Everybody still remembers American football player and The Naked Gun actor O.J. Simpson, and that white Bronco car being chased by the police on the highway. FX has made a limited series about it, called American Crime Story: The People v O.J. Simpson. Why v and not vs? No one knows.
Trial of the Century
In a time when police brutality occurred on a regular basis – nothing much has changed, it seems – the Trial of the Century became much more than just a trial, back in 1994. A spectacle. A circus, and more about race, manufactured evidence, conspiracy theories and the role of the media rather than about O.J. It would seem the perfect material for a television show, and FX has turned it into a high profile drama, if not by the casting alone.
Gooding, Schwimmer & Travolta
Cuba Gooding Jr (The Book of Negroes, Jerry Maguire, As Good As It Gets) plays O.J. An uneasy, anxious, suicidal and conflicted O.J. His best friend, Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer, Madagascar, Friends) is looking out for him, but O.J. goes from bad to all over the place, after the police discover the bodies of his ex-wife and her boyfriend. To make matters worse, his lawyer Howard Weitzman (Ken Lerner, Happy Days, Chicago Hope) is gone, all of a sudden. They turn to Robert Shapiro (John Travolta, Pulp Fiction, Swordfish, Primary Colors, Grease), who seems to know exactly what he’s doing, keeping all options open. He asks O.J. twice, if he did it. Some shows about lawyers, say Suits, claim they should never ask a client if he’s innocent. It’s irrelevant. Besides, it could cause someone to drop the case because of strong feelings; lawyers are capable of receiving these little things we call emotions.
On the Cover
Did I just say Kardashian? O, yes. We have O.J. to thank for planting the seed of the biggest topic in gossip column history. And American Crime Story: The People v O.J. Simpson knows it. Khloe (Morgan Bastin) and Kourtney (Isabella Balbi) even briefly pop up in a scene. While O.J.’s getting more paranoid by the hour, detective Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story, Deadwood, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) is putting all the evidence together. On her own, at first. She can handle it; the case is a no-brainer. O.J. did it. She’s quickly paired up with Bill Hodgman (Christian Clemenson, Turn, Legends, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr and Jerry Espenson on Boston Legal) to help her, because since a celebrity’s involved, this will be on every cover of every magazine.
If you thought that was it, you’d be mistaken. FX has put together a cast most productions can only dream of. Nowhere Man himself Bruce Greenwood (Mad Men, John From Cincinnati) is Marcia’s boss. Steven Pasquale (Rescue Me, The Good Wife, Bloodline) a colleague, just like Chris Bauer (True Blood, High Fidelity and Frank Sobotka on The Wire). There’s Courtney B. Vance (Law & Order: Criminal Intent, FlashForward, State of Affairs) as Johnnie Cochran. Selma Blair (Hellboy, Anger Management) as Kris Jenner. Jordana Brewster (The Fast and the Furious, Chuck, Dallas), Connie Britton (Nashville, American Horror Story, 24, Friday Night Lights). Michael McGrady (Southland, 24, Day Break, Ray Donovan). And even Malcolm-Jamal Warner (The Cosby Show, Jeremiah, Sons of Anarchy).
I started by saying this would seem like the perfect drama material, but it isn’t. There’s not going to be a payoff. There are not going to be new revelations. The first episode, ‘From the Ashes of Tragedy’, follows the well known events closely, which makes The People v O.J. Simpson above all else a reconstruction. A star-packed, big budgeted reconstruction, but a reconstruction nonetheless. It’s well written, well acted, but if this were fiction, you would keep watching to see whether or not O.J. did it. That climax is going to be absent. In other words, the series is building towards something that will never come. The People v O.J. Simpson can only result in ‘stellar performances’ and ‘critically acclaimed’, but still a disappointment.