I’m not watching that O.J. Simpson miniseries, not a single episode much less ten. They’re crazy offering more of something people saw too much of a generation ago. Why do they think there’s any interest? There isn’t, not on my part. I must’ve reflexively put The People v. O.J. Simpson in my Netflix queue because Simpson had been my favorite player, a swift and exhilarating running back, and his USC Trojans my cherished team in college football. I’ll surely delete the entry before watching it.
Later this Friday night, bored with my Kindle after a day of writing and reading at the computer, I think, hell, I’ve watched a lot of foreign films lately, I need something from my cultural experience, but only one episode, forty or fifty minutes . Then I’ll move on. I don’t know exactly when I start watching – my timeline may be as imprecise as those presented during the trial – but let’s say about ten-thirty. When I press the remote play button I release into my system medications as powerful as those administered before an invasive medical procedure.
All the characters entertain me, whether or not I agree with the way they’re portrayed. I’d thought Robert Shapiro, originally the lead attorney of Simpson’s dream team, was a smooth and competent legal mover albeit not a courtroom gunslinger. Instead, I learn, at least from John Travolta’s portrayal, that Brentwood Bob is pompous, vain, legally light, and deluded that he’s a boxer. Even if Travolta isn’t quite accurate as Shapiro, he creates an intriguing character, and this is Hollywood not journalism central.
Marcia Clark, Sharpio’s courtroom adversary, is played by Sarah Paulson who convinces me I must’ve wanted to ravish Clark during the trial, though I don’t recall such feelings. Paulson seamlessly captures Clark’s anguish as millions around the nation call her a bitch who’s got the hair of Medusa. Paulson responds with three stylistic changes, at the urging of her boss, attorney general Gil Garcetti, portrayed by Bruce Greenwood whose appearance verily shouts: here comes former governor Pete Wilson, rather than hi, I’m Gil. Trust me. From a few feet away I once saw Garcetti studying French Impressionism at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. A polite lad, I did not interrupt.
I don’t know what episode I’m on. It doesn’t matter. Like an addict out of dope, I keep pressing for another episode. The clock’s marching into early Saturday morning. Who cares? There’s Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden, the black face of the prosecution brought in to counter inner-city hero Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran. Brown is real and tormented as Darden was when Cochran’s flamboyance and courtroom instincts overwhelmed him. These two despise each other, but Darden bonds with Clark in a way that surely drifts into the romantic.
And what of O.J., the man whose handsomeness and charisma, even more than his athleticism, mesmerized a nation eager to convict or acquit him for the murder of his former wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman? Cuba Gooding is okay as O.J. but his rather high voice collides with memories of the Juice’s deep baritone effusions, and Gooding’s stature is that of a soccer player rather than gridiron stalwart. Still, Gooding evokes the maniacal suspect who shoves a pistol to his temple and inside his mouth as lifelong friend Al Cowlings, represented by Malcolm-Jamal Warner, long ago Bill Cosby’s TV son Theo Huxtable, drives the white Bronco on the ultimate L.A. freeway adventure. Gooding’s O.J. isn’t merely addled and suicidal, he’s guilty.
Amazing, I’ve watched seven episodes and it’s four-thirty in the winter morning. I don’t care. Let’s watch some more. I pray Kenneth Choi never enters a darkened bedroom to crawl in next to Judge Lance Ito’s wife or she may receive him. She might even do so in daylight. Choi also sounds like Ito, who’s generally portrayed as a stable and authoritative courtroom manager.
Nathan Lane well plays F. Lee Bailey but the actor looks too much the clean liver to fully evoke the alcohol-sodden and once-renowned Bailey, defender of The Boston Strangler and Patty Hearst. Bailey’s brief return to stardom occurs during his cross examination of Mark Fuhrmann, depicted by Steve Pasquale, who’s probably following directorial orders to portray the n-bombing detective as the incarnation of evil. Those who read Fuhrmann’s book about this case may judge him less severely.
There are many more other people. Anguished Fred Goldman, mirrored by near twin (in makeup) Joseph Siravo, still suffers in the background despite his being telegenic. Rob Morrow’s Barry Scheck distorts science to confuse the jury and free the murderer. And Evan Handler, as eternally overpublicized Alan Dershowitz, enjoys pontificating why the only man who could’ve done it didn’t do it.
The final character I’ll mention is Robert Kardashian, Simpson’s close friend and a dapper little fellow portrayed by much larger David Schwimmer, who’s given unexpected screen time to brood about Simpson’s blood at the Bundy Drive murder scene, and the victims’ blood in the white Bronco and outside and inside the star’s Rockingham Avenue estate. Kardashian knows who murdered two people but can’t stop himself from helping the defense.
That’s all, I’m going to bed. It’s getting light and I can’t recall the last time I’ve stayed up all night. I sleep or try to four hours – I generally need eight – and bound out of bed to fire up the internet. Didn’t that documentary, O.J.: Made in America, get nominated for an Academy Award? It certainly did. But I can’t stream it on Netflix. All right, what about YouTube? It’s here, but partially blocked. I’ll have to track it down later.
Notes – Now I’m examining nude photos of Marcia Clark, from the late seventies, mentioned in the movie. She’s hot, and the district attorney’s office, instead of worrying about the exposure, should’ve highlighted this side of the stern prosecutor.
And what’s she doing these days? After receiving more than four million dollars for Without A Doubt, her book about the Simpson trial, she moved to Calabasas where large homes feature high ceilings and wide windows overlooking canyons and hills, and where Clark arises five mornings a week, though not five days consecutively, to write crime novels for seven-figure totals. After Simpson’s acquittal she never returned to the courtroom or her office.
Chris Darden also quit his job and wrote a book. He taught at Southwestern University School of Law, alma mater of Marcia Clark, before opening his own law practice.
Robert Kardashian died of cancer eight years after the acquittal, shortly before his daughters Kim and company became reality TV curiosities. Some critics suggest that Robert’s role may have been expanded to appeal to his daughters’ young fans. He earns screen time because of his empathy for the victims.
In a filmed interview Cuba Gooding states he doesn’t know if O.J. did it. Now that’s acting, Cuba.