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What to Watch on Wednesday: ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace’ is a riveting look at a shocking crime

Edgar Ramirez as Gianni Versace in the new FX miniseries “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.”
Edgar Ramirez as Gianni Versace in the new FX miniseries “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.” Jeff Daly/FX

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (10 p.m., FX) – A riveting new miniseries from the creative team behind “The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story” that looks at the 1997 murder of fashion icon Gianni Versace – but it goes way deeper than just that senseless, shocking act. The story is also an examination of the life of spree killer Andrew Cunanan, who murdered Versace on the steps outside his Miami mansion for unknown reasons after murdering two men in Minneapolis, one man in Chicago and a man in New Jersey. Versace is a relatively small part of the narrative, and not even the most interesting part. The episodes involving the Chicago and Minneapolis murders (the action is presented, for the most part, in reverse chronological order) I found somehow more captivating and heartbreaking than the events that took place in Miami (perhaps because I was less familiar with those events).

Those who remember that time – the shocking news of Versace’s murder and the terrifying days that followed with Cunanan on the loose – will eat this up. The man was a psychopath, and regarding the making of that psychopath, the nurture vs. nature angle is explored extensively. But even with the abundance of true crime cat nip here, it would be impossible to ignore this as a commentary on the treatment of gay victims of crime. Four of the men murdered by Cunanan were gay (the fifth was killed so that Cunanan could steal his truck). From the very first murder of Jeff Trail in Minneapolis, police made assumptions based on the fact that Trail was gay, and seemed less than energetic in pursuing his murderer. Even when Cunanan was identified as the likely murderer and the bodycount started to pile up, and even as Cunanan was added to the FBI Most Wanted list, investigators are portrayed here as being very laid-back in their pursuit. Creator Ryan Murphy has said in interviews that he believes one of the reasons Cunanan was able to make his way across country as a wanted man was because of homophobia. The “why it was allowed to happen” is one of his main interests in this series.

Darren Criss as Andrew Cunanan in the new FX miniseries “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.” Ray Mickshaw/FX

Also, a quick reminder that this is not a documentary. Murphy takes a lot of liberties here, not least of which is his portrayal of Versace as being HIV+. The Versace family has denounced the project.

Not surprisingly, the cast is very strong. Darren Criss (“Glee”) plays Andrew Cunanan; Edgar Ramirez is Gianni Versace; Ricky Martin is Versace’s longtime partner, Antonio D’Amico; and Penelope Cruz is Donatella Versace. Judith Light, Mike Farrell, Max Greenfield, Cody Fern and Jon Jon Briones are also fantastic.

Also on tonight . . .

grown-ish (8 p.m., Freeform) – Zoey makes a deal with Dean Parker to tutor a basketball player in hopes of getting a letter of recommendation.

Dynasty (9 p.m., The CW) – Tonight’s episode is called “A Well-Dressed Tarantula” and we know that the show will introduce Alexis Carrington (played by Nicolette Sheridan) soon. Could it be tonight? Episode info says: Cristal’s efforts to mend her fractured marriage are complicated by a dangerous newcomer.

9-1-1 (9 p.m., Fox) – The crew jumps into action after one of their own is involved in a devastating accident. This one looks devastating.

Vikings (9 p.m., History) – The army leaders consider their options in the aftermath of battle.

Understanding the Opioid Epidemic (10 p.m., UNC-TV) – A special looking at people and communities impacted by the opioid epidemic, including what fueled the rise of opioid use in the U.S. and possible solutions.