A friend of mine who is really into true crime series recommended this to me knowing that I am a fan of American Horror Story. American Crime Story shares the same producers and follows a similar anthology format, although this time each season dramatises and particular very public criminal case. In this case, the murder trial of O.J. Simpson.
I think most are fairly familiar with the O.J. Simpson trial… but just in case, O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jnr) is a once very celebrated extremely famous American football player, TV presenter and actor who was accused of murdering his ex-wife Nicole and her friend, Ron Goldman. The case was extremely high profile and turned into a media circus and ran for months and months.
The series does not really speculate whether or not O.J. was guilty but is more interested in the legal process that the case went through. It focuses equally on the prosecution, lead by Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) as it does the defence, initially mounted by Robert Shapiro (John Travolta). While the defence believes that a mountain of physical evidence is likely to guarantee them victory, the prosecution puts its energy into bringing in a high profile team including Johnny Cochrane (Courtney B. Vance) and exploiting every possible legal loophole.
Race plays a huge part in the trial with the still simmering tensions of the L.A. riots in the background as well as serious concerns about LAPD behaviour. It touches every element of the case from the selection of jurors to the selection of the defence and prosecution teams, witness behaviour and public perceptions. There is also an examination into Marcia’s struggles as a female prosecutor in a very powerfully male world alongside her challenges of balancing work with family. There is even some examination into O.J.’s own feelings about his “blackness” and his attempts to integrate himself into typically “white” spaces before the trial.
While the case is central to the show, it is as much commentary on American society and in particular its legal system, which is what makes it fascinating.
Gooding gives an astounding performance as a man who is an endless array of juxtapositions, seemingly equally confused and cunning at all times. Paulson is solid and sympathetic as the powerful yet vulnerable Marcia Clark and Sterling Brown brings really heart as her co-prosecutor Chris Darden. Some of the most interesting parts of the series involve their interactions with each other. Vance captures the ministerial Vance perfectly and Travolta is delightfully slimy as Shapiro. It’s also worth mentioning David Schwimmer who plays Robert Kardashian (yes, that one), O.J.’s lifelong friend who starts out convinced of his innocence but finds his belief in his friend crumbling around him.
I found it to be addictive and disturbing viewing and I would highly recommend the series to anyone who enjoys true crime and legal procedurals.