The White Bronco Case Fictionalized

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.

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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.

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Dream Cast
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).

Reconstruction
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.

The Mike Ross Situation In Flux

Suits returns from its autumn break with ‘Blowback’ and things don’t look good. When Mike Ross was taken away in handcuffs at the end of ‘Faith’, my guess was it didn’t have anything to do with his dirty lawyer secret; the show just wanted us to believe that. It’d be a misunderstanding, somebody wanting revenge because of a lost case, that’s all. But no. Mike’s in the sourest pickle that’s been dangling above his head since the beginning.

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Somebody’s Been Talking
Somebody’s out to bury Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams, Luck, LOST: ‘The Man From Tallahassee’) and every one of his friends with him, or so it seems. The circle of people who knew Mike was a fraud, had grown bigger each season, but it was still pretty much contained. Well, the cat’s out of the attaché case now. Somebody’s been talking, but who? The first thing the Ross/Specter/Zane family needs to do, is finding out who might’ve shot his mouth off. Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht, The Others, The Spirit) pays an awkward visit to Dana ‘Scotty’ Scott (Abigail Spencer, Mad Men, True Detective). She wants to sweat her former boyfriend a little, but she hasn’t talked and – probably – won’t. All the while, Mike’s put away and being interrogated by hound dog Anita Gibbs (Leslie Hope, 24, Tyrant).

Not A Lawyer
Gibbs is pretty good at scaring tactics, but there’s only one Mike Ross. He does however get quite railed up when his lawyer steps through the door. It’s not the one he was expecting. Rachel (Meghan Markle, 90210, Fringe) called her father for help, and Robert Zane (Wendell Pierce, The Wire, Treme, The Michael J. Fox Show) couldn’t be happier to see his soon-to-be son-in-law in a jail cell, accused of pretending to be a lawyer. He wants to know if it’s true. I think you already have the answer to that, Mike says. Harvey’s standing by, so when Robert walks out, furious, he steps in and tells Mike just how simple it is: they don’t have to prove he’s a lawyer; it’s up to Gibbs to prove that he isn’t.

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The Usual Suspects
Mike is released on bail and contacts his old friend Trevor (Tom Lipinski, The Knick). He’s also not the one who ratted him out. There are two people they’ve forgotten about: Claire (Troian Bellisario, Pretty Little Liars), Mike’s ex-girlfriend, and hacker girl Lola Jensen (Amanda Crew, Silicon Valley), who helped out Mike in the season 1 episode ‘Identity Crisis’. It seems unreasonable to assume anyone from the inner circle would deliberately go after him. There must have been a fly on the wall, of some kind, put there by one of the bad guys. Jack Soloff (John Pyper-Ferguson, Bird on a Wire, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr, Jeremiah, The Last Ship)? Doesn’t seem likely. He’s more of an ambitious errand boy. Daniel Hardman (David Costabile, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Damages) then? He seems too busy with Billions at the moment. Or maybe the biggest baddest wolf of all, Charles Forstman (Eric Roberts, the hardest working man in Hollywood)? Maybe the writers pull a ‘matryoshka‘ and introduce an even more powerful player.

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Just When You Thought You Were Out…
Just when you thought you were out, they pull you back in. Harvey resigned, Mike quit; everything was going to be fine. Harvey would start his own firm, in all likelihood, and Mike would marry Rachel and get a job as some legal advisor or something. But now it’s all hands on deck. Harvey’s back at work, even though he promised Forstman he’d leave. Mike blackmails Soloff, so when Harvey shows up, the first thing Soloff is going to do is not give Forstman a call. And Donna (Sarah Rafferty) leaves her ‘Litt Station’ to help Mike and Harvey any way she can. That probably means Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman) will have Gretchen (Aloma Wright) as his new secretary. ‘Blowback’ does what Suits has been doing for five and a half seasons straight; not missing a beat. Welcome back.

Ninja Warrior Trios Are Go!

