‘The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’ Review Roundup

February 3, 2016

‘The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’ is Ryan Murphy’s new anthology series on FX, bringing the real-life “trial of the century” to television as drama, with Cuba Gooding, Jr. in the title role. Critics are weighing in and you can see a roundup of reviews below.

Cuba Gooding, Jr.

The murders of O.J. Simpson’s wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman became the crime story and criminal trial that has dominated pop culture and society for more than twenty years, as the former football star turned actor stood as the accused in trial. Now the explosive real-life story that took over our lives back then arrives in a fictionalize version that will play out in ten episodes.

Yes, the trial of the last century, that dominated headlines in the 1990s and became the first cable television total saturation event and the de facto template for all future saturation Those images of the slow-motion white Bronco police chase, and later, the trial itself, all played out on live television. It was months and months of gavel-to-gavel coverage and endless analysis on talk shows. It was hard to escape such saturation, even in that pre-social media and viral video era. More than 20 years later, our society and culture can’t get away from it.

Now, it’s a drama. Distilled and boiled down for the small screen. For those waiting for such, it’s become well worth the wait it seems if critics and social media are to be trusted. And, not least, it’s quite an auspicious inaugural episode for Ryan Murphy’s new series on FX. The ten-episodes are based on the New York Times bestselling book, ‘The Run of His Life,’ by Jeffrey Toobin, familiar to many as a legal commentator on CNN. It’s an ambitious undertaking from the famed showrunner who brought us ‘American Horror Story,’ ‘Scream Queens’ and ‘Glee.’

Yes, social media is abuzz. Critics are giving favorable reviews. And for the principal actors, this tragic event has spawned some iconic real-life characters that are a challenge to inhabit. For the Oscar-winning actor Cuba Gooding, Jr. as O.J. Simpson the challenge was immense, as it always is, when portraying a public figure so well known and, especially one that’s much loathed by many. Gooding drew critical acclaim for portraying quite a different public figure, Dr. Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon turned GOP presidential candidate. But now, this time around, critics are sharply divided.

The all-star cast is rounded out with John Travolta and Courtney B. Vance portraying O.J. Simpson’s defense lawyers, respectively Robert Shapiro and the late Johnnie Cochran; Sarah Paulson portrays prosecutor, Marcia Clark. Also starring are David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian, Nathan Lane as F. Lee Bailey and Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden.

Yes, the reviews are in and the television critics, who have previewed several episodes of the series are having their say. Here’s a roundup.

“….The show acquits itself well. Despite the audience’s knowledge that the former football star Orenthal James Simpson will be found not guilty (history is not a spoiler, sorry), the series is absorbing, infuriating and, yes, thoroughly entertaining…..” — The New York Times

“…. It’s about the people involved in the trial, and the startling contrasts surrounding a case in which perceptions of guilt and innocence seemed to divide along racial lines. All of which would be an academic exercise without a script that keeps the story’s multiple pieces moving in sync and a set of Emmy-worthy performances. Those include turns by Cuba Gooding Jr., who portrays Simpson as explosive and child-like without showing his guilty-or-innocent hand…..” USA Today

“…..American Crime Story’s OJ Simpson chapter is timely, expertly executed, smartly cast entertainment that, if it’s done it’s job correctly, will leave you with an unpleasant taste in your mouth…..” The Telegraph

“….It may seem insensitive to say that you’re in for a treat. But you are. Co-executive producer Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story) knows how to extract all the pulp and juice from this riveting saga. That may also seem insensitive, to discuss the Simpson trial as if it were the largest grapefruit ever grown and harvested in the history of the nation. But again, the Simpson case had nothing to do with the ordinary parameters of discourse. ….” — People

“….Gooding’s Simpson remains something of a cipher — he has to play him as someone who might or might not have done it — and beyond the occasional cheek-twitch, he doesn’t attempt even a rough impression of his person or manner. (He’s the wrong size, his voice is raspier and thinner, and though he’s the right age, he looks older than Simpson was at the time.) Mostly he seems, not inappropriately, tired and out of sorts, loathe to confront or commit. As the drama is configured, Simpson is, if not beside the point, less than central to the action: Clark and Darden, Shapiro and Cochran (and Darden and Cochran) — that’s where the drama resides. …..” — LA Times

“….Guys, The People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (hereafter named as TPVOJ) is genuinely great. As true crime, as cultural dissection of a complex intersection of American values, and as high drama….” — TV.com

“….It seems almost silly to put a spoiler alert at the top of this recap: We all know how this story ends. But twenty years have passed since the verdict was read — and “The People v. O.J. Simpson” painstakingly rebuilds the case from the beginning, filling in details we may have forgotten, while also carefully charting backstories for all the players we thought we knew…..” — Variety

“….The most impressive aspect of the first episode is how it gets viewers completely invested in a story that we already know the outcome to. The suicide note is terrifying, even though we know he’s currently alive. By the end, when O.J. flees (as we all know he was going to), it’s still somehow thrilling. It gets under your skin quickly — Nicole’s daughter leaving a message on her murdered mother’s answering machine will haunt me for a while — but it does so in a way that demands further viewing…..” — The A.V. Club

Critics are weighing in as is social media. Needless to say, with our new resources for instantaneous international reaction, not even envisioned in the mid-1990s, we’re reliving last century’s “trial of the century” — and all its pop cultural, psychological, sociological, and even political aftereffects — squashed down into 10 digestible episodes that is ‘American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson.’

Pictures: PR Photos

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