The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story: From the Ashes of Tragedy
February 3, 2016 12:50 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

The murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman lead the LAPD to the home of O.J. Simpson.
posted by kittens for breakfast (24 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I heard TV critics say on Twitter (MeFi's own Linda Holmes in I'm not mistaken) hat this really takes off around episode 4, and that they found the first few episodes bio-picky. But I was pretty on board with this episode from the beginning. There are parts that feel almost ridiculous but that's because the real thing was almost ridiculous.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:37 PM on February 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


Thoroughly enjoyed it; really well done so far. The casting is superb. Surprised that Travolta actually settled into character and I wasn't constantly reminded "Hey I'm John Travolta" like most of his roles. David Schwimmer, on the other hand, will always be annoying Ross.
posted by General Malaise at 8:16 AM on February 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


I thought this was beautifully done. Travolta's weird affect reminded me of those super-rich law partners who love the finer things and hobnobbing a little more than the actual practice of law.

I can already tell that Connie Britton is going to be beyond amazing as Faye Resnick.

Throwing that Nina cover in at the end though...it got me unconsciously rooting for the Bronco until I snapped to and remembered that was OJ inside, fleeing. Weird, but good, song choice. Maybe to capture that feeling the original Bronco chase gave us of kind of wanting the chase to never end, and at the same time reminding ourselves it was gross to be so riveted by it and interested in it?
posted by sallybrown at 8:52 AM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah, could David Schwimmer be any more Ross? I do think it was pretty well done and bring too young for the original trial, I'm interested to see an exploration like this.

Anyone else get a commercial for The Cochran Firm or was that just for Atlanta?
posted by LizBoBiz at 7:09 PM on February 4, 2016


I didn't think I'd be interested in watching this but now I'm halfway through the first episode (the stream keeps cutting out) and so far, it's well done. Sarah Paulson is amazing, David Schwimmer is very sympathetic. Only John Travolta and Cuba Gooding Jr are taking me out of the story, Travolta because his face is so shiny and smooth and frozen, he looks like he's wearing a plastic mask and Gooding Jr because he has none of the charm or good looks of OJ and he's not nearly threatening enough when he loses his temper. Someone on another forum said they should have cast The Rock. I don't have an opinion of him as an actor but he certainly would've looked and sounded the part.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:06 AM on February 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


I actually covered the OJ case as a journalist at the time. Apart from the Cochran/Darden scene, and generalized time compression, episode 1 was remarkably spot-on. Darden had tried numerous murder cases, and while he had known Cochran professionally, they didn't have the relationship that is depicted here.

Other notes to share:

Furhrman was not the first detective at the scene. Rather, his partner got there first, and the two of them handed things over to Lang and Vannater (senior guys, but they were known as "Dumb and Dumber" at the LAPD).

Fuhrman really did know where OJ lived -- in fact, he was the only LAPD cop that ever actually arrested OJ for spousal battery.

Why did Fuhrman hop the fence at Rockingham? Why was he the one sent to look behind Kato's guest house? He was younger and in shape, as opposed to Lang and Vannater, two guys that loved their donuts.

When Furhrman handed over his scene notes to Lang and Vannater for the murder book, he wrote a note saying that there was a bloody fingerprint visible on a brass knob on the gate leading to the alley behind the Bundy house. The note is in the murder book. But no fingerprint was lifted or entered into evidence.

Also, Marcia Clark is depicted as being the lead on the case from the get-go. William Hodgman had a bigger role, and if you don't know the history, it'll be interesting how they play out what happens to him right before the trial started. It looks like he'll never be more than a minor character.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:50 PM on February 5, 2016 [25 favorites]


I really enjoyed this and, yes, you do feel slightly skeezy for doing so: this is a tragedy and now it's entertainment. Still, getting over feelings of discomfort, they chose to open with the Rodney King riots which was absolutely the best way to lay the ground for the context of the Simpson trial, and the whole thing was incredibly absorbing and gripping. The final scene - the infamous white Bronco on the freeway, first driving with the traffic flow, then breaking into it's manic route - was incredible when paired with the song. (Seconding that it was a strange choice but somehow *worked* so well in a way I haven't parsed yet.)

Cuba Gooding Jr is doing great in a role that has some tricky balancing to do, and I think he's doing well so far; the only thing that sort of wasn't ideal was his stature - O.J. was huge with a formidable frame.

I heard complaints about Travolta's performance but I thought he played an eccentric high-priced lawyer pretty convincingly. I'm afraid I don't know much about the lawyer he's basing his performance on but I assumed when you get super-rich and hob-nob among power movers you can develop some oddities. His opening when he boasts about getting Marlon Brando's son - not off, but a reduced sentence - seemed perfect in showing how much of a storyteller he was, bit vain, and also maybe not that great (he couldn't get Brando's son in the clear completely - or maybe I'm just misunderstanding the implications of that story).

What was so shocking to me is O.J.'s complete naiveté about retaining a lawyer, asking those in his hideout home 'Should I get a lawyer?' YES OJ YOU SHOULD GET A LAWYER STAT.

