A Limited Look: The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
We are two weeks into a new blog series that explores some limited series that we have found impressive over the past couple of years. Admittedly, we spend more time watching movies than shows, but the limited time investment for these series has appealed to us greatly. We have certainly embraced limited series for their ability to dive deeply into character development and plot twists. So far we have been zeroed in on a couple of series from HBO, but they are not the only network offering impressive limited shows.
So, with that being said, let’s look at a limited series for once that did not originally air on HBO: FX’s 2016 hit, The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.
The show centers around the O.J. Simpson murder case that lasted from November of 1994 to October of 1995. It also details the initial discovery of the bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman on June 13, 1994 and the movements of the police afterward. Known at the time as the “trial of the century,” the show details the inner workings of the trial and the influence of the press on the whole affair. It gives an intense look at every major player in the trial and the various beliefs regarding Simpson’s innocence or guilt.
The Main Characters
-O.J. Simpson- Portrayed by Cuba Gooding, Jr., O.J. Simpson is tried for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. He had been a well-known football player, broadcaster, actor, and spokesman at the time of the trial. The series might revolve around him and the question of his innocence, but it also takes into account the decisions of the legal teams on both sides of the argument.
-Marcia Clark- Portrayed by Sarah Paulson, Marcia is the lead prosecutor in the murder trial. She is heavily criticized and evaluated by the press and the public during the trial. She struggles to try the case in the midst of her personal life, which includes a custody battle with her ex-husband.
-Johnnie Cochran- Portrayed by Courtney B. Vance, he eventually becomes the lead defender for O.J. Simpson. He is a talented lawyer and a huge advocate for victims of police brutality. As one of the characters describes him in the series, he speaks almost like a preacher when in the courtroom.
-Robert Shapiro- Portrayed by John Travolta, Shapiro is a member of the “Dream Team.” He is the lead defender for O.J. Simpson until later in the trial when that role is overtaken by Cochran.
-Christopher Darden- Portrayed by Sterling K. Brown, Darden eventually becomes co-prosecutor with Marcia Clark after their original co-prosecutor encounters health problems. Before becoming co-prosecutor, he is tasked with preparing the prosecution’s witnesses for testimony, which included Detective Mark Fuhrman.
-Robert Kardashian- Portrayed by David Schwimmer, Kardashian is a lawyer, businessman, and close personal friend of O.J. Simpson. He was a defense attorney for Simpson during the trial, but he later stated that he began to doubt Simpson’s innocence after the blood evidence was presented.
-Judge Lance Ito- Portrayed by Kenneth Choi, Judge Ito is the judge assigned to the high-profile case. He faced a lot of criticism for seeming to enjoy the press throughout the trial and for granting so many recesses and sidebars.
-F. Lee Bailey- Portrayed by Nathan Lane, Bailey is another member of the “Dream Team.” He is most known for his cross-examination of Detective Fuhrman, which led to the damaging of Fuhrman’s credibility as a witness.
-Gil Garcetti- Portrayed by Bruce Greenwood, Garcetti is the District Attorney at the time of the trial. He is shown frequently discussing with Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden the progress and pitfalls of the trial.
Where It Excels
As someone who is old enough to remember the trial but too young to remember the other contributing factors, this series does a great job of evaluating the many factors affecting the case. The entire series begins with the riots in Los Angeles and the racial tension that permeated the area. It quickly shows how the case was not as simple as proving Simpson innocent or guilty; it was a culmination of years of police brutality and riots. Racial divides, the general mistrust of the police force, and Simpson’s fame and popularity factored heavily into the trial and the media’s perception of it all, and this series excels at establishing those background influences.
These characters are obviously based on real people, and the writers do an excellent job adapting them to the small screen. They go into the complicated backgrounds of every character from Johnnie Cochran’s abuse allegations to Marcia Clark’s previous marriages and custody battle. It showcases the emotional instability that Simpson experienced at several key moments, and while it shows the schemes of Cochran, Shapiro, and Bailey, it also does a great job covering Kardashian’s growing doubt over Simpson’s innocence. The writers present defenders and prosecutors that genuinely believe they are right and are willing to do whatever it takes for their side to win. They even touch on the perception of Judge Ito and the fact that his wife did know one of the officers taking the stand. They also manage to cover the interesting jury process in several key episodes.
One thing that was researched well was the details of the trial and the many missteps along the way. The show does not shy away from the mishandling of key evidence which heavily impacted the admittance of blood samples and DNA evidence. It covers the fiasco that came with putting Detective Mark Fuhrman on the stand. It covers some failed testimonies that did not go as planned, and of course, it covers the moment when the gloves found at the crime scene failed to fit Simpson. The series covers not just these key moments but also the build up to each of these decisions and missteps, giving a greater understanding of the entire trial.
In conclusion, The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story displays the nuances of the famous case with all the other outside influences taken into consideration. It is full of tension, and for an event where you already know the outcome, it manages to keep you engrossed with its top notch performances and excellent scripts and direction.
So, have you watched The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story? What did you like about that limited series?
Comment and let us know! And in the meantime, look out for next week as we discuss one more limited series worth exploring.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.