It was heralded as the trial of the century more than 20 years ago, and now it could become one of the television events of 2016. Debuting on FX on February 2, The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, as my video review above says, is a powerful piece of TV that seeks to pierce through the veil of race, class and celebrity both then and now.
Based on Jeffrey Toobin’s bestselling 1996 book The Run Of His Life: The People V. O.J. Simpson and created by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the 10-episode season takes you deep inside the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman and that infamous white Bronco ride of June 17, 1994. With Nina Jacobson, Ryan Murphy and Brad Fulchuk among the executive producers and Murphy directing the first episode, People V. O.J. Simpson more significantly places you in the front row of Judge Lance Ito’s courtroom and shows what the cameras of 1995 did not with both the prosecution team at the L.A. County District Attorney’s office and the defense’s legal all-stars led by Johnnie Cochran and Robert Shapiro.
Even now, the widely watched case and its not guilty verdict still elicit passionate reactions – which is one reason why ESPN debuted its sprawling and excellent O.J.: Made In America documentary series at the Sundance Film Festival this year ahead of its June premiere. With a well-cast Cuba Gooding Jr as O.J., the often scintillating but steady series centers on the power struggles and personalities of the lawyers. Under the glare of a celebrity culture heading toward maximum overdrive, there are unmissable performances by American Horror Story alum Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, Courtney B. Vance as ever versatile defense attorney Johnnie Cochran, and a riveting Sterling K. Brown as conflicted and besieged prosecutor Christopher Darden. Unfortunately, in another otherwise top-notch big-name cast, John Travolta as Shapiro is a noticeable weak link.
As I say in my review, watch The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. It is a tale for our time now as well as for two decades past.