The People v. OJ Simpson opens with footage from the Rodney King beating, and the LA Uprising. It gives viewers a sense of the racial climate in LA and across the US at the time OJ Simpson was charged with the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
Fast forward two years, and a chauffer is waiting for his client in front of a stretch white limo. Cuba Gooding Jr, as Orenthal James Simpson comes out of the house carrying a ton bags. He’s late, says he overslept and had to take a shower. OJ hopes he can still make his flight. He’s headed to the airport to make it to Chicago. On the ride, the driver, a young white guy, makes nervous chat and apologizes for being weird when OJ walked out his house. He’s never driven a celebrity before. As if anyone watching this didn’t know OJ was a big deal, it’s now been conveyed.
Somewhere in Brentwood, a guy is walking his dog and finds another dog with bloody paws barking on the sidewalk. Now me? I wouldn’t approach a strange, bloody dog, but this guy isn’t me. He starts talking to the dog, who darts across the street. The guy follows and sees bodies and blood everywhere. Obviously, he calls the police.
The cops come thru to investigate the house, and find nothing inside has been disturbed, so they rule out a robbery. They also discover the kids are in their beds sound asleep. There’s a bath with candles prepared, and a cop spots pictures of OJ with the kids on the wall. Outside, the officers assess the scene and find a clean heel print and based on the blood droppings, determine that the killer is bleeding from the left hand.
The officers decide someone has to tell OJ since he's Brown-Simpson's ex husband. Detective Mark Fuhrman says he knows where OJ lives because he’s been to the house on a call before for a domestic dispute. The cops head over, search the property some, find blood on the Bronco door and inside the car. One scales the wall to let the others in, and in the yard they find a life-sized OJ statue on OJ’s lawn. Do you understand the level of narcissism it takes to put a life size statue of yourself on your own damn lawn?
They trek to the back of the house and find the pool house. Kato Kaelin (Billy Magnussen) in all his official, high-out-his-damn-mind glory, answers the door and says he’s “not an official person” (ie, a non-factor) and the cops should talk to OJ’s daughter, Arnelle, who is in the house. Kato is also babbling about an earthquake or some such happening because he heard a lot of noise earlier. Sir, what?
Someone finally wonders out loud if Kato is high because he has the disposition of "Garth" from Wayne’s World. I am not a drug counselor, but I can say with assurance, if he is not currently high, he got high for a really long period of time and has some damage from that period on the good sh--. Kato doesn’t answer the question.
Arnelle helps the cops track down her dad to an un-luxurious hotel room in Chicago. An officer tells him Nicole has been killed. He cries. Later, the cop notes that OJ never asked how his ex-wife and mother of his youngest children died. Hmmm. I also want to know what OJ is doing in Chicago. Did we ever learn that?
Elsewhere on the estate, Kato is still taking about all the noise he heard earlier. The cops do some more searching, and find a bloody glove near the air conditioner. They declare OJs house a crime scene.
Back from commercial, prosecutor Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) is at home with her kids who are goofing off at breakfast like kids do. She gets a call from a detective informing her about a double homicide in Brentwood. Marcia’s surprised; no one ever gets killed in Brentwood. Cop tells her one of the vics is OJ Simpson’s ex. She has no clue who that is. He gives her the run down of the blood around OJ’s house and the glove. From that, she determines, “this is major” and there’s enough to arrest this man named OJ.
Over in Brentwood, there are police swarming around the house. Nicole’s body is still lying on the steps as the cops pull evidence from the scene. Dear God. While the cops are searching Nicole’s house, she receives a call that goes to the answering machine, because, um, obviously, she can’t answer anymore. It’s her daughter begging “mommy” to answer the phone. Lawd. The cops on the scene look as horrified as I am watching at home.
Marcia Clark arrives at work and her assistant is downloading her on the mundane sh--- she’s obligated to do for the day. She snaps at the assistant, then apologizes. It's been a long morning and the day just started.
