On June 13, 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were murdered outside of Nicole’s home. That was the start of what became known as the “Trial of the Century”, and the trial divided America. With Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) and Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) heading up the prosecution and the “Dream Team” made up of Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance), Robert Shapiro (John Travolta), F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane), Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer), and more to defend O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr.), the trial became a circus and those caught up in it became stars.
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story is the first season of the anthology series looking at some of America’s biggest crimes. The FX series aired from February 2, 2016 to April 5, 2016 and is based on the 1997 book The Run of His Life: the People v. O.J. Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin. The series was immensely popular and received critical acclaim and multiple awards. The series won the Golden Globe for Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television and Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television (Paulson) with nominations for Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television (Vance), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television (Brown and Travolta). The series received Primetime Emmy awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie (Vance), Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie (Paulson), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie (Brown), Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or a Dramatic Special (“Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”), Outstanding Casting for a Limited Series, Movie or Special, Outstanding Hairstyling for a Limited Series or a Movie, Outstanding Limited Series, Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Limited Series or Movie (“The Race Card”), Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Limited Series or Movie (“From the Ashes of Tragedy”) with nominations Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie (Cuba Gooding Jr.), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie (Travolta, Schwimmer), Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or a Dramatic Special (“From the Ashes of Tragedy”, “The Race Card”, “Manna from Heaven”), Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or a Dramatic Special (“From the Ashes of Tragedy”, “The Race Card”), Outstanding Make-up for a Limited Series or a Movie (non-Prosthetic), Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie (“From the Ashes of Tragedy”), Outstanding Costumes for a Period/Fantasy Series, Limited Series or Movie (“Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”), Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Limited Series or a Movie (“From the Ashes of Tragedy”), and Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Limited Series or Movie (“The Verdict”).
Despite occurring over twenty years ago, the events of the series still feel really fresh. From finding out about the murders to hearing the verdict in my room, the O.J. Simpson trial is modern history…and rewatching it unfold in The People v. O.J. Simpson is a strange, almost surreal revisiting of a strange American obsession.
The series does a smart job of capturing all the drama. It presents the drama and manages to make it dramatic again…despite knowing the outcome. You think it might turn out different despite being “history”. The series does a good job by having a variety of representations of the reactions like Kardashian (who represents someone who believed O.J. innocent and changed) and others who show how the trial effected people. Plus, it does a good job demonstrating the mistakes and successes in the defense and prosecution. Where the show does falter a bit in that it runs the risk of overdramatizing a story that doesn’t need to be overdramatized…plus, it does leave out a few benchmark moments in the trial.
The cast however does an excellent job. I particularly like both Paulson and Brown who really give the characters depth without being caricatures of the real people. The “Dream Team” is a lot tougher since the real people being portrayed are almost caricatures themselves. Travolta, Vance, and Lane are all over the top, but it works because Shapiro, Cochran, and Bailey were all over-the-top in during the trial.
Visually, the series also nails it. Some people are dead on in the appearance…it is a creepy almost doppelganger type of casting and make-up. It also goes back to show how different technology was and how the show really brought about a strange togetherness in awaiting an end.
The People v. O.J. Simpson I feel will unfortunately be a flash in a pan for the American Crime Story. It was the right story (20th Anniversary) and at the right time when race and relationships are once again in question. Future seasons just can’t compare to “the trial of the century” despite interesting stories (second season tackles Katrina and season three is scheduled to be about Gianni Versace’s murder). It is a trial that everyone has an opinion on regardless how you feel about the outcome. I wonder how the series plays out to those born after the events…what do they think about the trial and the verdict. The People v. O.J. Simpson is a great watch…and worth your time.
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story Complete Episode Guide:
1.1 From the Ashes of Tragedy Airdate: 02/02/16
Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman are brutally murdered at the home of Nicole Simpson. Receiving the call Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) learns the prime suspect in the murders is football hero O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr.). As O.J. finds himself caught in whirlwind of press, his friend Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) recommends bringing aboard Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) to defend him…despite Shapiro having no previous experience in murder trials. With Clark working to have O.J. brought in, a failed press conference leads to one of the greatest chases in history.
