This week’s episode of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story featured the defense poking important holes in the prosecution’s evidence, and our first look at Mark Fuhrman on the stand, and Nathan Lane saying the n-word kind of a lot, but none of that is where we need to start. We need to start with Marcia Clark.
1) For all the bits of campiness so far (everything with the Kardashian kids, most of what Travolta is doing, etc.), the series has been defined by some really strong performances. Last week, it was Courtney B. Vance and Sterling K. Brown as Johnnie Cochran and Christopher Darden, respectively, driving home the racial aspects of the case. This week, it was Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, just putting on a clinic in an episode titled, appropriately enough, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.” Marcia Clark — “Marcia Clark” — became a caricature during the trial, and it’s an image that remains so burned into people’s minds today that Tina Fey can pop up as an incompetent, tight-curled prosecutor on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and I was immediately like, “Hey, it’s Marcia Clark.” Paulson took that image and added shading and nuance and backstory to the character (and by definition, the real person), and by the end of the episode when she was crying in her office, my entire heart was breaking for her. It could not have been fun to be Marcia Clark in 1995.
It’s way too early in the television year to make outlandish claims like “Sarah Paulson should win an Emmy,” because who knows what’s going to happen between today and nomination time. But let’s at least say this: Goooooood luck to every other actress on television. Work’s really cut out for you.
2) The episode showed what Clark was dealing with through a mix of public and private moments, from radio shock jocks holding “Bitch or Babe?” polls and style experts calling her “frump personified,” to the nasty divorce she was going through during the trial. Even her boss was suggesting a “media consultant,” which was a nice-ish way of saying “people don’t like you.” But even with all that going on, the hair thing still hit the hardest. Oh God. We’ve all been there at least once, where you’re feeling really, really good about something…
… only to be immediately deflated.
There’s no way producers of the show knew it when they were lining up the schedule for the series, but the fact that it aired on International Women’s Day was kind of perfect. We should have been way nicer to Marcia Clark.
3) It wasn’t just the tabloids that went nuts with coverage this week, either. This is the point in the trial where even the big networks started going full O.J., preempting their entire daytime lineups to run a live feed of the trial. I don’t think I can possibly stress strongly enough to you how nuts that is. Have you ever watched a real trial? It is maybe the most boring thing possible. People typically do not thunder away at witnesses like Jack McCoy. There are rarely any dramatic last-minute reveals. It is monotonous, methodical stuff. So, the fact that networks — all of them — would shut down coverage to run a live feed is a better testament to the public’s obsession with this trial than any splashy tabloid story.
4) Up and down week for Johnnie Cochran, or Mr. Johnnie, if you will. He and Travolta — I know he’s playing Robert Shapiro, but I just can’t get past the sheer Travoltaness of it all — crushed Frank Sobotka from The Wire over the handling of the evidence, with Cochran hammering home the tenuous, but powerful ties to the Rodney King case. (“Six Hours in Simi Valley” sounds like a true title of a Clint Eastwood western.) But he also got killed by the Rosa Lopez testimony, and by Marcia over the childcare crack, and the press is looking into his own history of domestic abuse, which he is attempting to cover up by basically paying off his ex-wife. I have a feeling things will work out for him, though. Call it a hunch.
5) The last two episodes of the series have been great. Probably the two best so far, if we’re looking for quality and depth and an ability to provoke thought and emotion. But the lack of Travolta and Schwimmer on my screen is deeply troubling. I miss those two.
6) Be honest: You never expected to hear Nathan Lane say the n-word. Like in a million years. I bet, prior to this series, if you had sat down and made a list of every person you could think of and the odds you would hear them say the n-word, you wouldn’t have even thought to write his name down. Your list could have been thousands and thousands of names long and it never would have crossed your mind for a second to include the Broadway legend and voice of Timon from The Lion King.
And yet there we all were, first watching the scene in the bar and then later in the courtroom, listening to Lane as F. Lee Bailey toss it around willy-nilly as he went all-in on Mark Fuhrman. He said it six times. Six times. That’s a Schwimmer-calling-O.J.-Juice level of frequency. It was… it was a little weird, right? I mean, Nathan Lane!
8) If you want more background on the Bailey-Fuhrman showdown and didn’t believe me earlier when I told you real trials are hundreds of percent more boring than the sexy TV versions, you can watch pretty much the entire thing on YouTube.
9) Look, I’m sorry. I apologize. There’s nothing I can do here. After dozens and dozens of viewings of the Fast and Furious movies on cable, when I see Jordana Brewster, I see Mia Toretto, sister of Dominic Toretto, played by Vin Diesel. So, when she was giving emotional testimony on the stand as the sister of Nicole Brown, I kept half-expecting the camera to cut to a tight shot of Vin Diesel sitting in the courtroom, scowling at the defense table and mumbling something to Ludacris about revenge and family. I’m extremely normal.
10) What a prince this guy is, right?