Court of Appeals

It's strange to reach an age where the historical events being dramatized in film and television are ones that I was actually around to witness. To me, they're not "historical" at all. Oh, well. Let's all glide into old age and cultural irrelevance together! One of these historical events to be brought to the screen this season was the "trial of the century", the murder charges brought in the mid-'90s against famous football player and sometimes actor OJ Simpson. The proceedings consumed the entire country's attention, and laid bare the country's social issues regarding race, money, fame, and gender.

Producer Ryan Murphy brought American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson to the FX network, and I was immediately suspicious. Ryan Murphy is, after all, the guy that brought us the histrionics of American Horror Story and Glee, so I was fairly sure that this show would be flashy trash, hitting on all the sensationalist aspects of the case but not having any real value. Maybe it'd be an amusing way to gawk at the more jaw-dropping events that took place, but there wouldn't be any substance to it. I've never been so pleased to be so wrong.

This show was incredible. I had forgotten just how crazy things got during the trial. I was in high school when it was going on, so of course I had more important things to think about than what some dumb adults were talking about. The only real-world interaction I remember is sitting in English class when another teacher ran in to announce that the jury had found Simpson not guilty. Then we went right back to studying The Canterbury Tales.

Rather than just sticking to the antics of the defense team and the media, the show actually takes the time to delve into many of the aspects of the culture that brought about such an amazing result. One episode focuses on the life of prosecutor Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson, who deserves a thousand Emmy awards for this) outside of the courtroom, having to put up with unwelcome media attention and sexist bullshit from politicians to cashiers. One episode focuses on the jury, and the special hell they endured being sequestered for several months.

Another thing I liked was how balanced the show was as far as showing multiple points of view. It's the most sympathetic portrayal of Clark, for sure, but they also make time to show how Johnnie Cochran (another wonderful performance from Courtney B. Vance) clearly believed he was exposing the ugly underbelly of institutional racism in Los Angeles. Christopher Darden (terrific work from Sterling K. Brown) is pulled in multiple directions, wanting what's best for the African-American community while still determined to put a killer behind bars.

Yes, the headline-grabbing bits that everyone remembers are all covered, but I was just so thoroughly impressed at how thoughtfully this show approached all the facets of this sad and magnetic case. Aside from the reliably lackluster Cuba Gooding Jr. as OJ, the acting is top-notch. And in perhaps the best compliment I can give, both my boyfriend and I really loved it, and we never like the same shows.

American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson: A


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