A few thoughts on tonight's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story episode coming up just as soon as I spell my last name for you…
Would the O.J. trial have become a circus if not for the white Bronco chase? Probably, if only because the Juice was enormously famous (and, back then, beloved). But it was that bizarre low-speed chase that pushed the story from the tabloids to front pages everywhere. It was such a big deal that NBC, which was airing an NBA Finals contest between the Knicks and Rockets, actually went to a split-screen between the game and the chase, and it was hard to blame them – fans actually in Madison Square Garden were reportedly crowding around anyone who had a portable TV so they could keep track of what was happening on the L.A. freeways.
The absurdity of that day (which, as Brett Morgen's excellent 30 for 30 documentary noted, also included the New York Rangers' championship parade and Arnold Palmer's final round ever at the U.S. Open) was captured well by People V. O.J. episode 2, “The Run of His Life,” particularly in its portrait of Robert Kardashian, who toggles back and forth several times between fool and hero over the course of the day.
On the one hand, he's the clown who reads O.J.'s letter – which could be taken as either a suicide note or a confession – at a live press conference (though Shapiro is as much to blame for that, as he was trying to cover for his initial screw-up in letting his client escape arrest), and who tells the Simpson family that O.J. killed himself when he has no evidence of this. On the other, he's the one who finally talks O.J. out of the Bronco and keeps the LAPD from shooting him. That latter detail may be an invention (Jeffrey Toobin's book says Kardashian was still in the house at the time O.J. returned, but doesn't mention him participating in the negotiations), but if so, it speaks to the show wrestling with its feelings about the man, who's adamant in his belief in O.J.'s innocence, and parent to a brood of kids for whom the series couldn't possibly have more contempt, but who's also loyal to a fault to his friend, and who understands that he's in way over his head playing any role on the defense team.
David Schwimmer is always going to bring some baggage to a non-Ross role. He's not a chameleon, and he's also elected to work much less often post-Friends than his former co-stars. So when he turns up in a different kind of project, it's easy to project all of Ross Geller's most annoying qualities onto this new character: It's Ross as a douchey actor! It's Ross as Easy Company's first captain! But I think he's doing a good job here, and that baggage works for a guy with a complicated legacy of his own. And while there was a lot of other things happening throughout this hour, Kardashian made a good focal point at some of the most important parts of this strange chapter in the story.
What did everybody else think?