It’s one of the most exhilarating, emotional and brutal reality programs out there: American Ninja Warrior. Last year, for the first time ever, somebody actually won the competition. The perfect time to milk it and spin off: Team Ninja Warrior has been born. The same presenters (Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila) and a similar obstacle course, but with three big differences: Contestants are part of a three men team, there’s a new ‘girl at the sidelines’ (Alex Curry) and, most importantly, they’d better bring their sunglasses, because it’s all done in daylight.

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Shipping Containers
And I must say, it doesn’t quite have the same class. A sunny day doesn’t hold the same flavor as a dark backdrop with lights shooting through the sky. It’s more like watching an instruction video or training exercise, instead of a serious competition. The scenery makes matter worse. It looks like they taped the series on the season 2 set of The Wire; lots of stacked up shipping containers behind the course, as if the show wasn’t allowed to be the center of attention and got put away somewhere in a corner like an unwanted child.

Four Teams
For this spin off, the ninja winter olympics if you will, only the best have gotten an invitation in the mail. These familiar faces/frequent ninja flyers could pick two other people to join them and come up with a team name. Four teams compete in a single episode. In the first round, Storm Team Moravsky runs against Average Jo Jo’s, and Team TNT runs against G-Force. In the second round, the winners run against the losers of the first round. Round 3 is called the ‘relay showdown’, where only one team can win and qualify for the finals later on in the season. You are allowed to touch the water, as long as you don’t fall in. If you fall, you lose, unless the contestant of the team you’re running against (simultaneously), doesn’t make it past the same obstacle. If you win, you get one point. When the two team captains go head to head (the so-called ‘anchor run’), there are two points for the winner, so it’s possible to tie.

Round 1
Storm Team Moravsky has got captain Joe Moravsky, Rob ‘The Adonis’ Moravsky and Marybeth Wang. Average Jo Jo’s has got captain Jo Jo Bynum, Jimmy Bogle Jr and Caitlin ‘Shuks’ Shukwit. Jimmy wins against Rob, but then Shuks goes out at the Pole Grasper and Jo Jo can’t get up the Warped Wall, so Storm Team wins.
G-Force has got captain (and Hollywood stunt woman) Jessie Graff, Nicholas Coolridge and Travis Brewer. Team TNT has got captain Travis Rosen, Adam Arnold and Joyce Shahboz. Coolridge flies over the course, but fails to fly up the Warped Wall, so the two teams tie. Adam Arnold goes up against Travis Brewer in a decider, but the latter slides off the Dancing Stones. Team TNT wins.

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Round 2 and the Relay Showdown
That means that Team TNT goes against Average Jo Jo’s, and Travis Rosen brings his team to victory. It doesn’t go as smoothly between Storm Team and G-Force. It’s another tie break, which eventually Joe Moravsky wins, because Coolridge jumps onto the cushion from one of the Poles, but is unable to hang on. In the final, or ‘relay showdown’, each contestant has to complete three obstacles, including three more obstacles than in the previous rounds – the Salmon Ladder, the Tilting Ladders and the Tower Climb -, fist bump his team mate, until the last one reaches the top of the tower first. Because Travis Rosen is able to climb a little bit faster than Joe Moravsky, his team wins.

No Exception
Although I love the original series, I’m not too crazy about this one. You’re watching the same people over and over, for one, and because of that, the powerful backstories that come with new contestants, which emotionally charge American Ninja Warrior, are absent from Team Ninja Warrior. What makes that show so great, is the connection between running a brutal obstacle course and each contestant’s personal motivation to do so. This spinoff takes away that correlation and what’s left is a somewhat enjoyable exhibition class. It’s not uncommon for spinoffs, whether it’s reality or drama, to forget to incorporate that one thing that made the original such a success. Unfortunately, Team Ninja Warrior is no exception to the rule.

