In a culture where the American public is becoming increasingly distrustful of the legal system, it seems the perfect time to explore one of the most publicized and controversial cases in recent history. The FX original series The People vs OJ Simpson strives to immortalize the former pro football player’s infamous 1995 murder trial and subsequent acquittal in weekly one-hour installments. With over twenty years’ worth of media coverage, some may think there is nothing left to say about the trial. However, the retelling proves to be engaging and suspenseful despite the common knowledge associated with the case.
It is interesting to note that there are two types of viewers for the show. One sect is made up of people who followed the case as it happened while the other is comprised of those who were not engaged or not yet alive. Each group will perceive the show in a completely different light. Those who lived through the trial will see it as an interesting retelling of a landmark event they had experienced. Conversely, those who are younger and have little to no prior knowledge will interpret the show as much more suspenseful and seemingly original. While these different vantage points set the audience up to derive either more historical or entertainment value from the portrayal, all viewers will quickly become enthralled by the account.
The first episode of the show, which first aired on February 2nd, does an exceptional job of pulling the viewer into the intricate narrative created by Ryan Murphy. The People vs OJ Simpson explores the case[CL5] in much more detail than previously known, providing perspectives from both the prosecution as well as the defense. The greatest element of depth, however, comes from the commentary on the culture of the time. Racial tensions ran especially high in the mid-90’s, which proved to be pertinent to the case. The social context thus creates an undeniable parallel with modern perceptions of the American justice system, a theme that will hopefully unfold more as the show develops.
It is also worth noting that The People vs OJ features one of the most talented and respected ensembles in years. Sarah Paulson shines as prosecutor Marcia Clark in an honest and passionate performance. Cuba Gooding Jr. excels in embodying one of the most hated celebrities of all time, giving the character both depth and mystery. Meanwhile, the supporting actors John Travolta as defense attorney Robert Shapiro and David Schwimmer as OJ’s friend and defense attorney Robert Kardashian embody their subjects with genuine portrayals that incite both sympathy and rage. This is only a fraction of the incredible performances seen and yet to come throughout the series.
Although the series has yet to flesh out all the drama surrounding the case, it thoroughly lays the groundwork for further exploration. While some of the minutia, such as the allusions to the pseudo-celebrity Kardashians, feel somewhat forced at times, the show itself is sincere. Despite recounting one of the most well-known court cases in recent history, The People vs OJ Simpson succeeds in making the story feel new and intriguing.