Travolta. Gooding Jr. Ross from Friends. This truly is the golden age of television.
The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story is the dramatized version of the real life events surrounding the death of Nicole Brown Simpson in 1994, and the subsequent arrest and trial of her ex-husband, former American Footballer and actor O.J. Simpson. It’s been pretty well regarded. Like, 97% on Rotten Tomatoes well regarded.
It’s easy to understand why. Chances are a documentary on the topic would be enough to engross you, so throwing in overly-dramatized version of events with some great performances (and David Schwimmer) is bound to gain significant attention. And rightly so.
The programme has been shown in the U.K. on BBC2, and I would imagine part of the appeal here would be that OJ Simpson means a lot less here, and therefore some people will be finding out about these events for the first time. The real story is incredible.
It’s hard to comprehend what it would be like today if, say, David Beckham killed Victoria and tried to run away in a bright white 4×4, but that’s what we’re dealing with. People in the States might not realise this, but over here the “White Bronco Chase” really isn’t well known (in fact, I only know about it because I love the Naked Gun films). It makes the story fascinating.
Oddly, though, it was the first couple of episodes that focused on the discovery of the body and O.J.’s subsequent fleeing that I found to be the weakest. Maybe it’s a “real life is crazier than fiction” type thing, but it almost felt too silly to properly get engaged. It just feels so far removed from what you can process as a realistic event, even though it was actually real.
After all, silliness is in high demand here. John Travolta, one of the world’s most iconic actors, is now quite frankly hilarious-looking.
I understand the desire for plastic surgery when you’re in the public eye. Really, I do. To age badly is probably seen as death to your career. You simply have to look good (or at least you think you do), and that kind of pressure will cloud your judgment. So much so, that you become unable to realise that they really haven’t mastered the art of facelifts yet.
But hey, alongside David Schwimmer, Travolta looks certifiably normal.
Schwimmer might be doing the most spot on impression of Robert Kardashian imaginable, but could he be any more like Ross? (yes, I know it was Chandler who used to make that joke, shut up). It wouldn’t matter so much if Ross wasn’t the whiniest, most annoying person on a show of narcissistic weirdos, but everything I’ve seen him in as simply cemented my perception that David Schwimmer=Ross Geller. In a “true crime” type thing this stands out.
(Don’t believe me that Ross is awful, by the way? Just type in “why Ross” in to Google to see “why Ross is the worst” as the first option. Then make sure you check out the “The One Where Ross Is The Worst” Tumblr. Seriously, it’s great stuff).
As mentioned, Schwimmer is playing the role of Robert Kardashian. If you can’t tell by his name, he is the patriarch of the Kardashian family. If you couldn’t work that out, the show is there to help you work it out by referencing it EVERY. TEN. MINUTES.
Yes, the Kardashians are now one of the most famous families on the planet. Yes, there is a small amount of crossover between the kids who will go on to become fame-hungry monsters and this celebrity who murdered his ex-wife. But unless this is some meta joke in which they keep bashing us over the head with this non-story to the extent we’re completely overwhelmed by it (much like how the Kardashians have infiltrated our lives against our will) I beg of you, stop mentioning it. I GET IT ALREADY.
But if not, it seems a shame to keep focusing on this. Once we get past the madness and in to the actual trial, things really pick up. It straddles the real/fiction line beautifully, like it is Making a Murderer meets Ally McBeal or something. It’s fascinating.
But it takes more than the hammiest of performances from John Travolta and an interesting topic to make this must-watch television.
The beauty of the programme comes as the trial progresses and we start to get a sense of who these people really are. The focus steps back from Simpson and on to the legal teams, and this is where the programme starts to mark itself out as something special. We start to cover topics like race, gender, celebrity, role models and media intrusion.
This is never better than in the episode “Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!” Here we get to see the impact this case and the subsequent media interest is having on Marcia Clark, Lead Attorny for The People, and it’s really quite upsetting. Clark is an attorney taking on one of the highest profile cases in American history, but instead finds herself on trial in the media for who she is as a person. She becomes a celebrity against her will. She doesn’t want the attention, and certainly doesn’t want naked photos printed in national magazines. If you can find a scene more tragic and affecting than her finally giving in to media pressure to get a haircut, then have everyone mock the new style, I’ll give you £10. Straight up.
There are a lot of great performances here. Courtney B. Vance as Johnny Cochrane is absolutely sensational. Even Travolta, schlock-y as his performance is, has that can’t-take-your-eyes-off-of-him thing going on. But Sarah Paulson’s performance is on another planet right now. If you aren’t moved by her struggles of being a woman in the limelight and trying to balance the work/life balance, then you’re blind to the struggles women have had over the years. For this reason alone it’s pretty much unmissable.
Plus it’s got Ross from Friends in it. Who’d want to miss that?
The People v. O.J. Simpson Rating: 4 botched facelifts out of 5.
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