How I Was Wrong About The Wire

Reconciliation time. Sometimes, you’ve never watched a show – or only a few scenes here and there – but you just know it ain’t what it’s all cracked up to be. The praise in reviews, on message boards, those so-called critics, those so-called ‘fans’ have got it all wrong. It almost feels like a conspiracy. A conspiracy of ‘good taste’; a way to distinguish yourself by joining the agreement that, for example, The Wire is the best cop show ever made. So that’s where I found myself, wondering why this HBO series – that never became a real hit – was apparently a masterpiece. I was a sceptic. But a curious one, so years later, I gave the pilot a chance.

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Twin Brother
And it sucked. Really, it did. Why? Well, it didn’t match my expectations – which, I know now – was the problem. I expected something like The Shield, but with an HBO icing over it. I was excited to learn there was a series out there that a lot of people preferred over my most favorite cop show of all time. It was like discovering Vic Mackey had a twin brother. So I sat down, got myself some popcorn, and turned on The Wire’s pilot episode ‘The Target’.

Talking Heads
It was slow. Dragging. Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) wasn’t Vic Mackey by a landslide. There wasn’t a clear case. People were talking in an office maze. People talked some more in a basement. People just couldn’t stop talking, not even on and around an orange couch in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Baltimore. There were too many characters and there was no telling if or how anyone was connected. And on top of it all, the frame size was still 4:3, as if it was made in the nineties. Actually, that’s precisely what it looked like; like one of those nineties cop shows. As Donald Trump would say: all talk, no action.

Second Try
So after pulling myself through the pilot, I decided this show wasn’t for me and anyone who claimed this boring television drama was amazing would have to be seriously misguided. But sometimes even misguided people can make you doubt yourself. So when The Wire was rereleased at the end of 2014 – in the 16:9 format! – I gave it another shot. I didn’t remember much of the pilot, so I’d be going in as fresh as the first time. Unfortunately, at this point, my expectations still hadn’t changed. For some reason, I couldn’t shake my reference point. So, needless to say, I was disappointed again, and I never got myself to check out episode 2.

The Revolution Was Televised
It’s been a year and I don’t know what happened. Well, I do know, actually. I read the book ‘The Revolution Was Televised’ by Alan Sepinwall (The Star Ledger, Hitfix). Released in 2012, I only came across it recently, and it’s about the best TV shows of the first decade of the 21st century. The Wire ranks number 2 on the list. That had to mean something. After reading the chapter on it – while skipping the spoiler heavy paragraphs – I decided to return to the orange couch of Baltimore. At the very least, I’d watch two episodes this time, I said to myself.

Different Set of Eyes
A strange thing happened. Either the show, because I’d seen the pilot twice already, had somehow marinated in my brain, or because of Sepinwall’s lyrical praise (and by doing so had demolished my hopes for a The Shield 2.0), I was watching ‘The Target’ with a different set of eyes. I ate it up. In a time when quality drama (House of Cards, Game of Thrones, Hand of God) tends to move slower, the pace of The Wire didn’t bother me at all. And I recognized the writing now, too, and it was brilliant. It became clear to me, this wasn’t about solving a case every week. Or a Strike Team, knocking down doors. This show was about a team of detectives, who weren’t necessarily fighting very clever drugdealers but the system in which they themselves had to operate. Bureaucracy was their biggest opponent.

Close Second
Every step takes a lot of trouble and even more patience. It’s a chess game. The Wire is, but what do I know, the best reflection of the real world – and real police work. One step forwards, two steps back. It’s fascinating to see how people are able to do their jobs despite the job. If I had to compare it to The Shield, the first season of The Wire looks similar to the fourth of its counterpart, where Vic Mackey spends a whole season trying to take down Antwon Mitchell. Jimmy McNulty’s nemesis Avon Barksdale goes about running his business a lot smarter (and less aggressive) than Mitchell, though. The Shield still remains my all time number 1, but The Wire has come in at a close second. If you have any doubts or, like I had, a bad case of prejudice, give the show another chance. Take it from a convert; you won’t regret it.

