If you thought “Making a Murderer” was engrossing, wait until you see “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”
Based on Jeffrey Toobin’s account of the case that rocked television, the 10-part miniseries speeds faster than a white Bronco through the crucial days of O.J. Simpson’s life.
Showing what happened before the football star was charged with the murder of his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman, the FX production expands what many saw unfold on cable in the mid-1990s.
Considered the start of “reality” television, the Simpson trial was a galvanizing event that managed to show just how polarized the country was.
Director Ryan Murphy stuffs his production with plenty of backstory and lets viewers get to know all of the key figures.
In the first episode alone, folks familiar with the case will be struck by the names that emerge: Johnnie Cochran, Marcia Clark, Mark Fuhrman, Kato Kaelin, A.C. Cowlings, Robert Shapiro, Robert Kardashian and Christopher Darden. It’s like looking back at a high school yearbook and remembering who did what.
Murphy, though, doesn’t just reinforce the images, he expands them, then pulls back the curtain on things like Cochran’s vast wardrobe and Clark’s domestic woes. Even Kaelin is more than just a slacker friend who stands by O.J.
While Kardashian’s offspring (the first family of today’s reality television) are here in stray scenes, they’re not the carrot that pulls us in.
Instead, it’s the bizarre story that Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr.) tells, then plays out. By the end of the first hour, he’s on the freeway, riding in that white Bronco.
Because Murphy’s team has crafted this to be viewed from all angles, “The People v. O.J. Simpson” goes into the jury room and behind the headlines to help explain why the athlete was found not guilty.
Knowing the verdict before you start the series doesn’t hurt any of it in the least. It heightens the activity and makes you aware of the nuance that colored the case.
John Travolta, returning to television in years, may be a bit pompous as Shapiro (he was measured but not this measured) and Gooding may not look at all like Simpson, but they’re great at propelling the story and the other characters.
Sarah Paulson, as prosecutor Marcia Clark, is eerily perfect, able to remind us of the stiff woman in court, introduce to the torn woman at home. She’s the sparkplug of this engine, able to drive it in interesting directions. Courtney B. Vance, as defense attorney Johnnie Cochran is mesmerizing, too.
When he finds the show in his business, “The People v. O.J.” becomes the spectacle it was. Both Paulson and Vance are Emmy-worthy.
The miniseries is, too, primarily because it makes us care about a story that once seemed impossible to escape.
“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” airs at 9 p.m. Tuesday on FX.