The People vs OJ Simpson – Some Thoughts on the Final Episode

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So, the crime case that shocked the world and invented Reality Show Culture got made into a series.
It was always going to happen, although given the scale of the event I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. I confess to not having seen every single episode; having studied this case to a degree and seen enough documentaries on it to send an entire Jury into a coma of Richard Hammond proportions meant that, unless I got paid to write about it, I wasn’t prepared to sit through a retelling of a story overfamiliar to the point of no return.

There haven’t been many US Dramas which I have been able to relate to in recent years, I haven’t really felt compelled to watch Breaking Bad yet despite owning a Box set of the first series, and the likes of American Horror Story and Game Of Thrones, with their post-ironic, media-savvy brands of Fantasy, Burlesque Horror and Drama just don’t groove me. In fact, the only two post-eighties US ‘Cult’ TV Dramas I have ever really dug are Twin Peaks and The Sopranos, and it’s been a while since either of those last graced our screens. Having said that, press releases and articles prior to the release of this series did suitably intrigue me enough to investigate at least five of the BBC repeats when they finally made their way to this drizzly little Isle, so I feel it is only appropriate to begin where the story ends; Episode 10, to be pedantic. October 3rd, 1995.



Unlike many folk in the UK at the time, I did actually know who O.J. Simpson was. I had seen him in the Naked Gun series playing Norbert, Frank Drebin’s equally inept sidekick, so watching the footage of the infamous car chase on the News did come as a bit of a shock. Having seen the films and watched footage of the trial on the box, it was clear that O.J. was a powerfully built, deep voiced, tall man of cocksure manner and towering stature. So why they asked Cuba Gooding Jr. to play him is a bit of a mystery to me. In the right role Mr Gooding Jr. is a character actor of some versatility and distinction (Boyz N The Hood, Jerry Maguire, As Good As It Gets), but O.J. Simpson he certainly ain’t. Gone were the chillingly laid back mannerisms of Mr Simpson in the lead up to the final verdict, in their place were looks of remorse, nervous, furtive glances around the court and an alarmingly high pitched voice . Put simply, Gooding Jr does NOT look, act or sound remotely like Simpson. Couldn’t they have found an unknown or barely heard of African-American actor to fill the role? This was the worst case of big name casting favouritism since Ray Winstone chose to portray flame haired Yorkshire madman Henry VIII as an ‘I’ve got a lahverly banch av coconuts’ Cockney Geezer . It’s a particularly ugly brand of success-based nepotism which has been running through TV Networks for far too long now, it’s surely a trend which needs putting to sleep. Not just in America either.


For me, the best performance in the entire series came from David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian, whose big-bottomed offspring are given several slightly disturbing shout outs throughout the show’s duration. His neurotic NY Jewish persona in Friends helped liven up what was otherwise an insufferably smug, Yuppie friendly happy-clappy sitcom for the post-Reagan era, and here his sublimely understated take on the doomed attorney really shines, particularly in this episode. You can practically taste the vomit as he throws up in the sink after his client is acquitted, feel the dread in his facial expression as the verdict is read out, taste the fear in the party scene towards the end as OJ makes a speech at the party promising to ‘hunt down’ the perpetrator of the killing; it has long been said that Kardashian doubted the innocence of his friend right up until his untimely death in 2003, and boy does Schwimmer make this known. There’s surely some sort of Award in this.

Courtney B.Vance’s turn as OJ’s lawyer Johnnie Cochrane is also worth a shout, an uncanny impersonation of the flamboyant, outspoken and rather dubious man accused posthumously of tampering with the ill-fitting glove. All the show’s shortcomings, however, (occasionally stilted and slow-moving dramatically speaking, overly pristine ‘Digital’ camerawork, smugly post-ironic ‘celebrity’ references) actually pale in comparison with the sight of poor old John Travolta’s surgically enchanced boat race, I’m afraid it has to be said. I know very little about the shadowy world of the Church of Scientology, but if it compells a man to butcher his features to resemble something midway between Humpty Dumpty and Rik Mayall after he gets his head squished in Drop Dead Fred then I’m afraid it’s a scene I want no part in. Not that I think it’s any more ludicrous than any other well-established (or non-established) religious movement, although his physical appearance may suggest otherwise to the casual observer. I’m out.
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Read 2706 times Last modified on Monday, 25 April 2016 15:05
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