1.2 The Run of His Life Airdate: 02/09/16
As Gil Carcetti (Bruce Greenwood) prepares to announce charges for his arrest, O.J. is on the run with Al “A.C.” Cowlings (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) behind the wheel. Timothy Darden (Sterling K. Brown) finds himself defending the prosecution of O.J. while Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) begins to point to O.J. as a victim of racial intolerance. As the public learns about O.J.’s flight, TVs turn on, and O.J. is about to be a star again.
1.3 The Dream Team Airdate: 02/16/16
With all evidence pointing to guilt, Shapiro begins to bring together his “Dream Team” including F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane) and advice from Alan Dershowitz (Evan Handler) with DNA coaching by Barry Scheck (Rob Morrow). Robert Kardashian deals with his new found fame and pressure from his ex-wife Kris (Selma Blair) about siding with a murderer. With no hope, Shapiro gets a second chance when the past of Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale) brings into question the legitimacy of his evidence and the need for Johnny Cochran is As the Dream Team begins to craft a trial about race, Maria Clark realizes that the slam dunk of a case might not be as easy as she thought.
1.4 100% Not Guilty Airdate: 02/23/16
There is conflict in the Dream Team as Shapiro discovers Cochran is making his play for control. Judge Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi) is assigned the case as the jury selection begins. Marcia finds her side has more problems when test juries are questioned, and the prosecution’s image might be a point of contention. Faye Resnick (Connie Britton) threatens to poison the jury pool when she releases a tell-all book on her relationship with Nicole Simpson. As opening arguments of the trial approaches, Darden might take an important new role.
1.5 The Race Card Airdate: 03/01/16
The defense and prosecution are plotting their presentations and Christopher Darden gets the news that he’s going to have to deal with Mark Fuhrman. A forgotten list of witnesses causes a problem in the trial, and Bill Hodgman (Christian Clemenson) can’t deal with it. With a stepped up role, Darden finds himself caught in the middle of the race debate in the trial and a home visit to the homes of Nicole and O.J. show Marcia that O.J.’s defense knows how to create spin.
1.6 Marcia, Marcia, Marcia Airdate: 03/08/16
The trial is ramping up, and Marcia Clark is dealing with the pressure of becoming a public figure and a messy custody battle. A failed attempt by the defense to establish their own timeline has O.J. putting the pressure on his team. Mark Fuhrman takes the stand but F. Lee Bailey has his own plans on how to handle the questioning that takes a dangerous turn for the prosecution.
1.7 Conspiracy Theories Airdate: 03/15/16
Shapiro continues to doubt O.J.’s innocence and begins to sway Kardashian. A trip to Oakland with Timothy Darden, brings Marsha and Timothy closer, but a decision in the courtroom to test the gloves found at Rockingham could make or break the case…and their working relationship.
1.8 A Jury in Jail Airdate: 03/22/16
The prosecution is reeling from the decision to try on the gloves in court and the defense is celebrating their big win. The jury finds that lengthy sequestering is dragging on the jurors, and Marsha and Johnny realize the battle over the jurors could be a key in the victory. The DNA goes on trial and the defense goes on the offensive to discredit the evidence.
1.9 Manna from Heaven Airdate: 03/29/16
The discovery of tapes of Mark Fuhrman perjuring himself by using derogatory marks threaten to not only cause a mistrial but riots in the city and the country. The battle over the tapes spreads outside of the court as the end of the trial draws near.
1.10 The Verdict Airdate: 04/05/16
The prosecution and defense are making their final arguments, and the jury has the case. As the teams plan for a long deliberation, the jury might have different plans…and the trial is about to reach its ultimate conclusion!