TV

Yes, O.J. Simpson Really Made A 1994 NBC Pilot Titled ‘Frogmen’ That Was Locked Away Forever

The seventh episode of The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story focused mainly on the infamous bloody glove moment at the trial, where Christopher Darden directed Simpson to try it on only to have the plan backfire when the glove appeared too tight. It was an important moment in the trial, and therefore an important moment in the series, but it was completely overshadowed — for me, at least — by a brief discussion Marcia Clark had with Christopher Darden’s friends about O.J. Simpson’s starring role in a scrapped 1994 NBC pilot titled Frogmen.

Yes, Frogmen was a real thing. It was described at the time as a kind of A-Team-esque series about beach bum former Navy SEALs. If you read that sentence and thought, “Well that sounds like an incredible television show,” there’s a good reason for that: It sounds like an incredible television show. From a 2000 Los Angeles Times article about the pilot:

The premise centers on a team of Navy SEALs who, as described in the pilot, “take on special assignments for the government and private sector.”

Simpson plays their leader, John “Bullfrog” Burke, who goes to Costa Rica with four fellow ex-SEALs seeking to rescue a former friend who married Burke’s ex-wife. Burke’s crack team includes a ladies’ man, a master of disguise and a skilled con man. Burke, meanwhile, fronts his operation out of a dive shop in Malibu. The final shot features the group having returned triumphant from their mission–grabbing surfboards and plunging into the surf.

It’s like The A-Team meets Point Break. Starring O.J. Simpson. As a man named Bullfrog. That would be like if someone made a show today about… actually, I don’t have an analogy here. This show was a snowflake. It never made it to air, though, because Simpson was arrested and charged with double murder while Warner Bros. — the studio that was producing the two-hour project — was putting the finishing touches on it. But it almost made its way into the trial anyway due to one scene, in particular.

The show was discussed, but never introduced as evidence, during Simpson’s criminal trial for the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman. In a chilling echo of those killings, a scene in the two-hour movie meant to launch the action-drama series features Simpson’s character grabbing what he believes to be an intruder (the young woman turns out to be his daughter) and momentarily holding a knife to her throat.

As for the current state of Frogmen, don’t expect to see it pop up on cable any time soon. All that exists of the project is a 25-minute sales presentation video, which Warner Bros. has locked away in the deepest, darkest part of its vault. (The writer of the Los Angeles Times story, Brian Lowry, was allowed to view the video by a source close to the project.) And they appear to have no intention of releasing it. If they didn’t cash in on the surefire ratings bonanza at the time of the trial, one assumes they’re perfectly happy to let it keep collecting dust.

There is one more interesting fact about Frogmen, though. In addition to Simpson, the pilot also starred an actor named Evan Handler as “a reluctant member of the team.” Handler went on to appear on shows like Californication and Sex and the City, and you can catch him on television right now as… Simpson lawyer Alan Dershowitz on The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.

Ryan Murphy, you sly dog.

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