We would likely watch “American Crime” even if it weren’t supposedly set in Modesto. The artistic integrity it promises to bring to the small screen through producer/writer Ridley Scott and star Lauren Hutton will undoubtedly make for compelling and realistic television.
Oh, you say, that’s writer John Ridley, not Ridley Scott, and it’s Timothy Hutton, not the famous model Lauren?
Well, it’s not Modesto, either. At least not once you get past the opening credits, where they’ll flash a few photos of our arch, the Kansas Avenue overpass (why that?) and a water tower. Instead of filming here – in the cradle of celluloid creativity – the producers have opted to film the show in Austin, Texas, of all places.
We’re certain Hollywood’s special effects wizards can doll up the Lone Star state’s capital city enough to make it look almost as good as Modesto. But why bother? Why not come in for a close-up and get the real deal?
Sure, it’s hot in Austin just like it is here. But they’ve got a lot more people and a lot more hills. We’ve both got rivers; theirs is the Colorado (but not the real Colorado River). And how will they hide Austin’s skyscrapers – one reaching 56 stories? Our tallest building has only 10.
Doesn’t Austin already have enough advantages, including jobs? The city’s unemployment rate is 3.8 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Our unemployment is nearly three times higher (10.6 percent). Being an extra in a TV show might not pay much or provide steady work, but it could relieve the boredom. And all those creative people need to eat; there’s no way Austin has better food than we can conjure up here on the banks of the Tuolumne.
Most importantly, though, is that we’ve simply got more talent. We’re the hometown of A-listers Jeremy Renner, Timothy Olyphant and the incomparable George Lucas (who was last seen wandering around Chicago). The most famous person to come out of Austin is Dabney Coleman. Even Stone Cold Steve Austin stole the name; he was born 100 miles away in little Victoria.
We don’t share Sheriff Adam Christianson’s concern that the show will cast Modesto in a bad light. That’s already been done, even though our reputation is clearly unjustified. Yes, we’ve had some high-profile cases, but it’s not as if Modesto is the capital of American crime. Stockton rates 19th on the list of bad places and Merced 88th; we’re not even on it.
So we’ll suspend our disbelief and maybe even enjoy the show. And we’ll probably even suspend our fit of pique and try to live up to our name, being too modest to blame Messrs. Ridley and Hutton for eschewing our hospitality for whatever it is they’re getting in that wannabe Modesto called Austin.