each show is about a serious crime.
On Sunday night, ABC debuts the third season of its anthology drama “American Crime,” which tells a different story each season. This year the show tackles the topics of illegal immigration and labor, sex trafficking and addiction. It stars Felicity Huffman, Benito Martinez and Timothy Hutton, and airs at 10 p.m. Sundays.
At 10 p.m. Tuesday, NBC will launch what it hopes will become a comedy anthology series, “Trial & Error.” The sitcom is a spoof of the French documentary “The Staircase,” which followed the Durham trial of Michael Peterson for the murder of his wife, Kathleen. Set in “the Carolinas,” it stars John Lithgow as Larry Henderson.
And on March 22, Fox is set to debut “Shots Fired,” a 10-hour series about a racially charged police shooting set and filmed in North Carolina (primarily around Gastonia and Salisbury, but also around Charlotte, Concord and Mooresville).
“Shots Fired” plays off the many recent police shootings in the news involving unarmed black men, though the show opens with a black police officer (Mack Wilds) in fictional Gate County (not Gates) shooting and killing an unarmed white college student from N.C. State University. The attention that shooting gets angers the African-American members of the small North Carolina town, because a previous shooting by police of a black teenager in the town was not investigated.
As far as the attached big star names, Helen Hunt plays the governor of North Carolina and Richard Dreyfuss plays the owner of a corporate prison system.
And if we wanted to go back to this past fall, we could add a fourth North Carolina-set show that was full of crime (although some crimes were committed by ghosts, I suppose). “American Horror Story: Roanoke,” which aired on FX, involved grisly murders set on Roanoke Island, tapping into the “Lost Colony” mystery.
Additionally, a reader reminded me that TNT’s “Good Behavior” is also set and filmed in North Carolina. “Good Behavior” is about an ex-convict and former meth addict (Michelle Dockery, “Downton Abbey”) who becomes entangled with a hired assassin. It’s complicated. The two travel across the South, and a lot of the action takes place in North Carolina (filming in the Wilmington area). “Good Behavior” has been renewed by TNT for a second season.
There are a few more TV shows set in North Carolina, though none of the others is about crime.
▪ “The Carmichael Show,” a very funny NBC sitcom starring Jerrod Carmichael, is set in Charlotte.
▪ “Pitch” is a baseball drama on Fox (it hasn’t been renewed, but also hasn’t been canceled) that is set mostly in San Diego, but flashbacks show the story’s subject – a young, black female baseball pitcher – being raised in Tarboro and being recruited to play baseball at N.C. State.
▪ The Emmy and Peabody Award-winning program “A Chef’s Life” follows Kinston chef Vivian Howard as she runs the Chef and the Farmer and Boiler Room Oyster Bar restaurants with her husband, Ben Knight. The show is produced by Durham filmmaker Cynthia Hill.
▪ “Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks” is a reality program on the National Geographic Channel that follows commercial tuna fishermen working off N.C.’s Outer Banks.
▪ Another reality show, “My Big Fat Fabulous Life,” follows Greensboro native Whitney Way Thore in her efforts to lose weight. The show, in its fourth season on TLC, takes place in the Greensboro and Charlotte areas.