8 times The People v. OJ Simpson was the most gripping thing on TV | Virgin Media
8 times The People v. OJ Simpson was the most gripping thing on TV

8 times The People v. OJ Simpson was utterly gripping

18/04/2016TV

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Guilty-pleasure shlockfest or serious commentary on race and celebrity? The People v OJ Simpson: American Crime Story, which reaches its finale on Monday 18th April at 9pm on BBC Two, can't make up its mind which it is, but by thunder it's fun to watch. Just as you think it's having a laugh, it delivers a moment that has you on the edge of your seat, shouting ‘Juice!’ Like these. 

The bodies are found

Just after we get our first look at Cuba Gooding Jr as a seemingly calm OJ Simpson heading to the airport, we find out American Crime Story isn’t doing half-measures. We’re spared no detail at Nicole Brown Simpson’s house, where she and her partner Ronald Goldman lie dead. There’s blood everywhere and we’re told this was a frenzied attack, with OJ’s wife nearly decapitated. Right, so maybe this isn’t all about John Travolta’s weird make-up.

The Juice threatens suicide in Kim Kardashian’s bedroom

No, this actually happened, apparently. OJ, faced with the prospect of arrest, writes a suicide note at his friend Robert Kardashian’s house (Robert was the father of Kim, Khloe and the rest, and the show REALLY wants you to know it) and has to be talked down from shooting himself. Robert placates him by calling him “Juice” a lot, which seems to do the trick, until ...

OJ flees in a low-speed car chase

The police arrive to conduct the prearranged arrest but find OJ gone. He’s fled in the back seat of his now-infamous white Ford Bronco, a gun to his own head and his friend at the wheel. A nation watches on TV as they drive up and down the closed-off freeway, with Simpson telling police by phone he wants to see his mother. This is a sure-fire way to fail your driving test, in case you were wondering.

The race case

OJ’s lead attorney Robert Shapiro, played weirdly over-the-top by Travolta, decides that arguing the LAPD is institutionally racist is the way to get his client off, and sets about assembling his team. Last to be added is flamboyant black attorney Johnnie Cochran, as committed to fighting police mistreatment of African-Americans as he is to wearing expensive suits. The trial’s going to be televised, and these guys love the cameras.

Daddy Kardashian takes the kids for lunch

Robert (David Schwimmer) gets a table at a busy restaurant with Kim and the rest of his kids because the waitress recognises him from TV. All around them people are pointing him out and whispering. The Kardashian girls think this is brilliant, but Robert reminds them, with irony about as subtle as a viral nude selfie, “Fame is fleeting. It’s hollow. It means nothing at all without a virtuous heart.” They all take this on board and go on to live lives dedicated to anonymous and selfless public service ... oh, wait.

Redecorating

The largely African-American jury are to tour OJ’s home, but Cochran is concerned it isn’t “black” enough. The Juice has been living in plush LA suburb Brentwood, and spending his days golfing with his rich white neighbours and having his friends in the police over for barbecues, as shown in all the photos around the place. So Johnnie has the place done out with African tribal art and black-consciousness paraphernalia, making OJ look every inch the proud black hero. This guy is good.

Evening up the score

Outraged at the defence’s race-card tactics, lead prosecutor Marcia Clark (played, in the best performance in the whole thing, by Sarah Paulson) recruits black lawyer Christopher Darden. Darden steels himself for accusations of race treachery from Cochran, all the while wondering: did I get this job on merit or just because of my skin colour? 

If the glove fits

In a court recess Shapiro tries on the glove found at the crime scene (a key piece of evidence just left lying around for anyone to saunter up and contaminate, sure) and tells the defence team it doesn’t fit. His hands are about the same size as OJ’s. If he tries it on and it doesn’t fit, The Juice is home free. They bait Darden into making the tactical error of suggesting it, and OJ tries on the glove. No dice: he can’t get it on! Somehow, even though we’re all familiar with what happened, the suspense is killing us. And this sums up The People v OJ Simpson: it tells a story you already know, but crams in enough extra detail you didn’t, melodrama and bizarre twists to keep you juiced. 

Catch up on recent episodes of The People v. OJ Simpson in Catch Up > By Channel > BBC iPlayer

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