The Greatest Show On Earth
Normally I save talk about TV obsessions for Saturdays - it's what the "watch" part of Wear, Watch, Want is for, after all - but today I'm making an exception. Today, I need to tell you about a television show that has consumed my life so completely that it gets a post all its own. That show is The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story.
I remember the OJ Simpson trial well. I was young, but not so young that I was shielded completely from The Trial of the Century (it truly was the trial of the century - could anyone have ignored it?). We watched the news every night in my house, and my parents felt it was important that I understood current events, so I might have known a little more about the trial than other kids in my class. But I didn't know the gory (and I mean that literally) details. Like, as an elementary school age kid, I knew that a knife was used to kill Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman and there was blood at multiple scenes. I didn't know until I was a bit older that they were practically decapitated and there was an immense amount of blood. I remember so many things about saga of the OJ trial, from my dad picking me up from school and immediately turning on the Bronco chase when we got home, to seeing OJ try on the gloves over and over (I'd love to know how many times that was replayed on TV, during the time of the trial alone), to my school bringing in TVs so kids (in the older grades) could watch the trial. If you need to understand what a big deal this trial was, I think knowing that my elementary school brought in TVs so that the students could watch the trial instead of doing schoolwork is a pretty good example. Also, the fact that I wrote about the OJ Simpson trial on my English AP test.
As you can probably understand, when The People v. OJ Simpson was announced, I was immediately in. I didn't care if it was the quality of the shittiest Lifetime movie, I was IN. Then casting announcements started trickling in and they. were. incredible. I remember Entertainment Weekly did a side-by-side comparison of the actors cast and their real-life counterparts and it was fantastic. Like I said, I did not care one lick about quality - I was watching anyway - but this got me thinking that The People v. OJ Simpson was actually trying to be, well, good.
As I'm writing this, seven episodes of the ten part series have aired, I can officially say that not only am I hooked, I am already mourning the end of this fantastic miniseries. I am not a fan of Ryan Murphy. I'd love to say that I'm not a fan of Ryan Murphy's work, but for reasons I won't go into here, it's gotten personal. I was initially apprehensive when I found out he was involved with this series, particularly because some of my issues with Murphy and the subject matter of this series intersect. But it's all handled so well - And like I say in the above text, it's like his hands haven't even touched this project.
Sarah Paulson is, as always, perfection. Her Marcia Clark is so sympathetic is makes you want to time travel back in time and take back every snarky thing you ever so much as thought about the toughest, most badass woman - let alone prosecutor - to ever walk into an LA courtroom. I'll admit: At the time (in my defense, I was a child) I thought Marcia was severe looking and I didn't like her makeup. Now, even without Paulson's pitch perfect, sure to be Emmy winning portrayal, I see that Marcia isn't severe, she's tenacious. And who gives a fuck what her eyeliner looks like when she's convicting murderers?! Episode 6, "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia," was all about Marcia's custody battle, that was underway during the OJ trial. PLUS her appearance constantly being criticized by the media, her boss, and even Judge Ito. (And elementary schoolers in Central Illinois. Sorry, Marcia. I know better now.) This episode is the jewel in the crown of The People v. OJ Simpson (and it was - GASP - directed by Ryan Murphy). I highly recommend after watching the episode that you dry your eyes, because they will be teary, and read this interview with the episode's writer, D.V. DeVincentis. It's especially interesting because the episode tackles issues of sexism, but was written by a man, and here he's being interviewed about it by a woman. THEN, you should head over to Vulture where Marcia Clark herself comments on the veracity of the episode. She speaks very candidly about her relationship to the show and the trial both then and now. It's a must read.
One thing she refuses to comment on, however, is her rumored romantic relationship with Christopher Darden. I wondered if the show would address this at all, and BOY DO THEY. Not only do they address the flirtation between Clark and Darden, they make you become deeply invested in their OBVIOUS LOVE CONNECTION. During last week's episode, when Marcia joined Chris on a roadtrip to Oakland, I found myself yelling, "MAKE OUT, YOU FOOLS!" at my screen. This is not a scenario I would have predicted when The People v. OJ Simpson was initially announced. I also would not have predicted that I would develop a mega-crush on Sterling K Brown's Chris Darden. He's just so, so perfect.
If we take a quick break from Darden's charms and his dedication to justice, the way The People v. OJ Simpson has Johnnie Cochran and Chris Darden play off each other is really compelling to watch. Cochran was Darden's mentor, but now they are on opposing sides. Cochran knows just how to manipulate Darden, and while Darden is attuned to Cochran's ways, he's still looking to impress his mentor. It's fascinating. Listen, I'm all about Chris and Marcia, but I think Chris and Johnnie are a close second for my favorite couple on the show.
Honorable mention for Best Couple goes to Bobby Kardashian and Uncle Juice.
Just kidding. I only wanted an excuse to include that video. BUT, anytime OJ's defense team is gathered together, particularly in the prison, to talk strategy, I highly suggest you keep your eyes on David Schwimmer. OJ will make some football analogy to the team and Bobby Kardash will just sort of pan across the table with an expression like, "Yeah, guys. The JUICE!"
The real star of OJ's defense team is, of course, Johnnie Cochran. Johnnie was larger than life, and watching The People v. OJ Simpson makes you wish he were still with us, because what if I'm charged with a horrific crime?!?! Not only do I think Sarah Paulson is a lock for an Emmy, I think Courtney B. Vance can start clearing a space on his mantel for one as well. He embodies Johnnie Cochran.
Johnnie's house might be one of my favorite works of production design as well. If that is a real house and it is actually decorated like that, I would pay far too much to spend even two hours there. I live in LA, I will do it! Just tell me HOW. Go Fug Yourself did an interview with PVOJ Production Designer Jeffrey Mossa and Set Decorator Amber Haley and I highly suggest you read it at your earliest convenience. The GFY recaps of every The People v. OJ Simpson episode are quite frankly, perfection. The second I'm done with each week's episode the next thing I'm jonesing for is the GFY recap. Then, after I'm finished with the GFY recap, I head over to Vulture for their weekly fact-checking recap with Jim Newton, who was "the LA Times' lead reporter for the duration of OJ Simpson's arrest and trial." They say in the first recap that Newton will be going through all ten episodes, but he ends up skipping one, because for episode 6, "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia," the fact-checking recap is done by none other than Marcia fuckin' Clark. (I linked to this already above, but here it is again because it's that good.)
The pressing questions now is, with a first season this phenomenal, what on earth is American Crime Story going to do for season 2?! **
**It's going to be about Hurricane Katrina. It sounds a kind of all over the place so far, but hopefully they have time to tighten it up. (And realize that they need to put George W. Bush in it, because DUH, were you even around then?!)