Clark teams up with her colleagues to begin going over OJ’s timeline, then trying to figure out how the other victim, Ron Goldman, got mixed up in this. While in the meeting, someone delivers the crime scene photos. Nicole Brown was almost decapitated by her killer. One of the lawyers in the room is enamored with OJ and can’t picture him killing anyone. “He’s the nicest guy”, the attorney recalls. Another lawyer points out that he’s been beating Nicole and has a prior.
“Ross” from Friends (Davis Schwimmer) shows up at OJ’s house as Robert Kardashian,Sr., the original patriarch of the Kardashians before his untimely death from cancer. He heard what happened when his ex wife, Kris, told him that she was supposed to be having lunch with Nicole that day. He can’t get in the house and insists he is on he list. He spots OJ’s lawyer, “Howard”, who pulls him past the cops. Just then, OJ rolls up in a limo, finally back from his trip to Chicago.
The cops are waiting for OJ at his front door, and ask him to step “around the corner”, away from the press. A cameraman peeps game and runs thru the bushes to catch what’s going on. The cops cuff OJ briefly before his lawyer arrives and a senior cop insists that isn’t necessary.
Cuba Gooding Jr. as OJ is hilarious, and I can’t figure out if that's intentional or not. He’s distraught, and slightly out of it. I can’t tell if he’s playing this as OJ’s personality, a mental situation, or “just” emotional distress. Whatever it is, I can watch him do this all day. As the story progresses, we’ll notice OJ popping pills continuously. Perhaps that’s why Gooding as OJ is acting so weird.
Anyway, OJ tells the officers he’ll cooperate. Cops notice that he has a bandage on his left hand. Ruh-oh.
Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran is standing in front of Alicia Silverstone’s closet from Clueless complaining he has nothing to wear for the busy day ahead. LOL. No lime because it freaks out his client, Michael Jackson, and no purple because he doesn’t want to look like a grape.
His first stop is to swing by will-be OJ prosecutor Chris Darden’s (fine ass Sterling K. Brown) office. Cochran shows up in a dark suit and flamboyant, wide, and patterned tie to talk about the case of a woman who was shot in the back while by officers. Chris hems and haws. Cochran tells him he doesn’t have to do all that because he used to have his job and knows the drill.
Darden says he can’t prosecute the cops who shot Cochran’s client and hates his job. He adds that he has always looked to Cochran as a mentor. Knowing what’s to come, I feel kinda bad for the Brother right here. Cochran says that he plans to sue the city since Darden isn’t prosecuting. “Sometimes money is the only way to get justice,” Cochran adds.
Across the office, Clark is smoking in the office while going over Nicole Brown Simpson’s history with OJ. Was that still legal? There were eight 911 calls but the LAPD didn’t do anything to protect Nicole. Then the tape arrives from OJ’s disposition. That man can’t give a straight answer for nothing, and the police don’t press him. He says he parked his car at “7, 8, 9… “ Um. That’s two hours. What time did you park, man? Marcia is appalled listening to him duck answers. “This is a fiasco”, Marcia declares. “He got away with beating her. He is not going to get away with killing her!”
We go to commercial. It’s an ad for Star Wars. That movie came out in December and is the highest grossing movie of all time, and they’re advertising on FX during the OJ Simpson movie? Everyone who is going to the show to see Star Wars, has done so, ya’ll. There’s no one left. Save the ad budget. You won already.
OJ’s in the house going nuts. His mama is there. Cuba Gooding Jr is playing this for an Emmy. Completely over the top. I love it. AC (an unrecognizable Malcolm Jamal Warner) arrives with some burgers. OJ implies to Kato that he should tell the cops that they went to get burgers the night before (because that’s what he told the cops). OJ starts yelling how he needs support, lots of support, from everybody. Sir? A seat.
OJ is watching TV, and sees video of himself in handcuffs. He’s pissed and referring to himself in the third person. I don’t know if I’m supposed to be laughing, but I am.
