If you belong to the burgeoning ‘born in the 90s’ demographic, then you probably have little clue about ‘The Juice’. There’s a good chance you did not witness the car chase that defined a decade, nor followed the harrowing series of murder trials that it spawned. You will however, know all about the Kardashians, who feature quite prominently in this series. FX has risen to the challenge of helping you feel less left out, while letting us older people reminisce, with American Crime Story’s first instalment: The People v. O.J. Simpson.
Here is a layman’s summary of the whole debacle. ‘The Juice’ or O.J. Simpson was a very successful football player in the 1970s. In 1994, he was infamously accused of murdering his ex-wife and her friend. Simpson fled arrest then by way of a highly televised car chase, and eventually surrendered – spoiler alert. The ensuing trials were highly publicized and the world was taken aback when O.J. was found not guilty.
After that, O.J. became a hot mess. He had many run-ins with the law and is currently behind bars for attempted robbery of a Las Vegas casino. There is still heavy speculation surrounding those 1994 murders. Did O.J. do it? Are there political and racial implications to which side you stand on? With so much material and so many plot points, American Crime Story’s ambitiously cast TV series makes perfect sense.
The People v. O.J. Simpson is littered with stars, including Cuba Gooding Jr. in the lead role. Although bearing no real resemblance to O.J., Gooding Jr. manages to connect with the audience through fervent character exaggerations. Simpson’s bromance with Rob Kardashian Sr., played by Friends’ David Schwimmer, is a central theme and makes you go awww many times over. The series is currently two episodes in and has already covered almost everything leading up to the trials. We’ve seen Selma Blair play Kris Jenner and nail her surface-skimming bougieness. John Travolta, as defence lawyer Robert Shapiro, is also front and centre – but beware his strange face that is a total shoutout to late 80s Liberace.
There are four hilariously annoying children; no prize for guessing who they are. It’s very wink wink, nudge nudge, and celebrity spotting in American Crime Story is the majority of the fun. There’s Theo from The Cosby Show, Sarah Paulson who played Michael Fassbender’s troubled wife in 12 Years a Slave, Ron Carver from Law & Order, and apparently, Nathan Lane! These actors look nothing like their real life personas, but they were so good at their roles that by the end of episode two, I had bought what they were selling.
The writing is crisp. Mystique and intrigue are created over a patient story arc. Los Angeles is shown via shots of palm trees in open skies, eight-lane highways, cold interiors of Hollywood homes and hacienda-style gates and doorways. The screen is usually drenched in some sort of sepia filter, probably to evoke nostalgia. I’m not too sure about that, after all sunlight wasn’t any different in the 90s. They might have been better off conveying a timelapse through costumes and props. The show is not pretty to look at but it doesn’t have to be, thanks to the captivating cast. You don’t want to look at anything else but the faces of these super famous people, getting a kick out of playing other equally famous people.
You start out thinking this is going to be cheesy as hell, especially when you see Ross from Friends acting serious, but before you know it, you’re sucked into the same whirlpool that swallowed O.J. whole. I’m not a crime-show fan but I was able to cruise along without paying much attention to all of the legal jargon. The writers also explore the racial angle of the case, which to my knowledge hasn’t been attempted in previous dramatizations. I’m looking forward to seeing how the trial unravels, and learning more about the O.J. is guilty side of the story. I’m also quite psyched for more future celeb cameos.
The People V. O.J. Simpson looks promising. It’s entertaining with just the right hints of cheese. Besides, Kris Jenner is not at all happy with the show and strangely enough, that makes me want to watch it in a fabulously twisted way.
For lovers of crime shows and the Kardashians alike, this is a juicy offering indeed.
Catch American Crime Story – The People v. O.J. Simpson on FX Now Canada on Tuesdays at 10 p.m.
Contributed by Prachi Kamble. Follow her on twitter at @vanlovesart.