This week, audiences watched as FX launched the first episode of its new television series American Crime Story, this initial season concentrating on professional football player O.J. “Juice” Simpson’s infamous murder case and trial back in 1994.
Adapted from author Jeffrey Toobin’s biographical book The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson, the show is chock full of veteran actors, and its debut episode did not disappoint as it included vintage American riot footage, pubescent Kardashians and the most awkward suicide “attempt” ever filmed. Grab a snack, because this is going to take a while.
So, the show opens with an elaborate video montage of actual footage from riots that took place after three Los Angeles Police Department officers caught beating black taxi cab driver Rodney King on tape were acquitted of their charges in 1992. In a public cry of outrage, thousands of L.A. residents begin looting stores, smashing windows, throwing trash cans and starting fires while the California National Guard beats and drags protesters to their arrest. Yes honey, this is going to be goooooooooood.
Fast forward to 1994, a limp-faced O.J., played by Cuba Gooding Jr., leaves his home in the night, carrying some bulky luggage to his limo driver. Now, I am not going to lie, this casting choice is straight up baffling to me. There is nothing, I repeat, NOTHING menacing, hunky, debonair or sex god-like about Cuba Gooding Jr. in the slightest. O.J. however, was e). All of the above.
Later, a man walking his dog runs into another hound on the street, this one moving with blood-soaked paws. He finds Nicole Brown Simpson’s body along with her friend Ron Goldman’s on O.J.’s property. Cops walk inside the house and find Nicole and O.J.’s kids in peaceful slumber, blood found on O.J.’s car (what an idiot), shoe prints and a bloody glove on the property. It is official: THIS is a crime scene and O.J. is a suspect.
Law enforcement calls O.J. to tell him that his wife has been killed, and let me tell you, his reaction was the emotional equivalent of wearing month-old gym clothes with Axe body spray and hoping no one notices. Strike one Mr. Juice. Afterwards, he hangs up the phone and begins to softly weep in his hotel room (out of shock or guilt, we of course “do not know”). However, the police notice that during the phone call, Simpson never asked how Nicole died. Dun. Dun. DUN!
Meanwhile, prosecutor Marcia Clark, played by Sarah Paulson, hears about the case despite being unfamiliar with Simpson’s celebrity status. When she comes to the office, many of the lawyers consider O.J. a nice guy who is incapable of murder. But one recalls a time not too long ago when O.J. was arrested for allegedly beating his wife. The case was settled and he ended up doing a small amount of community service. Later we find out EIGHT calls were made to police before anyone showed up for Nicole and pictures revealed he had pretty much beaten her black and blue. Strike two, boo boo.
A media storm assembles outside O.J.’s house. In the middle of the ruckus is Robert Kardashian Sr., a lawyer friend of Simpson played by none other than David Schwimmer. Question: why is Ross from Friends sporting a skunk-like mullet?
Anyways, he finds his way to his possible murderer BFF and they embrace. Later in the backyard, police handcuff O.J., which they have no right to do. O.J.’s lawyer appears and tells them to take off the cuffs, but not before a lurking cameraman catches the whole thing on tape and finds out O.J. is a suspect. O.J. agrees to go in for questioning as the camera zooms in on his mysteriously bandaged middle finger.
Cut to Mr. Johnnie Cochran, a famous lawyer and CNN correspondent played by Courtney Vance. After picking out a suit to wear to meet newest client Michael Jackson (ROTFL), he enters his office, where he has a heated discussion with one of his coworkers. Basically his subordinate was too incompetent to find a way to prosecute a police officer who shot a single black mother 12 times in the back, ultimately killing her. Attorney Cochran immediately transforms into REVEREND Cochran, tells him to man up for his people, “pick a side” and handle all these police brutality cases.
Marcia gets hold of O.J.’s tape from questioning and finds that law enforcement was too star struck to notice that the esteemed baller dodged every single question they asked him, including what time he left his house and how he hurt his middle finger. Marcia. Is. Pissed.