Rob Kardashain wants to know where Howard the Lawyer is and why he let OJ get cuffed, or be interviewed, or be at the station alone. I’m not a lawyer. I took the LSAT once, which has nothing to do with anything because none of the questions are about law. And yet, I know that was a bad idea. Probably because I watch Law & Order.
Across town, Robert Shaprio aka snatched John Travolta is in full glory Queendom, holding court at a fancy lunch with his wife and friends. The maitre’d interrupts Shapiro to say Shapiro has a emergency phone call. It’s OJ. He needs a lawyer. We know Shapiro's answer is “yes”.
Back at the DA’s office, Clark is raging around her workspace when her boss tells her that she’s not solely in charge of the case, and is being paired with a fellow named “Bill”. I don’t remember Bill. But then, I was 13 or 14 when this all happened, so there’s a lot I don’t recall or didn’t pick up. Somewhere else in the building, Chris Darden is on the phone to someone talking about taking a long weekend…. in the middle of the OJ case. LOL. He says no one will miss him. Awww, boo.
Shapiro meets with OJ and says he has to get ahead of this and the DA is going to “do everything they can” to convict him. Rob K is there and Shapiro suggests that he join the team even though he is not a criminal attorney. Kardashian says that he would do anything for “The Juice” as OJ was there for him when he and Kris broke up. The amount of Kardashian name dropping in the movie is making the OJ trial merely a prequel for the Kim Kardashian empire, as masterminded by Kris Jenner. Did she produce this? Is FX owned by the same company as E!? (For clarity: no. FX is owned by Fox, E is NBC Universal.)
Shapiro asks Kardashian to leave the room and asks OJ to level with him. “Did you do it?” he asks. OJ says, ”no. I loved her.” Well then, it’s settled.
Marcia Clark is in the middle of a divorce. Her second. She shows up to meet with an attorney. She’s stressed and chain smoking. A divorce in the middle of the sh--? I’d chain smoke too.
Cochran is on his way to a TV interview while listening to a radio show about OJ. The host and guest are complaining about how OJ is being treated by the police and media, especially how OJ was shown in handcuffs on the news. Cochran arrives at the TV studio and while getting his face powder, he notes that he is on the list of talking head Black people right after Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. And no, he is not on the OJ team and wouldn’t want to be. “I like to win,” he says before going live. “He is a loser.” As soon as he’s on-air, he offers his prayers to the Simpson family.
Clark interviews a woman who says she saw OJ the night of the murders. He was driving erratic. Now the driver who, well, drove OJ to the airport to catch his Chicago-bound flight is talking about how OJ was late coming out the house. He also says he saw a man go into OJ’s house around 11PM. Oh, and that the white Bronco outside the house wasn’t there when he arrived to pick up OJ. Marcia and Bill note that their timeline to prove OJ did it is working out.
Somewhere in LA, OJ is taking a lie detector test at Shapiro’s request. He fails, like “negative 24”, the worst he can do. Surprise, surprise. (I am one of those people who thinks OJ did it. I did not at the time this all happened.) Kardashian, who seems incredibly nice and also very naïve, seems shocked; Shaprio not so much. OJ says he failed because he’s “so emotional” and the tests don’t wok. This is beautiful work by Gooding. I mean it’s spastic and OJ seems completely nuts, but this is great TV.
Fast forward: We’re at Nicole Brown’s funeral. Kris now-Jenner and a friend talk about how crazy OJ was and the pics Brown kept of her face after OJ beat her. Kris also takes a moment to chastise her kids, Courtney and Khloe. Ladies and Sirs, we are not watching a story about the biggest trial in American history, we are watching a prequel to Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
OJ shows up to the funeral with his lawyers, and popping pills in the car. What is his condition exactly? As he walks into the church, he envisions a blond woman in the crowd of paps. Is that supposed to be Nicole? OJ walks up to the casket and kisses his ex-wife’s body goodbye. In the audience, Nicole Brown’s sister notes, “he has no shame.”
