The People v. O.J. Simpson: Why you need to watch it

During the mid-1990’s, the O.J. Simpson’s trial left no one indifferent. This case received a huge amount of media attention and inspired many adaptation on screen. Twenty years later, the first season of American crime story proves that the “trial of the century” still fascinates America.

the-people-v.-o.j.-simpson-american-crime-story-2048x1367.jpgO.J Simpson (Cuba Gooding jr) and Johnny Cochran (Courtney B. Vance)
©Michael Becker/FX Networks

A captivating true story, a perfect acting, serious issues raised… The producers, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, among others, have reunited all the elements needed to make a perfect series. Released in February 2016 on FX, American crime story: the people v. O.J. Simpson won multiple awards and was praised by both the critics and the public. Based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book “the run of his life”, the show adapted perfectly the O.J Simpson’s case. The former football player was accused of murdering his ex wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ronald Goldman in 1995. A huge trial followed which divided America.

The casting is simply perfect. Cuba Gooding jr is O.J. Simpson. Sarah Paulson plays the prosecutor Marcia Clark and won a golden globe in 2017. Sterling K Brown is Christopher Darden, the co-prosecutor wrongly accused of being a race traitor. For the dream team, there is John Travolta as the famous celebrity lawyer, Robert Shapiro. David Schwimmer plays a sensitive Robert Kardashian torn between his long time friendship with O.J and the evidences against him. Courtney B. Vance was meant to play Johnnie Cochran. Even the smaller roles left their marks especially Steven Pasquale as the terrifically impassive detective Fuhrman.

The show is a faithful adaptation of the trial but is not a simple retelling of the story. It is not centered around O.J Simpson and is not about establishing if he is guilty or innocent. American crime story tackles several issues such as racism, gender inequality, domestic violence, the influence of the media and their role during the case.

The producers shows from the start that they will illustrate the racial context of this case. The first episode opens with footage of the Rodney King beating and the riots which occurred afterwards in 1992. It sets the tone for the following episodes. The trial would never have make so much noises if it weren’t for racism, in particular within the LAPD.

Sarah Paulson and Courtney B. Vance are both impressive in their roles. Paulson portrays a strong Marcia Clark dealing with a difficult job and fighting for her children custody while being unfairly criticized by the media. Vance is amazing as the showman Johnny Cochran. He is eager to turn a murder case into a race one by manipulating the media which caused several confrontations with Darden throughout the episodes.

The audience is able to discover the story from the prosecution’s and the defense’s point of views and how each sides dealt with the case. It allows to better understand the trial, in particular for generations too young to remember it. The producers were right to make only ten episodes. As a result, the viewers are never bored and each episodes are entertaining. Each details of the trial are adapted, from the discovery of the evidences to the verdict as well as the bronco chase.

Due to its success, American crime story will certainly continue on FX for a long time. As an anthology series, the show will relate different stories for each following seasons. The second season called the assassination of Gianni Versace was released this year and is as good as the first season.

Written by

Science journalist / Independant documentary producer and director for TV and radio. "My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there" Woody Allen.

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