The Verdict is in, The People vs O. J. Simpson was must see TV!! This was the biggest, most successful mini-series premiere in FX history; capturing 5 million views!! I too was glued to my television because episode 1 was riveting!! It was pure entertainment!! But I’m not surprised. When the network made the announcement that they were broadcasting a 10 part mini-series about the O. J. Simpson murder trial, based on a book by author Jeffrey Toobin, I knew that millions of people were going to be waiting with baited breath to tune in. For those of us who lived through the murder, media frenzy and trial back in the mid 90’s, we were all curious about this remix.
Do y’all remember exactly where you were when the verdict was announced?? I do, I was teaching an English class at a school of the arts in Newark, NJ called Arts High. On that day, October 3, 1995, every class, in the entire school, was in the auditorium, watching the trial on the big screen and when they announced that O. J. Simpson was NOT GUILTY, the mostly 95% percent African American faculty and student population, jumped up out of their seats screaming and cheering; celebrating his victory!! When I looked around the room, all of the white teachers and administrators were silent. They looked very angry! They look disgusted! They looked as if someone had murdered their loved one and had gotten away with it! But they didn’t dare publically protest!! Because they were in a mostly black environment and knew their views would have been met with harsh disagreement and criticism. They were smart to keep silent. Any expression of disappointment in the verdict might have sparked a race riot between the white teachers and black students. Now interestingly, 20 years later, amidst this country’s most racially divided period in recent times, FX releases this “based on a true story” narrative about the O’ J. Simpson trial?? In the words of Arsenio Hall, “Things that make you go Hmmmm??”
Before I tell y’all how I think this series is gonna play out, let me share with y’all my feeling about the actors who play the cast of characters from the trial. Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as OJ Simpson. Great choice, but I’m sorry, he didn’t nail it!! Don’t get me wrong, Cuba is a phenomenal actor!! I’m a fan of all of his work. Ok, let’s start with the fact that OJ Simpson is a very huge, charismatic, guy and Cuba isn’t. So he needed to play huge. Just like he did when he played the football character in the hit movie Show Me The Money. Cuba appeared tall, larger than life and confident. Now that I’m thinking about it, he could have actually brought some of that vibrato from that character, into the roll as OJ because in many ways, that’s who OJ is. Although Cuba failed to capture OJ’s true personality and swagger, he wasn’t a disaster! Just not convincing! John Travolta was good as OJ’s lawyer Robert Shapiro, but something was missing. I don’t know what. Can’t put my finger on it. However, I was glad that I didn’t see #JohnTravolta. Cortney B. Vance was good as OJ’s lawyer Johnnie Cochran. He almost convinced me accept for that crazy nappy afro wig, that always looked like he just crawled out of bed. Did they have a black hair stylist?? I very seriously doubt it!! If so, he or she needed to be FIRED!! LOL. I also didn’t like his lip game. Cortney purses his lips in a strange way but needed to overcome that little idiosyncrasy for the role. That was so not Johnny Cochran! Otherwise I liked him a lot. David Schwimmer as OJ’s attorney Robert Kardashian, absolutely stole the show!! The look!! The facial expressions!! The body language!! AMAZING!! I really liked Sarah Paulsin as prosecutor Marcia Clark. Not spot on but pretty good. Billy Magnussen as Kato Kaelin blew my mind!! He did that!!
Last but not least, Sterling K. Brown as prosecutor Christopher Darden, WAS EVERYTHING!! He was the embodiment of him!! He transformed into Christopher Darden so much so that I began to believe he was him! He killed that role! PERFECTION!
There are some folks who aren’t so pleased with The People vs O. J. Simpson. Ron Goldman’s father, Fred Goldman says, “it did a disservice to my son and Nicole Brown-Simpson.” Marcia Clark weighed in and shared, “it’s like living a nightmare.” But I’m wondering…..why did she watch it?? I guess some people like self abuse. Kato Kailin barked, “it was filled with fabrications!!” He didn’t give details but I’d love to know the specifics. Most interestingly was OJ’s former manager Norman Pardo who said he spoke to OJ about the mini-series and expressed his concerns about how it would affect his kids, but that he won’t be watching. Pardo also felt that Cuba Gooding Jr. didn’t capture OJ, “he didn’t sound like him and he certainly doesn’t look like him in any way, shape or form.” He went on to say, “FX should have contacted me to get some footage for Cuba to study to get OJ’s mannerisms.” I agree. I saw Cuba in an interview say that he purposely didn’t watch any footage or clippings of OJ; that was where he went very wrong!!
While I understand that the producer said the series doesn’t take an explicit position, however, it’s damn sure strongly implied that O. J. Simpson is guilty of the double murder of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman! The People vs O. J. Simpson is clearly a scripted version of the trial, that takes creative license to unfold his “guilt” over the next nine weeks; playing to that audience who always believed he did it.
Episode 2 of The People vs O. J. Simpson airs Tuesday, February 9, 2016 at 10p.m. on FX. It’s well worth the watch!!
- Published in Television & Film