The X-Files: Pilot

Yes, this is a review of the pilot episode of The X-Files, which aired on september 10, 1993. There’s a whole generation that only now – with the officially announced revival/event/10th season order next year – learns about this show about little green aliens (and cigarette smoking men). A show that was dark and awesome and way ahead of its time.

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16:9
The complete catalogue of The X-Files has been relaunched, in a very 2015 way. Streaming is all the rage, and the various streaming outlets really acknowledge the importance of quality. HBO retooled The Wire last December, by converting it to the 16:9 format, and The X-Files has had a similar makeover. In glorious widescreen – the first 4 seasons originally were 4:3 – the show can be enjoyed by people who grew up in the widescreen era (selfies on their mobile phones are still an exception, though, being more like 9:16).
It begs the question what will happen 20 years from now, when every show’s filmed in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. First it was Betamax, VCR, VHS, then DVD, then Bluray. Someday it will all be about how wide your particular version is.

The Nineties
Let’s face it. The nineties were awful, in terms of television drama. Those were the golden days of comedy series (Seinfeld, Friends, Frasier, 3rd Rock from the Sun), but when it came to serious drama, television wasn’t exactly your go to guy. The eighties used to rely on action – with great success – but what did the nineties have to offer? Renegade? There was a decent medical show (ER), two cool westerns (The Magnificent Seven, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr), maybe one or two others, but that was it.
That wasn’t exactly ‘it’, though, because suddenly, out of a dense forest and mysterious lights appeared The X-Files, an extremely well written, directed and acted supernatural series that blew everybody else out of the water. Mastermind Chris Carter brought movie quality to television screens, on a weekly basis. In 1993, that meant around 24 episodes a year – a number almost unheard of, 22 years later.

Mulder & Scully
The pilot introduces a lot of the trademark X-Files elements: The UFO poster (‘The Truth is Out There’), a forest, abduction, Mulder’s sister, skin marks, time loss, a broken compass, the Cigarette-Smoking Man and painting an X on a somehow significant spot.
The FBI has a special departement – run by one man – called ‘The X-Files’. Dana Scully, recruited by the Bureau out of medical school, is assigned to the project. Her bosses would like her to debunk the whole thing – although they firmly deny that. She’s free to give her honest opinion and report back to them.
That one man is a guy called Fox Mulder. A talented, brilliant detective with ‘plenty of theories’ – including extraterrestrial ones, apparently – and a sense of humor about it. He’s well aware of his reputation and nickname (‘Spooky Mulder’); during the first case they investigate together, he knocks on the door of Scully’s hotelroom, she asks ‘Who is it?’ and he replies: ‘Steven Spielberg’.

Disappearance
It’s clear they don’t see eye to eye, but they like each other anyway. From the moment they meet, their chemistry is obvious (or extraterrestrial, who knows). The case they’re working on – in a place called Bellefleur, which refers to Carter’s birthplace; Bellflower – brings them closer together. Unidentifiable materials, a non-human body; it’s hard for Scully to explain it all rationally. She’s forced to think outside the box – precisely the place where Mulder naturally thrives.
When they’ve gained each other’s trust, Mulder tells her about his sister. Through hypnosis, he’d been able to go back to the moment of her abduction. It’s clear he’s got an alien bone to pick with whoever’s behind her disappearance.

Congress
The question remains why the FBI has something called The X-Files in the first place. My guess would be it was Mulder’s idea. He’s one of the most promising agents the FBI has, so they couldn’t say no to him. But it turned out that isn’t the case. The X-Files already existed. It was basically a slush pile of unsolved cases that Mulder came across. UFO sightings, extraterrestrials, unexplained phenomena, it was all there already. Who’d written these reports? That question doesn’t get answered.
What does get answered, is why Mulder was lucky enough to get assigned to this freak show file cabinet. It’s not because he’s incredibly talented, it’s because he’s got ‘connections in Congress’.