Summer is upon us, which means that we will all have more time for television. Hooray! For those of you who need to justify your binge-watching, consider American Crime (website here), an amazing show with strong ADR themes.

American Crime is in its third season, and the first two seasons are available on Netflix. Each season tells a story that starts with a conflict that appears quite simple — a victim, a bad guy, a crime — and then peels back the layers of the situation to reveal the complex network of contributions, situational factors, third party interference, institutional processes, and other dynamics that remind us that no conflict is simple and true resolution is a formidable challenge. Issues of race, gender, status, and class are front and center, as are questions of truth and what we know and think we know.

Watching the show, it is apparent that traditional systems of law and justice are not capable of dealing with the complexity of these issues, but it’s not obvious how alternative approaches could be deployed to deal with these situations in predictable or consistent ways. The show does a wonderful job building empathy and showing how mapping contributions is not only a more effective strategy than assigning blame, but that it may be the only way we can disrupt some of these dysfunctional cycles that afflict families and society.

Each season is its own discrete story, and so the actors play different roles in each season. I like this for the same reason I like simulations — it means that the writers can highlight specific themes and threads, and we can contrast and compare across contexts.

More to come throughout the summer! And again, please feel free to contribute your recommendations!

Jennifer Reynolds is an Assistant Professor at the University of Oregon Law and the Faculty Director of the ADR Center. Teaching civil procedure, conflicts of law, negotiation, and mediation, her research interests include dispute systems design, problem-solving in multiparty scenarios, judicial attitudes toward ADR, and cultural influences and implications of alternative processes. She is also a contributor to ADR Prof Blog.