"What's the protocol?"
"Protocol? I don't know, Bill, what is the protocol for an armed celebrity fugitive being chased by twelve police cars and seven helicopters? Christ! I thought I was gonna run for Mayor!"
Episode 2: High theatrics
The People vs OJ Simpson: American Crime Story picks up right where we left off, with OJ in the backseat of AC's Bronco, and episode 2's great achievement is the skill with which it moves from one perspective to another as a nation watches dozens of white cops on the tail of one wanted black man.
A bar full of basketball fans holler their disapproval as the game is switched over to a live feed of the Bronco chase - but when they realise what they're seeing, the crowd falls silent. Nobody dares look away. Nobody touches their drink. They are witnessing a new piece of American history, and they know it.
DA prosecutor Christopher Darden bickers with his neighbours over the garden fence about whether OJ still belongs to the black community. "Once OJ made his money, he split and never came back. He became white!"
Darden's neighbour shuts him down with one brutal quip: "Well, he got the cops chasin' him. He's black now!" Crime Story has a beautifully twisted sense of humour.
Perhaps the most unbelievable aspect of watching a nation enthralled by Simpson's erratic antics, divided by the question of his guilt, is the knowledge that, even after the suicide note, after the Bronco, after all the theatrics and the soap opera, this guy got off.
How incompetent were the prosecution? We're damn sure to find out, and that's how this series can find tension in a story with a pre-determined ending. Will Marcia Clark still feel like the hero of the tale once the prosecution stumble?
A few observations...
I don't know if anybody watching the chase at the LAPD headquarters actually said the words "This is like the world's longest Ford Bronco commercial!", but I sure hope so.
We see OJ's obituary being edited before he's even dead, something which seems oddly ordinary in 2016 when everybody wants to get the clicks that come with breaking news, but probably felt pretty gruesome back in the day.
Also, David Schwimmer excels in this episode, making Robert Kardashian a sympathetic, hopeless figure who can't quite balance the love he has for his good friend with the evidence in front of him. But when will we see a stronger OJ? The confident face he presented to the public during the trial has yet to translate in Cuba Gooding's portrayal of a broken man.
The best line of the episode goes to Juice himself. "Can I speak to my Mama? Can I get some orange juice?!"
7 Things You Didn't Know About 'The People vs OJ' (And the Real-life Insanity Behind It)
1. Cuba Gooding Jr met the real OJ at an LA nightclub years ago. Since American Crime Story aired, OJ (who's still serving a sentence for armed robbery in Nevada) hasn't given a verdict on Cuba's croaky-voiced portrayal.
2. The real Robert Kardashian owned two Rolls-Royces. David Schwimmer wanted to know what made Robert Kardashian stick by OJ, and whether his beliefs changed, so he spent two hours on the phone with Kris Jenner.
"What was most interesting to me and the hook for the whole character was how much of a man of faith he was. He prayed at every meal. He was [also] an incredibly compassionate and generous guy. Now, that’s not to say he didn’t own two different Rolls-Royces at different times, a black one and a white one..."
3. John Travolta did his own eyebrows. Ryan Murphy decided to keep his input into Bob Shapiro's look to a minimum after Travolta got the nod of approval from celebrity mates like Tom Hanks and Oprah. Oprah knows best, y'all.
4. Originally, American Crime Story had a 'Nightcrawler' vibe. The writers initially planned to make the birth of the 24 hour news cycle and the rise of celebrity that came with it the primary focus of 'The People v. OJ'. As it went on and Murphy came on board, the focus switched more to racial tensions.
5. The storyline for season 2 is already sorted. Murphy and his writers will follow a group of "six to eight people" in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which he believes "was a f*cking crime - a crime against a lot of people who didn't have a strong voice", according to The Hollywood Reporter.
6. OJ never actually visited Nicole's grave. At the beginning of episode 2, Simpson and AC Cowlings pull up by Nicole's grave in the Bronco. In reality, though, the cemetery was already buzzing with reporters, so AC turned the car around and they hit the highway.
7. 95 million Americans watched OJ being chased by the cops in the Bronco. Amazingly, that day also holds the record for the most-ever Domino's pizza deliveries, because the best soap opera demands junk food.