By: Bill Cushing – March, 2016
Do you remember where you were when you first heard of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman on June 13, 1994?
How about on June 17, 1994 when OJ Simpson, accused of the aforementioned murders, fled from justice in a white Ford Bronco while being pursued by police on live TV?
If you remember those events, and remember the long and engrossing trial that followed, then you’ll be interested in FX’s new 10 part series, American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson.
Based on the comprehensive and bestselling Jeffrey Toobin book, “The Run Of His Life,” the show covers the events in great detail, starting on the night of the murders and taking us right up to the verdict of what was dubbed The Trial of the Century.
An all-star cast is featured in the docu-drama. Oscar winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays Simpson, and while the resemblance is somewhat lacking, Gooding does play the part well.
Sarah Paulson of American Horror Story is outstanding as attorney Marcia Clark giving us another side to the person we only saw in the courtroom. Clark is portrayed as a lawyer who thought the case was a slam-dunk and desperately tried to keep the trial from spinning out of control and turning into the circus that it became. Paulson is sure to be remembered at Emmy time.
The cast is rounded out by John Travolta as Robert Shapiro, David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian, Nathan Lane as F. Lee Bailey, and Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran. The cast all does its job very well. Vance is particularly good as Cochran, while Travolta is a little over the top as Shapiro.
One thing that The People vs. OJ Simpson doesn’t do is present their opinion of Simpson’s guilt or innocence. The murder is not shown, only the aftermath. We are taken into the LAPD’s arrival at the crime scene and at Simpson’s home. We see the black glove found, and the detectives spotting blood on the door of Simpson’s truck.
But what really makes this show so compelling is going inside each legal team to see how they approached the case. Seeing the inner workings of the so-called “Dream Team” of defense lawyers and the conflicts that arose between them is fascinating.
Many of the sharpest scenes in “The People vs. OJ Simpson” explore the sticky interaction of race, fame, and class. When Clark’s boss tells her that they’re holding the trial downtown, she cracks, “Doesn’t Simpson deserve a jury of his peers? You know, rich, middle-aged white men?”
For those of us who remember the case vividly and are still stunned at its verdict, there is still a lot to learn here. Things you probably didn’t know about the case or its participants. We see Simpson as a man unhinged by his sudden fall from grace and privilege, and Cochran as a man determined to make the LAPD pay for past sins even though his client is likely guilty of a double murder.
Those who were too young to remember this case will be fascinated at the impact that this trial had on our society and our culture and why it still enthralls those of us who lived through it.
American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson airs Tuesday nights at 10 on FX.
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