TV Reviews

The People vs. OJ Simpson – FX Show

Starring: Sarah Paulson, John Travolta, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Nathan Lane, Courtney B. Vance

Synopsis: Based on Jeffrey Toobin’s best selling novel, “The People vs. OJ Simpson”, this 10-part documentary tells the story of the trial of OJ Simpson in 1995, starting with the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, the “low-speed” chase and the “trial of the century”.

Thoughts: I was 22 years old when Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered.  Of course, I heard the news and followed the case.

This series, which I eagerly anticipated, was everything I was hoping it would be and more. This brought me back to the summer of 1994 (which was a great summer for me personally; I met my husband then).  I remember where I was when the low speed chase was on TV.  I remember where I was when the verdict was announced.  But I digress.

The series starts off with the murders of Nicole and Ron being murdered on June 12, 1994. The morning of June 13, when news broke, we see the reactions from all points of view.  We see the police and their piss-poor investigation, the prosecution and their arrogance, right from the beginning and the formation of the dream team, who are really the scheme team.  The first episode focuses on the initial investigation by the LAPD, who are still reeling from the 1992 Rodney King riots and their poor public perception.  The police made some mistakes along the way, but I don’t believe they planted any evidence

The second episode follows the low speed chase. OJ was supposed to turn himself into the police after being named the prime suspect in the case, based on the blood evidence and other evidence found in his home and car.  During the low speed chase, Bobby Kardashian finds a note from OJ, which is a suicide note and pretty much implicates him in the murders.  What’s mind boggling to me is the police ALLOWED this low speed chase to happen, allowed OJ to return home and allowed him to negotiate the terms of turning himself in.  My guess is had he not been a celebrity and just an average criminal, his tires would have been shot out on the freeway and he would have been taken away in handcuffs.

Episode 3 focuses on the formation of the Dream Team. Robert Shapiro was hired immediately after the arrests, and seemed to think from the get go that OJ was guilty.  Bob brought in lawyers from across the country who were talking about the case (Dershowitz, Bailey) to “shut them up”.  There was a lot of tension within the DT, mostly caused by Shapiro himself.  Shapiro seemed to have seem deep insecurities that he allowed to affect him.

Episode 4 focused on the jury selection, and also featured OJ’s plea of 100% not guilty. Marcia Clark wanted a heavily black jury, especially black women, because she felt that they would sympathize with Nicole; that was a huge error in judgment on her part.

Episode 5 was a very interesting one. The jury went to OJ’s house in Brentwood.  Before this, though, Johnnie Cochran had to go into his house and make it “more ethnic”.  OJ was into white women.  He had photos of them all over his house.  He didn’t have photos of his kids, family, nobody.  :The man’s ego was as big as the state of California.  I found this particularly disturbing.  This episode also introduced “the race card”.  I found it interesting that the defense played this card, given Simpson’s lack of presence in the black community.  All his friends were rich white men.  But it was a strategy that worked.

Episode 6 was all about Marcia Clark, and quite frankly, Sarah Paulson should win an Emmy for her performance as Marcia Clark. I didn’t like Clark much back then, but I have a newfound respect for her after seeing this episode.  The woman was going through a divorce, fighting for custody of her children, constantly hearing on the TV about how she looked and her hairstyle, and even had to put up with the defense making comments about her personal situation in front of the judge.  Paulson’s performance in this episode alone should garner her at least a nomination.

Episode 7 focused on conspiracy theories, mainly that of the LAPD planting the evidence. This is also the episode that shows the famous “glove” try on.  I found this stunt ludicrous.  OJ was clearly not stretching his fingers out and was trying on the gloves OVER latex gloves.  They fit, he just made it seem like they didn’t.

Episode 8 was probably my least favorite, but was interesting. It focused on the jury and how, after 8 months of sequestration, started to unravel.  This was also the episode in which the DNA was introduced, telling us that there was a 1 in 170 million chance that the killer was someone OTHER than OJ.  I firmly believe that if he were tried today, with what we know about DNA evidence, the outcome would have been much different.

Episode 9 focused on the defense learning about the “tapes” where Mark Fuhrman used the “N” word repeatedly. I found it infuriating that the case became about ONE cop being racist and not the fact that OJ was a killer.  Infuriating.

Episode 10, the finale, focused on the verdict and what follows. Even though I knew what the verdict was, I still had some anticipation waiting for the verdict to be read.  It wasn’t very clear to me in 1995, but it’s clear to me now that people’s reaction to the verdict were clearly based on racial lines.  Blacks thought he was innocent, and whites thought he was guilty.  They showed the reactions from actual footage, showing blacks jumping and cheering and whites with a look of complete shock.  It’s amazing to me that Judge Ito didn’t say anything to the jury about the amount of time the jury spent after deliberating after a year long trial.  He just accepted it.

After the verdict, OJ is picked up from jail by Bobby Kardashian. Bobby seems very conflicted about his feelings on OJ’s innocence.  OJ throws himself a lavish party that same night, $400,000 according to him, on a party for himself.  What OJ wasn’t expecting was the reaction he got when he got home.  His mostly white neighbors in Brentwood called him a murderer and wanted him to leave.  None of his rich, white, golf buddies showed up for his party.  In fact, he didn’t know many of the people who were there.

The performances in this show were really stellar. I personally didn’t care for Cuba Gooding Jr. as OJ.  He didn’t really look like OJ and I felt he overacted a lot of the time.  John Travolta’s face makeup and his eyebrows were really distracting, but Travolta played Shapiro well; his insecurities and guilt were evident.  Something else I thought was amazing was how much the actors looked like the person they were portraying, with the exception of OJ.  The roles were played with great emotion and seemed true to what actually happened.   Overall, this was a very good show and if you haven’t watched, I would recommend watching it.

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