'Impeachment: American Crime Story': Bill Clinton sex scandal given the Hollywood treatment

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Programme Name: Impeachment: American Crime Story - TX: n/a - Episode: Impeachment: American Crime Story - ep2 (No. 2) - Picture Shows:  Bill Clinton (CLIVE OWEN), Monica Lewinsky (BEANIE FELDSTEIN) - (C) Tina Thorpe/FX - Photographer: Tina Thorpe
Clive Owen as President Bill Clinton and Beanie Feldstein as Monica Lewinsky in Impeachment: American Crime Story. (Tina Thorpe/FX)

The 1998 Clinton-Lewinsky scandal was the defining moment of Bill Clinton’s presidency, and now we’re being taken inside it for the new series of American Crime Story.

Subtitled Impeachment, the third instalment of Ryan Murphy’s anthology franchise follows on from earlier series The People v. OJ Simpson and The Assassination of Gianni Versace.

However, this story is slightly different, as Monica Lewinsky not only gave approval for the story to be told but had an active involvement in the show’s production.

Tracking the years that led up to the uncovering of the scandal, Impeachment follows Clinton’s seduction of 22-year-old Lewinsky, who from 1995 to 1996 was an unpaid intern at the White House.

Programme Name: Impeachment: American Crime Story - TX: n/a - Episode: Impeachment: American Crime Story (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  Monica Lewinsky (BEANIE FELDSTEIN) - (C) Tina Thorpe/FX - Photographer: Tina Thorpe
Beanie Feldstein as Monica Lewinsky in Impeachment: American Crime Story. (Tina Thorpe/FX)

Their affair came to light in 1998 as part of an investigation into Clinton’s behaviour while in office as president and, previously, governor of Arkansas.

Lewinsky and Clinton both initially denied their affair but were caught out when Lewinsky was secretly recorded admitting everything by friend Linda Tripp while working at the Pentagon in 1997.

Tripp would later pass the recordings on to expose Clinton's behaviour. 

Programme Name: Impeachment: American Crime Story - TX: n/a - Episode: Impeachment: American Crime Story (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: The Oval Office Bill Clinton (CLIVE OWEN) - (C) Tina Thorpe/FX - Photographer: Tina Thorpe
Clive Owen as Bill Clinton in Impeachment: American Crime Story. (Tina Thorpe/FX)

It sparked a media scandal that dragged both of their names into the spotlight – with Lewinsky still to this day somewhat vilified for her involvement with a married President.

The sex scandal would ultimately lead to Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1998.

Read more: Impeachment star Beanie Feldstein 'probably' would've done 'exact same thing'

There’s clearly plenty of intrigue to be had around the case, and Impeachment plans to lift the lid on what actually happened behind closed doors.

Watch a clip from Impeachment: American Crime Story

The drama also aims to allow Lewinsky to get her side of the story across, after more than 23 years being seen as ‘the other woman’ who marred a political empire. 

Who stars in Impeachment: American Crime Story?

Booksmart star Beanie Feldstein takes on the role of the young and naive Monica Lewinsky, with Clive Owen as President Bill Clinton.

Edie Falco portrays Clinton’s cheated-on wife Hillary.

Programme Name: Impeachment: American Crime Story - TX: n/a - Episode: Impeachment: American Crime Story (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  Hillary Clinton (EDIE FALCO) - (C) Tina Thorpe/FX - Photographer: Tina Thorpe
Edie Falco as Hilary Clinton in Impeachment: American Crime Story. (Tina Thorpe/FX)

But the central character of the story is Linda Tripp, played by American Horror Story mainstay Sarah Paulson.

Impeachment boasts an all-star ensemble cast, including How I Met Your Mother’s Cobie Smulders as conservative political commentator Ann Coulter, Masters Of Sex’s Annaleigh Ashford as Paula Jones, Saturday Night Live alum Taran Killam as Steve Jones, and Twilight’s Elizabeth Reaser as Kathleen Willey.

A photograph showing former White House intern Monica Lewinsky meeting President Bill Clinton at a White House function submitted as evidence in documents by the Starr investigation and released by the House Judicary committee September 21, 1998.
President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky at a White House function – date unknown. (Getty)

What are the reviews saying so far?

Impeachment: American Crime Story debuted on 7 September in the US and was met with mixed reviews.

Paulson received criticism for wearing a fat suit and prosthetics in order to portray Tripp, instead of the show casting a plus-size actress.

Read more: Impeachment: Monica Lewinsky says Clive Owen captures aspects of Bill Clinton

On review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, Impeachment received a divisive 67% based on 57 reviews.

Programme Name: Impeachment: American Crime Story - TX: n/a - Episode: Impeachment: American Crime Story - ep2 (No. 2) - Picture Shows:  Bill Clinton (CLIVE OWEN), Monica Lewinsky (BEANIE FELDSTEIN) - (C) Tina Thorpe/FX - Photographer: Tina Thorpe
Bill Clinton (Clive Owen) and Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein) in Impeachment: American Crime Story. (Tina Thorpe/FX)

Feldstein is highly praised as Lewinsky, deemed one of the stand-out stars of the show alongside Paulson.

But it has been claimed that there’s a "revisionist history" at play due to Lewinsky’s close involvement in the show’s production.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 01: Monica Lewinsky attends the Premiere of FX's
Monica Lewinsky at the premiere of Impeachment: American Crime Story. (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

The Guardian said: “There's at times a little bit too much for the show to take on, especially one that tends to repeat itself, and it works best when the focus remains tight on Tripp, whose bizarre travails grip even when the show around her slips.”

Time Magazine said: “If there's a point to this exercise, it gets lost amid so many histrionic reenactments of scenes we've seen replayed on the news and parodied in late-night comedy for more than two decades."

Programme Name: Impeachment: American Crime Story - TX: n/a - Episode: Impeachment: American Crime Story (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  Linda Tripp (SARAH PAULSON) - (C) Tina Thorpe/FX - Photographer: Tina Thorpe
Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp in Impeachment: American Crime Story. (Tina Thorpe/FX)

Entertainment Weekly added: "Impeachment is not as emotionally resonant as ACS's previous installments, The People v. OJ Simpson and The Assassination Of Gianni Versace, but it's a gripping and challenging retelling of a presidential scandal – and our nation's moral failure."

Impeachment: American Crime Story starts tonight at 9.15pm on BBC Two.

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