Now that the Super Bowl is over and March Madness is still a few weeks away, we have entered the dreaded thirty day period in which no one cares about live sports. As a result, I have decided to shift my attention to the next best thing: the hit new FX miniseries “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” which is based on the infamous murder trial of NFL Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson. After seeing the initial preview, I knew that there was no way that it could disappoint. It is essentially a dramatized retelling to millennials of one of the most high profile murder cases in American history, with a star-studded cast playing the case’s eclectic array of characters.
Beginning with the defendant side, the accused NFL star, O.J. Simpson, or “The Juice,” as he is often referred to in the show, is portrayed by a noticeably undersized, but still Academy Award-winning actor, Cuba Gooding Jr. His legendary team of lawyers, Robert Shapiro, Robert Kardashian (yes, that Kardashian), and Johnny Cochran, are played by the makeup plastered Hollywood legend John Trovolta, a splotched gray hair version of Ross from Friends (David Schwimmer), and TV star Courtney B. Vance, respectively.
On the state of California side, district attorney prosecutor, Marcia Clarke, is excellently depicted by American Horror Story star Sarah Paulson, and district attorney Gil Garcetti is played by the politician in every movie, Bruce Greenwood. In a twenty-first century version of a story that glued a 1990’s America to its CRT television screen with its notably polarizing characters (dare I mention the name Kato Kaelin), this equally dynamic cast plays a fundamental role in the show’s success.
In addition to the wide-ranging assortment of acting talent, the show constantly mesmerizes viewers with dozens of “How could that happen in real life?” moments, from the initial double homicide in Brentwood, to the accusation of a beloved Heisman Trophy winner and entertainer, to a nationally televised scene of the LAPD chasing a suicidal O.J. in a white Bronco almost literally in slow motion. Granted, the producers have taken their artistic liberties, specifically with the satirical Kardashian family cameos and repetitive emphasis on the event’s media portrayal. However, the show absolutely capitalizes on the fact that the basic story is something that even the greatest of writers could not make up. There is almost no other true murder mystery that compares in its near-perfect combination of sports, entertainment, legal drama, and huge personalities.
Despite an all-star cast and a screenwriter’s dream of a story, perhaps the miniseries’ main appeal is its customization for millennial viewers like me. For many millennials, the 1994-1995 O.J. Simpson trial took place either during infanthood, or in my case, before birth. As a result, our knowledge about the O.J. story is a rough outline gathered from television, books, and even parents. In fact, the majority of it comes from people from older generations recalling the events of the O.J. trial as a classic “I can still remember where I was” moment. To some extent, we know about O.J.’s football career, the murder charge, the Bronco chase, the Kardashian connection, and the Clue board game-like evidence, the black leather glove. But we never lived through it, so we are inherently left without the emotional connection to the event. The miniseries’s producers recognize this undeveloped relationship with the O.J. story and give us a chance to drop our jaws for the first time twenty years later. After three episodes, I give the miniseries four out of five stars.