I also really liked the pauses, like when the detective hangs up the phone after breaking news to O.J., and the other detective goes "What?" and he says, "He didn't ask how she died." Great moment. I expect there will be many more eerie moments to come.

Again, if you lived through this the first time this feels utterly strange to have this played out as entertainment - but I'm in it for the long haul, so impressed with the direction, characters, etc., in the first episode.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:01 PM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


His opening when he boasts about getting Marlon Brando's son - not off, but a reduced sentence - seemed perfect in showing how much of a storyteller he was, bit vain, and also maybe not that great (he couldn't get Brando's son in the clear completely - or maybe I'm just misunderstanding the implications of that story).

Didn't someone else, a prosecution lawyer? refer to him as a "settler" as in he never went to trial, he'd always settle? But then the majority of cases are settled without trial.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:00 PM on February 5, 2016


Didn't someone else, a prosecution lawyer? refer to him as a "settler" as in he never went to trial, he'd always settle?

That is straight out of the Toobin book.

Questioning Cochran on the June 20 edition of the Today show, Bryant Gumbel made note of the differences in the two men’s reputations. “Mr. Shapiro has a great reputation as a plea bargainer,” Gumbel said. “Do you think him the best man to represent O.J. in a criminal trial?” Cochran’s response was a study in condescension toward Shapiro—and nothing less than an advertisement for himself. “Well, again,” Cochran told Gumbel, “I think there are lawyers and there are lawyers. He is a fine lawyer, but if the matter is to be tried, I think one needs one who is very well experienced and skilled in trying cases—a litigator, if you will. And I would not be surprised if you didn’t see a lawyer—another lawyer, trial lawyer—come in and do that.” Cochran, of course, did not let on that he was in fact at that very moment weighing whether to step in and take that trial lawyer role.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:37 PM on February 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Still, getting over feelings of discomfort, they chose to open with the Rodney King riots which was absolutely the best way to lay the ground for the context of the Simpson trial...

There was also Latasha Harlins, which was also referenced in the Toobin book.

The most striking thing to me from the riots were the Korean store owners, armed to the teeth on the roofs of their businesses.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:45 PM on February 5, 2016


The final scene - the infamous white Bronco on the freeway, first driving with the traffic flow, then breaking into it's manic route

So, there was no manic route. I know that sounds crazy, but it's true. AC Cowlings drove OJ to Lake Forest, CA, where Nicole was buried. The theory is, OJ was going to commit suicide there. Alternately, OJ headed south because he was headed to Mexico. They didn't stop in Lake Forest -- instead, they were spotted on the 405 Freeway, while already headed back toward L.A. The "chase" itself started in the Irvine/Tustin/Santa Ana area. The first guy that spotted them on the freeway said OJ "looked like death."

AC slowed the Bronco to about 30 mph because he knew he wasn't going to escape, so they just kept driving all the way back to Brentwood.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:01 AM on February 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Wow, this brought up a ton of emotions.

A big thing back then was "Six Degrees of OJ" so here goes: The day of the murders I was at a shindig at the house across the street from Rockingham*. Sydney's dance recital was at a school I went to, when I lived near the restaurant where Ron Goldman worked (and up the street from The Bundy crime scene.) And I went to HS with Mark Fuhrman's cousin. I hope other Angelenos chime in; it's fascinating how many people had some kind of connection to the case. (On preview, I see Cool a Papa Bell checked in.)

First impressions: John Travolta is channeling Lady Gaga in American Horror Story. He's really camping it up and its bugging me, probably combined with the tight face and everything. The eyebrows are great, though! Oh God, I forgot about OJ's mother. And my little crush on Chris Darden. And Jill fucking Shively. 46 minutes in and I am clenching my teeth, and I'm getting already angry. My blood pressure can't take binge-watching this one for sure. Did I mention Jill fucking Shively?

So I thought this would be awful and cheesy in a bad way and its really good! I thought the pacing was excellent and they did a great job condensing everything up to the slow speed chase into the first episode. I forget that to a lot if people that's where the story starts. And somehow they have me watching this unfold as if it was a new story.

Connie Britton looks fantastic and I can't wait to see more of her. In a odd way, Faye Resnick was an even bigger villain in the story than OJ. (Yes yes misogyny but mostly that book.)

It's good that awareness and our thoughts about domestic abuse and violence have gotten better. I don't think that today her best friends would just stand by, and she might not, either.

Context, for the younger folks: at the time of the murders OJ was a huge star and he was still making Naked a Gun movies. And despite Marsha Clarke's ignorance, most people at least knew who OJ was from the Hertz commercials and I recall he had a very broad appeal. As far as Cuba Gooding, I think he's doing a real good job as Evil OJ. I'm not seeing as much of the charming OJ, and I know Cuba can be charming. We may see that as he starts appearing before strangers and jurors.

I think so far they're doing a good job of using LA as a backdrop.

