A year ago, I found myself unexpectedly drawn into watching the first season of American Crime Story, which dramatised the story of the 1994-5 OJ Simpson trial. While I didn’t specifically follow the original case at the time, it was impossible not to be aware of the key points given the saturation coverage of it in the media at the time. Much of what was shown in Ryan Murphy’s The People vs OJ Simpson turned out to be remarkably familiar to me, and I was surprised by quite how many details I had retained.
The advantage of a dramatisation is that it can take you behind closed doors where cameras were never allowed at the time; and it is also able to shape the narrative into a more understandable format to make the events easier for the layperson to understand compared to the miasma of contemporary news reports and frenzied speculation. That said, a dramatisation does leave you wondering just how much or what we see and hear has been invented, however well-meaningly. You’re left wondering about some of the performances and some of the weird wardrobe and make-up decisions, such as why David Schwimmer is made up as a Word of Sport Dickie Davies lookalike, and why they cast such a bad actor in the role of OJ’s live-in friend Kato Kaelin. That’s because we’re far more critical of the authenticity of a drama in ways that we would never question live television news footage, which confirms that Bob Kardashian really did have a ‘skunk stripe’, and that Kato actually was that weird and the actor totally nailed the portrayal after all.
Even so, much as I liked The People vs OJ Simpson, after ten episodes of OJ drama I had absolutely no appetite to seek out another seven and a half hours of viewing on the subject, factual or otherwise. But then ESPN’s epic OJ: Made In America won the Best Documentary Academy Award in February, and I heard such good things about it that I felt an itch that needed to be scratched – maybe not least because having seen the dramatised version, I now wanted to see how reality measured up. Read the rest of this entry »
When BBC2 originally aired true crime mini-series The People vs OJ Simpson: American Crime Story earlier in the year, I was pretty disinterested. While not having been an avid devotee of the OJ story at the time, it was impossible not to be aware of it back in 1994 and 1995 because of the global saturation coverage. I knew the main facts, features and personalities of the case, and even two decades later was surprised to find just how much I remembered about it all. With a lot else on my plate at the time I decided that I simply had no interest in raking over old ground again.
As the series went on, I became aware of some interesting reviews and feedback going on. By the time the final episodes aired I was ruing having possibly been too hasty and not giving this a chance. And then quite by surprise I was given a second opportunity, as BBC2 decided on a quick rerun of the entire series and was stripping them through a late weeknight spot with several episodes a week. Clearly this was meant to be. Read the rest of this entry »