Clark is on the phone apologizing to her kids for not being able to make it home even though it’s late. Her team has come through. They have enough to arrest OJ.
The next morning, Shapiro learns that there’s a warrant for OJ’s arrest and they’re charging him with “special circumstances”, which means he won’t get bail and will sit in jail thru the trial. Shaprio stalls the cops from coming to arrest OJ, and promises to bring him in at 11AM. “My word is gold,” he says.
Shapiro shows up at the “hide out” in Encino, aka Robert Kardashian, Sr.’s house. Kardashian opens the door and informs Shapiro that OJ is sedated and still sleeping. Shapiro goes up to OJ in bed, and tells him the bad news about jail while he’s lying in bed with his girlfriend.
The doorbell keeps ringing. OJ’s been up five minutes and is popping pills. A bunch of doctors have shown up and they are probing and photographing OJ. OJ asks for his mother. The doorbell rings again. It’s a psychiatrist in case the defense needs to pull a “diminished capacity defense. “Keep our options open”, Shapiro explains. Sidebar: I love John Travolta. This is hilarious.
At police plaza, they are pissed that OJ is late when they have a noon press conference. Shapiro, whose word is not gold, stalls them again by saying he and OJ are leaving soon. Um. No they ain’t. OJ ain’t even dressed.
Elsewhere, Kato Kaelin is on the stand being questioned by Clark for the grand jury investigation. He’s invoking his right to remain silent. Um. You’re not being arrested, sir. He is giving ultimate dumb blond and Clark is very over him.
OJ, who is supposed to be on his way to the police station, is writing his will, and letters to his mama and kids. He wants to the Browns, his in-laws, to be the guardians for the kids while he’s locked up. Rob K is concerned, “A will?”
OJ lifts his gun and puts it to his head. He says “it will be easier for everybody” if he kills himself. Kardashian begs him not to, but OJ’s still got the gun to his head.
OJ is now marching though the house with a gun to his head. I’ve haven’t seen anything this melodramatic since Valley of the Dolls. I am cackling.
Now Marcia is on the phone with Shapiro, flipping out about OJ not being in police custody. Shapiro is not here for her and passes the phone to the closest doctor. The doctor passes the phone back when Clark lightly threatens to have him arrested for aiding a fugitive. He ain’t about that life.
Upstairs, OJ is now in young Kim Kardashian’s bedroom with a gun to his head. I can’t.
AC, the bestie and errand man, shows up at Rob K's house while OJ’s mid-meltdown. AC walks in and wants to know who are all these people. Rob K rushes to the door and pulls AC upstairs to help with the situation. “OJ has a gun and he’s suicidal”, Kardashian shrieks. Shapiro overhears this and has no reaction whatsover. LOL. He has the demeanor of an undertaker. Or um, a lawyer.
The cops got tired of waiting for OJ to show up and have come get him. Shaprio stalls again and tries to name drop on em. They are very unimpressed.
Kardashian comes downstairs to say OJ is gone. Shapiro and the cops run through the house. OJ’s girlfriend informs everyone that OJ and AC went “out back”. Kardashian runs out to the front of the house only to discover. “the Bronco is gone!”
At the DA’s office, Clark gets the news and assesses, “we’re going to looks like morons”. Ma’am. You have no idea.
To the tune of Nina Simone’s 'I Shall Be Released", OJ and AC , who is driving like he’s drunk, weave in and out of traffic on the freeway.
Lawd! This is good. Kudos to the casting director. cause folks are playing the hell out of their roles. I must note: Gooding is too small, and um, not as attractive, as OJ, but what he lacks in size and OJ looks, he more than makes up for with acting. Folks showed up to take home some Emmys and some SAG Awards next year. I'm hooked for the season!
What did you think of the first episode of The People vs. OJ Simpson?