"We'll be a laughing stock." Marsha, Marsha, Marsha, you have no idea.

I didn't know Kardashian wasn't practicing law at the time of the murders.

Did Nicole really have an open casket funeral?

David Schwimmer is very sympathetic.

Personally, I think Robert Kardashian is the star of this whole thing for betraying everyone with his reaction to the verdict. Schwimmer, you have one job. Nail that reaction.

There was also Latasha Harlins, which was also referenced in the Toobin book.

It's an injustice that her name has been forgotten. I've spoken on the blue about how she is an absolutely pivotal part of this city's history.

AC slowed the Bronco to about 30 mph because he knew he wasn't going to escape, so they just kept driving all the way back to Brentwood.

In hindsight it's remarkable how quickly that story spread, pre-Internet and pre-cell phone.

Someone on another forum said they should have cast The Rock.

I think The Rock is way too big? (Literally, as in size) I was thinking of Bokeem Woodbine.


*The cops came the next morning and went through all the trash and everything.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:37 AM on February 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


I guess I have a few thoughts on the matter.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:39 AM on February 6, 2016


Travolta is playing Robert Shapiro. Post-OJ, Shapiro is most famous as the co-founder and spokesman for Legalzoom. (I am having trouble finding a commercial with him in it.)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:01 AM on February 6, 2016


I think The Rock is way too big? (Literally, as in size)

Internet says Dwayne Johnson would be about 4 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:40 AM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Did Nicole really have an open casket funeral?

Yes and no. There was an open-casket viewing, where OJ (in)famously cried in front of the family and said "I'm so sorry." But the more public funeral was closed-casket. The show compressed the two things.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:48 AM on February 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell, I hope you continue to watch and comment on this series because your experience and contributions are adding a lot of useful context that I'm finding very helpful.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:34 PM on February 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


Wow, Travolta looked straight up plastic. On the other hand, I was surprisingly moved by puppy dog Ross face during the whole situation. Also, "Not in Kimmy's bedroom!"

I watched this at a friend's house and her 14-year-old son walked in at the end. "Is this a melodrama?" he asked. "Yes, yes it is."
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:13 PM on February 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


In hindsight it's remarkable how quickly that story spread, pre-Internet and pre-cell phone.

L.A., of course, is where the TV helicopter chase was more or less invented and perfected.

The chase started in late afternoon -- most of the TV helicopters in the area were already in the air for the rush hour traffic reports. TV and radio networks everywhere immediately cut to the helicopter feeds.

The chase and the scene at the house lasted hours, so it continually picked up new viewers. The chase also closed several major freeways all the way from OC to the Valley, so everyone was hitting the news at the same time going, "WTF?"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:13 PM on February 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I know, I was on the road at the time. It still seems like it spread quickly.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:27 PM on February 6, 2016


Oh, Cool Papa Bell, were the news trucks realistic? The truck that was from channel 13 looked accurate, but I don't remember seeing KCOP on there. Also the logo for channel 7 looks wrong, but the "eyewitness news" logotype looked real. They don't update their identities that often but they really didn't look familiar.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:14 PM on February 6, 2016


Yeah, I noticed the trucks, they weren't real news truck logos. They probably couldn't clear those stations -- KCOP, KCAL, KTTV and the big national networks -- because after all, this is a show running on a competing station, so they made up stand-ins.

Can't wait to see if the show gets to showing the scene outside the courtroom, aka "Camp OJ." Probably not much. But that place was in-fucking-sane. There really hasn't been a book about that experience, but it could be its own mini-series.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:46 AM on February 7, 2016


Someone on another forum said they should have cast The Rock. I don't have an opinion of him as an actor but he certainly would've looked and sounded the part.

Yeah, the Rock could have done a very good job, I think. He has a natural presence and charisma that I find lacking in Cuba Gooding Jr. Cuba is not coming off as a alpha dog at all.
Shame, because the rest of the cast is great. Travolta seems to like campy roles, huh?
posted by TenaciousB at 4:01 PM on February 8, 2016


My now-wife and I had met just a few months before the murders, and we were watching TV at my house when the chase happened. We just started watching this series last night, and it's really strange how nostalgic it makes me feel for that time of my life!

The chase and the scene at the house lasted hours, so it continually picked up new viewers. The chase also closed several major freeways all the way from OC to the Valley, so everyone was hitting the news at the same time going, "WTF?"

It also happened at the same time as an NBA Finals game, so a larger-than-usual number of people in the rest of the country were already watching TV when the networks started cutting in (the network that was airing the game put it in a tiny box while they primarily covered the chase, if I remember correctly).

The main thing I was wondering about the veracity of was just how close OJ came to an actual suicide attempt. I know from the letter and will and everything that he clearly had plans to kill himself, but did he really have a gun to his head in Kim Kardashian's bedroom?

It was also fascinating to me that I feel like the episode very carefully did not take an explicit stance as to OJ's guilt. I think if you watched it already convinced of his innocence there was nothing there to shake you of that conviction.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:30 AM on April 7, 2016


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