American Crime Story’s first season has recently finished here in the UK. It focused on the very real and very famous O.J. Simpson case from the early 1990s. The show was made by the same people who bring us American Horror Story and, being a fan of that show, I decided to give The People vs. O.J. Simpson a go. Crime shows are not my kind of thing. I don’t watch CSI, Silent Witness, Bones or any of those kinds of shows. They just aren’t for me. I was drawn to this particular show not only for the American Horror Story background but because the cast looked amazing and I was intrigued to see how the infamous case would be handled.
I use the term characters loosely in this review. These people weren’t imagined up but were and are very real people. The show’s opening scene focused on the crime scene but that was the only time. I liked this because rather than focusing on the crime scene and fixating on what actually happened they focused on the trial which gave the characters more of a chance to shine.
The characters in the show were very relatable, particularly Marcia and Robert. Marcia was a hard working single Mum fighting for what is right in the world which a lot of people can relate to. Robert Kardashian played the loyal best friend but one piece of evidence bugged him: the blood sample. It made him question his loyalty as the evidence was supposedly bullet proof. We’ve all had our morals and loyalty come into question at one time or another and David Schwimmer was the perfect actor for the part.
When I remembered what had happened back then and Robert Kardashian was involved I immediately rolled my eyes and considered not watching the show in fear that it would be a Kardashian glory-fest. Like them or not (which is my case) I didn’t want the show to utilise the name in order to attract viewers. However, I was pleasantly surprised. In particular the scene when Robert Kardashian took his children to a restaurant and they enjoyed the privileges that they received because their father was recognised. He told them “We are Kardashians, and in this family being a loyal person and a good friend is more important than being famous. Fame is fleeting, it’s hollow. It means nothing at all without a virtuous heart”. He was always described as a genuine and loyal man and I’m sure he believed what was said in this scene.
Being a true case, once again, this wasn’t imagined. I mentioned earlier how the show didn’t focus on the crime and rather the characters that were involved. The producers didn’t depict what they thought happened, they left it up to the viewer much like the actual case. This also gave the show the chance to focus on the trial which is what people who were around back then remember about the case. This was the correct approach for The People v. O.J. Simpson as far as I’m concerned.
We all know the verdict of the case so that wasn’t the factor that kept me watching. What kept me watching was the games that were being played behind the scenes to get power. This was what the show focused on, how the lawyers made every attempt to get the upper hand including tampering with the jury and searching deep within the case to pull out tricks. It also reminded me of how different things were back then. The 1990s doesn’t feel that long ago but this made me realise that it is, 20 years since this case in fact. Crime forensics have advanced so much and it makes you wonder how different the case would be if it was occurring now.
I’ve wrote a few reviews now but never have I had a criteria labelled ‘Accuracy’ as I’ve never reviewed anything based on actual events before. Having done some research it seems that a couple of elements may have been a little exaggerated. People that were involved in the real case have either applauded the show or disagree with how either they or the story has been depicted. Either way the show was very accurate about how the case played out including events in the trial including the glove and blood samples. Extra points on accuracy too for how well most of the characters looked like their real counterparts! The credits in the final episodes showed this and I was amazed at how great they looked.
How will the show fare after a few goes of watching? I think it will stand the test of time. It’s been twenty years since the trial and it’s still talked about now, so much so the TV show was created! Why can’t it be the same for the TV show? Considering its reception and accuracy if people are interested in the case they could easily find the show and watch it.
Here is the part that I enjoyed the most. It was the reason I was drawn to the show in the first place. The cast were phenomenal. I particularly enjoyed Sarah Paulson, David Schwimmer, Nathan Lane and Courtney B. Vance. Paulson has always been great in American Horror Story so I knew that she would be great in this, which she was. David Schwimmer is obviously always thought of as Ross in Friends but his serious roles (like his one in Band of Brothers) have always been interesting, the man has a great range. His portrayal of Robert Kardashian went from loyal best friend to struggling with his loyalty. Nathan Lane is another Schwimmer in that he is known for comedy roles but when you see him in a serious role you know he will be captivating. I didn’t recall seeing Courtney B. Vance in anything beforehand but I won’t be forgetting him anytime soon. It was as if Johnny Cochran played himself! It was probably the most difficult role to take on in this besides O.J. Simpson himself and Vance did it flawlessly.
One of the criticisms that I’ve read about the acting falls with John Travolta and Cuba Gooding Jr. The criticism has been that they both went a bit over the top with the roles. I can see what they mean. At points it were as if they were trying too hard but all in all they weren’t bad at all.
What. A. Show. My intuition about the show was right and I’m thrilled that I took a chance and watched it considering I never watch crime shows. The People v. O.J. Simpson was the best crime show I’ve ever seen and probably one of the best shows I have seen in recent years. For a show that everyone knows the outcome and a lot of people know or remember what happened during the trial it was still such a thrill to see it all play out. It was the perfect mixture of writing, acting and historical accuracy that made for a near on perfect show. I can’t think of any strong criticisms of the show to be honest, only a couple of very minor ones. This is the perfect start to the first season of American Crime Story. If the show can keep this cast and writers it could continue for a long time which I hope it does! Watch out for award season because I think The People v. O.J. Simpson will clear up nicely, and rightly so.