If you've not been watching the first season of American Crime Story, Ryan Murphy's big new show that sounds a lot like American Crime but isn't, you're missing one of the best pieces of television you're likely to see all year. It's smart, it's funny, it's impeccably well made and, like everything Murphy touches, it has a healthy dose of camp.
If you have been watching, you'll know that The People vs OJ Simpson is not especially interested in trying to figure out whether or not OJ did it. That's a question that's been asked way too many times before. Everyone has an opinion on that, and almost everyone involved in the real trial broadcast that opinion in a moneymaking book. OJ's guilt, or innocence, made a lot of people rich.
But if the show itself doesn't present an opinion for or against, its characters certainly aren't shy to do so, and in the preview for episode 4, which airs Tuesday night on FX, Bob Shapiro (scene-stealer John Travolta) shocks a room full of expensive defense attorneys with one simple, seemingly taboo question...
Watch the shock register on Johnnie Cochran's face and the sharp turn of Robert Kardashian's head as Shapiro addresses the elephant in the room: "Who thinks OJ did it?" This show is almost genius in the way it dances around the question of OJ's guilt without actually committing to a viewpoint (even if the evidence does overwhelmingly favour the prosecution).
Still, the clue's in the title: this series is about the court case, the prosecution's inability to counter the emotional argument that OJ's race factored into his arrest, and the effect that the media storm had on the lives of those involved.
Guilt is almost irrelevant.
When the Kardashian dilemma is not really a dilemma at all
One of the more controversial aspects of The People - although frankly, everything about it is controversial, right down to John Travolta's strong eyebrow game - is its habit of giving us a window into the personal lives of the Kardashians.
Yes, they're relevant to the story. No, Robert probably didn't attempt to school his kids on the importance of keeping a "virtuous heart" in the face of fame. Yes, we need to see more of Kris for no reason beyond the fact that Selma Blair bears a striking resemblance to the Kardashian matriarch.
The show may have a minor Kardashian obsession, but considering we live in a world with a major Kardashian obsession (like it or not), and the subject of the series is so meta in itself, why should the occasional scene of the kids interacting with Robert or Kris present a problem?
If you only want the cold, hard facts and a few clips of the trial, wikipedia and Youtube are your friends. The People vs OJ Simpson is not a documentary. It stacks fictional theatrics on social commentary, on real-life theatrics, and it works. Such is the genius of Ryan Murphy.
Episode 4 of American Crime Story airs this Tuesday on FX.