The People v. O.J. Simpson

I was seven years old when the O.J. Simpson trial happened. I don’t have any personal memories of it, but through over 20 years of cultural osmosis I’ve grown familiar with its broad strokes and iconic images: the Bronco chase, Kato Kaelin, O.J. trying on the glove, Judge Ito, the verdict.

Watching FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson, then, was an hours-long revelation for me. Seeing a dramatized version of the moments and decisions between those images helped put the whole trial and consequent media circus in better perspective.

And wow, was it a cloisterwalk, to put it in PG terms. What began as a supposedly slam-dunk case began to unravel in slow motion, undermined by shoddy police work, questionable courtroom strategies, and a defense that simply outplayed the prosecution. I still think O.J. did it, but I understand better now why he got off.

Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark and Courtney B. Vance as Johnny Cochran are the standouts in the cast, and the anchors for what becomes a wild narrative. It’s a tremendous credit to the creators of the show that despite there being zero mystery about the climax, I was so invested in the narrative that my heart was pounding by the time the verdict finally arrived, having felt each twist and surprise development along the way.

I went with this one over O.J.: Made in America because I thought it would be shorter, but it’s just as long, if not longer, than the documentary. Hollywood might not be great at rigorous history, but it is great at making compelling stories. So I’m sure I’ll go back to O.J. soon.


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