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Review: The People v OJ Simpson

OJ Simpson show title

At the time of the OJ Simpson trial, I was probably learning to walk and understand words like ‘juice’, ‘glove’ and maybe ‘murder’ given that I was one of identical twins entering the terrible twos.

Twenty two years later and the airing of Channel Ten’s The People v OJ Simpson: American Crime Story is re-introducing the ‘Trial of the Century’ with all its fresh 90’s swagger. I’m talking sharp suits, wide cut suits, pant suits and a revolving wardrobe they may as well have stolen from Clueless. It’s true crime with the works: a star studded cast, compelling drama, a touch of romance and oodles of sassy smart talk.

Here is a short run down:

The series of 10 episodes presents a glimpse into the trial of the accused all-American football star for the double murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and waiter Ron Goldman. Piece by piece the downfall of the Prosecution’s case not only engages you with the moves and plays of the Defence, but begs you to question the construct of guilt altogether. Perhaps deliberately, the case theories of each side are presented as a compelling debate on what really determines guilt in a court of law.

On the side, The People, the Prosecution is lead by Marcia Clark, portrayed by the Emmy award-winning Sarah Paulson, in the all too familiar bureaucratic setting of dim lighting, wood veneer and vertical blinds. If anyone enjoyed Paulson as plucky reporter, Lana Winters, in American Horror Story, then Paulson’s Marcia Clark is a sight to behold. The Prosecution’s case theory is logical and straightforward: the facts, supported by overwhelming physical evidence and the lack of any other reasonable explanation, would convict OJ Simpson of murder. However, as we know, courtrooms don't deal exclusively with logic.

Enter stage right, OJ Simpson’s dream team of legal heavy weights all Taylor Swift ‘Bad Blood’ style #squadgoals, including John Travolta’s startling new look as a balding, stout, Robert Shapiro. I am not kidding. My current theory is that there's a prosthetic dental piece and eyebrow wigs involved. It’s an impressive line up of big egos, each with their own superpower: The Preacher, The Dealer, The Academic, The Scientist, The Kardashian and The Veteran. Appearances aside, the Defence’s case theory is polarising, provocative and beautifully alliterated, “Contaminated, compromised and corrupted”. It appeals to the less cerebral aspects of decision-making and engages our emotions, desires, fears and innate prejudices.

The episodes not only serve as entertaining historical anecdotes, but also as a stern comment on the present. From the (in)famous Kardashians, to the ongoing racial tension that still divides America. The pervasiveness of the media and the power of image, in re-telling one of America’s most the televised cases is central to the narrative.

All in all, it has been a captivating and thoroughly enjoyable adaptation. The viewers who like to keep it real with some facts while enjoying their slice of entertainment, should check out Rollingstone Magazine’s online ‘Fact-Check’ companion to the series (starting with episode 1). Also the ‘real’ Marcia Clark weighs in on the series in an interesting article by Vulture Magazine (check it out here). Lastly, for some good old American kiss and tell gossip, you can fan over Entertainment Tonight’s exclusive filmed interview with Darden on the actuality of their ‘on-screen chemistry’. Did they or didn’t they?

Jury’s still out.

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