The People v. O.J. Simpson: An American Crime Story (2016)

An addictive crime binge with powerful performances led by Cuba’s O.J., crisp direction, and intricate legal unfurling, despite early melodramatics, TPVOS firmly takes us through one of history’s most famous (& peculiar) trials. 9.5/10.

Plot Synopsis: The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story is the first season of the FX true crime anthology television series American Crime Story.

*Possible spoilers ahead*

Review: Ryan Murphy has done it again. Shifting gears from some of the freshest and most game-changing (defining) TV series to come out in the horror genre like Scream Queens and the umbrella-named American (Horror) Story, it was a big undertaking when he decided to expand his portfolio to crime and legal cases in this new anthology series American Crime Story. How wrong I was in ever doubting it. An extremely addictive crime binge with a phenomenal opening, powerful performances, crisp direction, and intricate legal unfurling, there is not much not to like as we’re masterfully taken on a tour through one of the most famous (and peculiar) legal cases of All-Time: The O.J. Simpson trial.

From its incredible effectively chilly/mysterious opening staging setting up the crime scene that still feel much in tune with Murphy’s horror roots (while also rife with and addressing the extreme social and racial unrest of the time post-Rodney King trial), what evolves out of it is a spectacularly-executed crime drama. The performances are simply sensational, powerfully stemming from Cuba Gooding Jr.’s uncanny-resemblance and intriguing, screen-stealingly complex turn as the famous Juice to Paulson’s abrasive-yet-strong Marcia, Sterling K. Brown’s conflicted/angry Darden, and Travolta, Vance, Schwimmer’s legal ‘Dream Team’ representing Simpson. The visuals and score are equally strong, with great cinematography and color-grating in its carefully-constructed curated shots (amidst fitting cinematic and synthy crime overtures) like O.J. staring at the funeral casket, the final statue shot, and of course: the iconic glove discovery.

Many of the court shots even mirror the exact way they were shot in the actual trial, together with the cast’s unbelievably-lookalike cast giving you an incredible realistic feel like you’re watching an expanded version of what really happened. Finally, the tone is perfect and palatable, keeping its serious crime and legal demeanor without really taking a side on this complicated (and sociologically-divided) case where one could see arguments from both sides but also maintaining a cheeky humor in parts – playing on things like the Kardashian’s anonymity and previous-conscience at the time before turning to fame-lusting and tabloid/reality-tv nonsense and the battle of dukes getting jurors dismissed amidst soundtrack-matching Queen’s ‘Another One Bites The Dust’. But the clear MVP of the series is the immaculate attention to detail and legal unfurling of the case as we’re taken through the trial with breadth and top-tier craftsman quality.

Painstakingly following the script of what actually happened and not missing a shock moment, defense argument, prosecutor realization, twist-and-turn, racial debate, sociological bias, legal precedent (and lack-there-of), or famous moment throughout the season, while adding further definition and backstory to even the iconic ones like what made Darden ill-fatedly tell O.J. to try on the gloves, the curation of the aptly-named ‘trial of the century’ alone elevates it to one of the most fascinating and thoroughly-enriching/involving crime series perhaps ever made.

There are only two real gripes to be had: one pretty minor but another one pretty sizeable and perhaps even dissuading from finishing the series. A minor problem is Paulson’s Marcia’s occasional political/preachy diatribes thrown in to clearly pander to feminists, as well as coming on a bit strong and off-putting at first – as the jurors and researchers in the case even pointed out. This is mostly resolved through character development and a softening of tone by season’s end, but the big problem is an entirely and unnecessarily way-overdramaticized/overblown Episode 2. The discordant way they portray O.J. using serious issues like depression and suicidal thoughts to try to escape and garner sympathy is borderline-insensitive by the showrunners, overly-ridiculous in too-long chase, plus mismatched in tone for the serious crime drama and so repelling it almost made me want to quit watching.

Thank goodness I mustered through (and hope others can too) as the rest of the season is so damn good – powerfully-acted, chilly, mysterious, peculiar, sensibly-strong, and legally-fascinating as an unfurling of one of history’s most famous and talked-about cases ever. On board for the next chapter in the anthology’s S2.

Overall Rating: 9.5/10