One of the things that American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson has been missing, in my opinion, is Orenthal James freaking Simpson.
Surprisingly, Cuba Gooding, Jr. hasn’t been getting much camera time, considering it is supposed to be about his character.
Let’s ask what the real OJ thinks: Today, the NY Post said that Simpson thinks Cuba Gooding Jr.’s portrayal is “too short” (in height) and “his head is too small.” In fact, OJ’s colossal cranium earned him the nickname “Bobble Head” in the jail yard, while the Native American inmates call him “Buffalo” (I’m assuming because of his massive noggin and not because of his time with the Bills).
We start this week’s episode with a flashback scene of Simpson snorting coke off a woman’s chest while dancing at a club to C&C Music Factory in a deconstructed Miami Vice-style outfit. Does anyone miss the days we used to roll up the sleeves of our blazers? We then join Simpson in his jail cell—a little disjointed and out of context, but whatevs.
Cut to Shapiro, Cochran, and the rest of the legal “dream team” who are enjoying lox and whitefish while discussing the case. I have to say the stereotypes run THICK with this show. John Travolta’s turn as Rob Shapiro has been oily throughout the series, but takes a slick slide down the stereotypical lawyer sleaze slope when he asks his team:
“Who thinks OJ did it?”
To which, no one raises their hand. Then he adds, “Me neither.”
The race and gender issues in this case ran over like a bottle of Coke with a Mentos in it, but I have to say, this program is making me squirm with it. The Jewish lawyers are portrayed like the freaking Ferengi in Star Trek.
We are confronted with race/sex issues the whole hour, including endless juror rejections for being too sympathetic (white guy) or antagonistic (black lady) to cops. There’s one scene where Shapiro‘s wife asks the lawyer if he’s afraid another LA riot will occur due to the case.
We have one particularly poignant moment where the focus group they gather to get scores on the various players speaks up. One woman calls prosecutor Marcia Clark a bitch.
My girl Sarah Paulson—who does a great job of blowing up my crush for her as Marcia Clark—gets shaken up when she realizes she is perceived as a dragon lady. Yes the chain smoking, hard as nails lady lawyer is surprised she is deemed unlikable. So much so, her boss tells her to smile more, maybe wear a skirt, and change her hairstyle. Yowch!
We shift to Simpsons’s defense strategy, which is basically to Coch(ran)-block any possible motions by the prosecution. There is a moment where the two legal teams haggle how many hairs they can collect from OJ’s head to examine DNA, rounding down from 100 hairs to 80 to 50. Cochran’s point is that it would be “intrusive.” We lose on average 50 to 100 hairs a day just combing our manes, people.
With every scene, Johnny Cochran takes more of a driver's seat role in the case, while Shapiro keeps getting pushed back to the trunk. Midway into the process though, Travolta does throw out a despicable, “You know how these people think!” line to Cochran. If there were an award for best portrayal of a DOUCHE in a dramatic feature, Travolta would be winning this hands down.
We get into some drivel where Cochrane tells Simpson some inspirational story about the rigged system and his career, how he failed in his first marriage, his kids hated him, and his life was in the toilet; but in some OJ moment, during a 49ers/Packers game, he was inspired. This show is trying hard to put a shine on Cochran, but no matter how you slice the orange, the juice still taste like asshole lawyer. He tells OJ how’s he’s an inspiration, which he was, but it isn’t sticking. The whole monologue just leaves us feeling slightly filthy.
Enter Judge Ito (Kenneth Choi), who I didn’t know was married to an LAPD officer at the time. There’s a great scene where his wife has to sign a spousal conflict form and pauses when she sees Detective Mark Furhman’s name on the paperwork. Cue foreshadowing music.
Ito enters the court, walking by his bizarre collection of hourglasses, and we get to hear OJ put in his plea:
“Absolutely 100% not guilty,” says the Juice, without a hint of hesitation.
The next scene is Shapiro trying to convince F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane) that this case is a career re-builder.
*Note: F. Lee Bailey represented Patty freakin' Hearst in her trial.
Shapiro further tells his “friend” that he’s doing this pro-bono, to which Bailey responds: “But Patty Hearst paid.”
WHAT A DICK! No seriously, if I was Robert Shapiro, I would sue the living, breathing BEJEEZUS out of this production because they do an amazing job of making him look like a raging, untreated anal fissure.
Let us now turn our attention to Nicole Brown Simpson’s friend (and Real Housewife of Beverly Hills), Faye Resnick (Connie Britton), being interviewed by her soon-to-be book publisher. She says Nicole was a terrific mother, and they had wonderful times together hanging at clubs and snorting blow.
“I’m trying to manage it,” she says about her coke habit, as she’s 3 days into drug abuse treatment. We get to hear about Nicole’s breast implants and what she calls a “Brentwood Hello”—where Nicole would go into a guy's bedroom while he was asleep and felate him. Her publisher says they’re going to sell a lot of books “in a non exploitive way.” I just had an over-douche.
We also finally address Ron Goldman, the other murder victim, but sadly the scene where his dad explodes at Marcia Clark about the lack of attention his son’s demise has gotten in the press is reflected starkly in the lack of screen time the name Goldman gets in this production. Clark looks at him with her big, cute Sarah Paulson eyes and says, “We are gonna get him.” Eep!
Post this, the prosecution starts messing with the idea of taking the death penalty off the table. Why? It will never stick because they “can’t even execute Charlie Manson.”
Once again the only time we see Clark smile is while entertaining fellow lawyer Chris Darden (Sterling K. Brown) over some tequila. I really do hope they address their affair, just so I can watch Paulson get weird with it.
Have I made it totally clear yet how much I am googly-eyeing her in her 80’s shoulder paddy business attire yet?
The rest of the show is basically an endless pissing contest between Cochran and Shapiro. You can see that Cochran is getting to Shapiro, because at one point, Travolta’s eye slightly twitches, just noticeably, under the tension of probably several Lifestyle Lifts.
Ultimately, the dream team benches Shapiro. Bailey assesses that Cochran has more “downtown” (that means black btw for those of you who might be wondering) appeal for the case. This is saddening because less of Travolta's clammy mug means far less entertainment.
We close the episode with rap group Above the Law’s song ”Black Superman“ playing while the players enter court.
“I feel good that the city of angels call me black superman…”
Spyridon P. Panousopoulos spends his time whittling sharp sticks out of blunt ones. He has written for Flavorwire.com, The NY Press, and Gen Art in the past. He has 3 cats that all hate him. Follow him @TheRevSpyro.