With Rob by his side, a hot-headed O.J. watches as his handcuffing goes viral on television inside the comfort of his home. Shapiro is inside, as well as O.J.’s shaggy-haired neighbor. O.J. asks him if he told police that the two of them were out getting burgers the night of Nicole’s murder like he was supposed to. He says he did but in actuality, these surfer dudes ain’t loyal. He directed police to the side of O.J.’s house when the cops knocked on his door, confessing that he heard suspicious sounds from there that night.
Rob lets O.J. know that his lawyer sucks, so he finds a new one: Robert Shapiro played by a tight-faced John Travolta. Shapiro quickly asks Rob to hop on the case with him and he agrees, noting that O.J. stood by him during his tough breakup with his ex-wife Kris (Again, ROTFL). Before anything else, Shapiro formally asks O.J. if he really did not kill his wife. He replies, “No…I loved her.”
Later on, Cochran tunes into a radio show in which one personality is furious at the way LAPD has treated O.J., inferring that he was wrongfully handcuffed because he is a black man. He then goes on to explain that serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer literally admitted to eating people, but was still never treated that way. Confiding in a production assistant, Cochran says he would never take the O.J. case because he “likes to win” and predicts Shapiro will eventually advise O.J. to take a plea deal.
Marcia cracks down on the case and accumulates enough evidence to call for O.J.’s arrest. Meanwhile, Shapiro has O.J. take a lie detector test Maury Povich style and the conductor asks if he is the murderer. He completely and without a doubt fails the test. Dude, STRIKE THREE!!! Flabbergasted, Rob begins to wonder: Is my main hang, my roll dog, my home skillet biscuit, a total killer?
At the funeral, a teary-eyed Kris Kardashian settles down tween-aged Khloe and Kourtney, who apparently see nothing wrong with playing around a burial for goodness’ sake. Kris and another friend of Nicole’s think O.J. did it and remember how scared Nicole was of her husband. O.J. pops a prescription pill before entering the service, which he has been doing all episode. He creepily walks down the aisle to Nicole’s open casket and disturbingly kisses the forehead of her corpse before cocking his head to the side and staring at her for what feels like forever. If strike fours were possible, this is what they would look like.
Law enforcement sends out a warrant for O.J.’s arrest without bail. O.J. has been sleeping over at Rob’s house (in Kim Kardashian’s room I might add) and wakes up to an anxious Rob telling him that he has to turn himself into the police. Also, some random hot chick is sleeping next to shirtless O.J. Let that soak in for a minute.
Our suspect has a complete meltdown and refuses to go to jail, but agrees to have his body examined. Shapiro also brings in a psychiatrist, just in case things get bad, and he needs O.J. to plead insanity.
Later, Rob finds Cuba writing a will and three letters to his fans, his kids and his mother. He pulls out a gun, holds it to his head and utters to his friend, “It’s just better for everybody.” The two then partake in a teary-eyed stare down as Kardashian begs him not to do it, constantly referring to this grown man as “Juice” during what is supposed to be a “profound” moment.
Gun still to his head, O.J. runs out of the room. Rob tells him to stay alive for the sake of his kids, then exits to deal with the cops at his door. Meanwhile, the prosecutor is freaking out. O.J. was supposed to turn himself in by 11a.m. and police have scheduled a press conference at noon.
When police come in to detain O.J. he is missing, so everyone searches the house. O.J.’s little mistress tells a dumb-founded Kardashian that O.J. creeped through the back in his Ford bronco. The screen cuts to a shot of O.J. speedily crossing lanes and dodging vehicles as he hastily makes his way down the highway.
Phew! Drama, drama, drama. Though they went a little heavy on the Kim K references, the season premiere turned out to be a thoughtful look into not just the case, but also ‘90s racial tensions and the complex nature of either prosecuting or defending a black celebrity. In case you missed it, check out the trailer below: