Welcome to the Weekend Binge. Every week, we’ll suggest a binge-able title designed to keep you from getting too stir crazy. Check back throughout the weekend for even more gloriously queer entertainment.
The Addictive: American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson
We’re not sure how we’ve never featured The People vs. OJ Simpson here at “Weekend Binge” before. For that matter, we also don’t know why we have a sudden craving for a true-crime saga that examines the moral ambiguities of American Justice, celebrity culture, and spotlights the case that made courtroom drama into reality TV for the world to see.
The People vs. OJ Simpson, the 2016 inaugural season in Ryan Murphy‘s ACS franchise, revisits the OJ Simpson murder case that captured the attention of the globe. By now, the broad strokes of the saga have become the stuff of pop-culture legend: former football great/actor/celebrity spokesperson OJ Simpson became the number one suspect in the murder of his estranged wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman.
Rather than face arrest, Simpson (played in the series by Cuba Gooding, Jr.) led LA police–and let’s face it, most of the world with TV sets–on a slow-speed chase through Los Angeles, setting the stage for the trial of the century. The courtroom players, Judge Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi), prosecuting attorneys Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) and Chris Darden (Sterling K. Brown), defense lawyers Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance), Robert Shapiro (John Travolta), Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) and F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane), all became unwitting celebrities, thrusting their lives into chaos.
As the trial dragged on for years, it became clear the world had an obsession with OJ and company, and by the time the jury reached a verdict, the trial had come to encapsulate every element of American life, from racism to wealth entitlement to gender issues to tabloid culture. (The show’s frequent mention of ties between the OJ case and the modern Kardashian conspiracy are both morally ambiguous and wildly disturbing.)
Head writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski pull off an awesome feat in The People v. OJ Simpson. They make the details of a tired case seem fresh and new. Indeed, watching the series, questions surrounding Simpson’s guilt, police framing, attorney misconduct, and Judge Ito’s handling of the trial all get raised anew.
Unlike the also-brilliant documentary OJ: Made in America (which might just be the greatest documentary ever made, for what it’s worth), The People v. OJ Simpson humanizes the characters in a much different way. We see the trial through their eyes rather than through those of pop culture commentators. The result is a whole new level of drama to the proceedings.
As with all Murphy-produced fare, The People v. OJ Simpson features a cast of actors gifted delicious roles. Paulson, Brown, and Vance all give magnificent performances and took home Emmys for their work. For that matter, we have yet to even mention Connie Britton, Billy Magnussen, Evan Handler, Robert Morse, Cheryl Ladd, or Selma Blair, all of whom turn up in plumb supporting parts. Watching this roster of stars compete for the audience’s affections is a game unto itself.
TV doesn’t get more astute, provocative, or addictive than The People v. OJ Simpson, as evidenced by its 22 Primetime Emmy Award nominations in 13 categories. (It ultimately took home nine.) Much as the world obsessed over the case for a good chunk of the 1990s, viewers will again obsess here. The most disturbing realization: the story was never just about OJ Simpson. It was about OJ and the audience.
And it still is.