The year of 1994 was a great year for pop culture in general. Movies, music, TV and video games were all very well represented. That was after all, the year Pulp Fiction and Green Day’s Dookie were released, Friends had its first season and Sony Playstation was launched, just to name a few things of an endless list of awesomeness. 1994 was also a year with some shocking happenings; Kurt Cobain committed suicide (or not, you should all watch Soaked in Bleach) 2Pac was shot in New York and this shooting led to the biggest rap feud ever, which ended up with the deaths of both 2Pac and Biggie Smilies. Also on June 13 of the same year O.J. Simpson ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and a waiter, Ronald Goldman, were found dead. O.J went on trial for allegedly murdering both his ex-wife and her friend Goldman and much of what was on TV or who was in the tabloids would change.
Before 1994, for most of the non-Americans O.J. Simpson's greatest accomplishment was play detective Nordberg on The Naked Gun films. In the US on the other hand, he was a semi-god thanks to his record-breaking, award-winning career as a running back in college and professional football, his stint as a broadcaster and the commercials for Hertz rental cars. But when 95 million viewers tuned in to watch the surreal slow-speed white Bronco chase on the day of his arrest things radically changed, Simpson became a worldwide celebrity and made room for America to embrace a new kind of celebrity : “the reality star”. The 133 days of televised courtroom fueled by the 24-hour news cycle media landscape turned countless viewers into Simpson trial junkies. It became an obsession. So when I read that Ryan Murphy was turning the trial case into a dramatized TV show I was not surprised at all.
The People vs O.J. Simpson is absolute must-watch TV. It is very well executed with a brilliant team of writers, directors, producers a beyond superb cast, even though it's hard to buy a 5'8" tall Cuba Gooding Jr, playing a 6'1" O.J. Simpson I really enjoyed the the performances of all the actors. David Schwimmer does a phenomenal job playing an unknown but well respected Robert Kardashian which was close friends with O.J. Simpson and got pulled into his case as a counselor to his longtime pal (juice!). But the cast M.V.P. is without a doubt Courtney Vance. The Tony Award-winning actor has been acting for decades and finally been given the opportunity to shine, Johnnie Cochran is a role he was born to play. Already a well-known lawyer, Cochran joined Simpson's defense “Dream Team” at the request of the former NFL player's lead attorney Robert Shapiro and quickly stole the show, he coined the infamous line "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit" during the closing arguments of the trial. He deserved a good actor playing him and Vance is perfect!
A few rich details about the case are also shown, both from the prosecution as well as the defense's point of views. One of the biggest problem for the prosecution was how the media coverage influenced their legal proceedings, tabloids like the National Enquirer and "Hard Copy" paid some key witnesses for telling them their stories making these witnesses who sell such stories for cash no longer as credible for the trial. For the Defense, it is head scratching to see the scheming antics the lawyers pulled to stall or gain any advantage. Some parts of these might just be too over the top to be true but it still fun to watch. They also used racism as part of the defense and raised the theory that O.J. was framed. Based at the time the trial took place, three years after the Los Angeles riots, the strategy was brilliant and shows that although the case took place almost 22 years ago, it is more relevant now than ever.
The People vs O.J. Simpson shows just how sensational the whole thing was. The trial captured a nation’s imagination and more than 20 years later, it still does. From the Bronco Chase in the summer of 1994 to the verdict day, the Simpson case played like a national Reality TV show and changed forever the way we perceive celebrities and their lives. But the show is also balanced enough in the investigation aspect to not demean the gravity of the event. Make no mistake, this is a heinous act and the series does not shy away from this realization.