After 20 years, a couple books, a few trials, and a final incarceration, FX finally gave us the TV series we needed. “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson” has been filling up my DVR the last ten weeks. Frankly speaking, it’s not the best thing I’ve ever watched, but when you’ve got the backdrop of the “Trial of the Century,” especially when true crime stories are hotter than that damn Hansel, naturally I’m gonna be hooked.
(If you’re unfamiliar with the O.J. Simpson trial it’s just like “Making a Murderer,” except if Steven Avery was one of the most famous people in the country at the time of the murder, had 100x more hard evidence against him, and was found innocent.)
The O.J. trial was one of the biggest live moments of the last century, even for those of us that were too young to remember where we were when the verdict was announced. In the following years, it’s been a constant factor in pop culture, what with O.J.’s constant continued scumbaggery all the way to the rise of the daughters of one of a member of his legal team. While I wish I could tell you that this program knocked my socks off, that would make me a liar. You know, like O.J. Simpson and his legal team. But, it had its moments and was definitely worth watching, so without further ado — the good, the bad, and the ugly from “The People v. O.J. Simpson.”
The Good: The Acting
Let’s start with Sarah Paulson as lead prosecutor Marcia Clark. Paulson absolutely brought the fire for 10 episodes. Entrusted with the task of portraying the woman charged with prosecuting the most famous double-murderer in the country while getting lambasted by the press for everything from her looks to leaked naked pics, Paulson delivers again and again. This also holds true for her partner in the prosecution Christopher Darden, played by Sterling K. Brown.
Brown & Paulson brought their A-game in portraying the dynamic between the two prosecutors. The most engaging behind the scenes look the show gives us is the up and down relationship between Darden & Clark as they deal with the extreme stresses brought on by the case is the most watchable part of the series. They are at their very best post-verdict, showcasing internally ravaged up but outwardly strong. Really made you feel for them.
Entrusted with playing O.J.’s lead scumbag (but extremely savvy) lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, Courtney B. Vance kills it every time he’s on camera. He captures the bravado and showmanship that eventually won Cochran the trial of the century. He makes your insides boil at times with his never-ending grandiose statements meant for distracting from the hard evidence. And that’s what makes Vance’s portrayal of Cochran so great. Bonus points for Nathan Lane as the Mark Fuhrman exploiting F. Lee Bailey to O.J.’s team.
I watched both real-life closing arguments, and Paulson, Darden, & Vance nail them.
The Bad: O.J.’s Casting
Poor Cuba was set up to fail. While O.J. Simpson was a deep-voiced extremely physical man, Cuba Simpson Jr. just doesn’t naturally bring any of that to the table (Was Morris Chestnut busy?). He couldn’t have looked less like a former NFL star. Frankly, the entire time I just tried to imagine that this was the trial of legendary scrappy Arizona Cardinals legend Rod Tidwell, and that made things better. Cuba brought O.J.’s under the surface delusional monster out to play, but failed to show any of the charm that endeared him to the public pre-murder.
The Good: The Bronco Chase
One of the most famous moments in live-news history, watching O.J.’s run for the border in the backseat of his Ford Bronco from the perspective of himself and A.C. Cowlings was great. I was too young to remember it live but had seen the clip thousands of times, the show knew they had to get it right and took an entire episode to lay it out. I was highly entertained watching a highly exasperated A.C. deal with a delusional and suicidal O.J. all over the freeway.
The Bad: The Kardashian Plug
One aspect that the makers of the show made sure that we absolutely couldn’t miss was that this contributed in bringing us the plague that is the Kardashian family, as the late-patriarch Robert was on O.J.’s legal team. The erosion of the Kardashian-Simpson relationship, beginning with Robert having his kids refer to O.J. as “Uncle Juice” falling all the way to Kardashian eventually ending his friendship with Simpson, was compelling.
It’s fine to mention that he had some kids, and maybe throw a little easter egg in there based on who they would become. But the actress who plays Kim Kardashian has as many episode credits as the one who plays Mark Fuhrman, and two more than A.C. Cowlings and Kato Kaelin. Come on people, we already have one TV show that shows them way too much.
The Good: The Jury Deliberation
The room that everyone in America wished they could’ve been a fly on the wall in was finally dramatized when we got to watch the jurors give their initial votes and opinions. And while any sensible person wished they could jump into the TV and channel their inner Mugatu by pointing out evidence and scream, “DOESN’T ANYONE ELSE NOTICE THIS?!? I FEEL LIKE I’M TAKING CRAZY PILLS!” But regardless, it was one of the most compelling few minutes the series offered.
The Good: The Final Episode
“We, the jury, in the above entitled action find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson, not guilty.” I typed those from memory. It’s a phrase I’ve heard a million times in my life. Obviously what makes this trial such an enigma is that O.J. walked. Yet somehow this series finished like MJ in crunch time. The aforementioned closing arguments were shot and delivered fantastically, and somehow the showrunners managed history’s most famous verdict that you already knew the ending to extremely compelling and suspenseful, which wasn’t an easy task. The look of nervous terror on Cuba’s face was his best work of the season. I wasn’t exactly on the edge of my seat when they read the verdict because I’m a lazy bum who basically molds to his couch, but I was definitely more invested in the episode than I expected.
Post-verdict though was absolutely fantastic. Schwimmer sprinting to the bathroom to guilt-puke like that guy who just took down a $5 hooker, followed by his eventual visual disgust sitting a mere two feet from O.J. Seeing the blowback from the case as seen by multiple parties involved in the case was intriguing to say the least and really brought the best out in a lot of the actors involved. The eventual turn on Simpson by the formerly “Juice” spouting and worshiping Kardashian was satisfying to see.
The Ugly: The Verdict
Frankly, just as it is to watch the historical footage, it’s sickening to watch the verdict be delivered. It’s brutal to watch both the agonized reactions of the Goldman family, as well as people celebrating for O.J.’s. In the years that have followed, it’s become more and more clear that O.J. is as guilty as I am lazy (means he’s guilty as hell). The show was pointed at a clear bias that O.J. did do it, so seeing the aftermath of the case is just devastating. I had a strong wish that I could just walk into Johnnie Cochran’s champagne-filled celebration and take a shit on the table. It wasn’t an easy sight to watch people celebrate the acquittal of an almost certain murderer.
It also touched on the equally as ugly topic of former LAPD officer (and current Fox News contributor) Mark Fuhrman becoming the face of racist cops everywhere, and it wasn’t pleasant to see. If anyone can listen to the Fuhrman tapes and be anything but disgusted, well, you’re probably a racist.
While we didn’t get everything we wanted out of a show about the O.J. trial, it was a quality bit of programing that got me to tune in weekly. I’ll look forward to seeing what “American Crime Story” brings to us next season. I’m putting my vote towards my college roommate Casey’s case of getting arrested for public intoxication in his own kitchen. It was a travesty. .
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