‘American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson’ Season Finale Review: “The Verdict” is in…

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On the season finale of “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson,” it was finally time for the jury to deliberate and “The Verdict” was in…but what would it be? Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock or hadn’t been born yet- or apparently have no access to a computer- you already know the answer to that question, but boy, was it a fun ride getting there.

Yes, I know. “Fun” might be a bit of a misnomer, but for me personally, it felt like I knew just enough to remember the gist of things back when it happened, but just little enough about the details to really enjoy it. I remember when it happened and where I was when the verdict was read- they literally shut down the school when it happened so that everyone could listen in- but man was there a lot I didn’t know, let me tell you.

Astonishingly enough, as the various outlets doing “fact checks” and filling in the blanks would attest, a whole lot of what was in the series was indeed true, with shockingly little invention or changes for dramatic value. The biggest change I’m aware of was in having Marcia Clark’s original co-chair keel over in court after the defense got a rise out of him, which actually DID happen, believe it or not, just not in court itself, but I certainly get why they did it that way.

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Another amusing, unforeseen consequence of the show was how some people followed it as if it were unfolding in real time and hadn’t already happened years ago. Granted, I get that for some of the younger audience, they were either too young to remember it or not born at all yet, but it was still jarring to read comments like “I wonder if they’ll find him guilty or not?” or “can’t wait to see the verdict” or what have you.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve no doubt that some of these people were totally trolling the internet to see who would bite, but I legitimately don’t think all of them were. I really think there were people out there who were treating this like a “normal” show, down to avoiding the internet until they were done with the latest episode to avoid “spoilers,” which says a lot about how we approach things these days, I suppose.

I mean, granted, it wouldn’t be the first film or TV show based on real events where people had done so- witness “The Jinx” and “Making a Murderer,” but still. (Hell, there’s even some podcasts like that, i.e. “Serial.”) I’ll allow that I avoided “spoilers” myself for “The Jinx,” but then, I binge-watched that in a matter of days, so I didn’t have long to wait, either.

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It was just sort of amusing seeing people wait with bated breath to see “what would happen next” on a show where most everything was already exhaustively explored in the media once before. True, being just a kid myself when it happened, there was plenty I didn’t know, but “The Verdict” was certainly one of them, to be sure.

Much was also made about the presence early on of the Kardashian clan, but thankfully, that part of it dropped out of the proceedings relatively quickly, to focus on the trial itself, as it should be. But I thought that, even if some of it was obviously for dramatic effect, it was completely warranted.

After all, as the show itself acknowledged in the closing credit sequence, this was truly the beginning of the so-called “24-hour news cycle,” as well as the roots of “Reality TV,” with “The Real World” kicking in right around 1992, but not really taking off until 1994, with the notorious “Puck” and the whole “Pedro” thing taking place that year. (Yes, I’m aware of 1973’s “An American Family,” though I’ve never seen it, but obviously, MTV’s version was its own thing and the “real” roots of modern “Reality TV.”)

Anyway, the whole Kardashian thing was blown out of proportion as it was, as they only figured into about three scenes, tops, my favorite being the one where Robert (David Schwimmer, the IRL personification of the “hangdog expression”) sat his kids down in a restaurant to inform them of the dangers of living life in the spotlight- advice they obviously ignored if it actually happened, lol.

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But that mild transgression aside, “American Crime Story” got a lot of things right, not in the least the media frenzy that erupted in wake of the murders and how it somehow managed to drift both into a socio-political movement that thankfully shined a light on some of the more corrupt and nasty practices going on in the LAPD at the time, but also how anything, even murder, can become a pop culture touchstone and an “overnight sensation.”

I’m not going to lie: I was more than a little taken aback by the stuff said on the infamous Fuhrman tapes. I knew he was a racist, but I had no idea how virulent some of the content within was, that’s for sure, having never actually heard or read about any of it at the time. I certainly wasn’t aware of that stuff about Judge Ito’s wife, either, which almost certainly should have caused him to be recused but somehow miraculously didn’t.

Granted, most of my insider knowledge of institutionalized racism came from gangster rap and movies like “Boyz n the Hood” and “Menace II Society” and what have you, not murder trials and the news, but even by today’s standards, it was still pretty shocking. The horrific nature of those tapes and the essential nature of racism as it was back then actually make the verdict make more sense now, even if it was basically beside the point.

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The defense team made it all about race, and at least something good came out of it, in that it shone a light on things, but there was nothing good about the fact that two people were murdered and no one had to pay the price for that. My hearts went out to the Goldman and Nicole’s family in particular, knowing that reliving this madness probably wasn’t doing them any favors, be that as it may that they were nothing if not sympathetically portrayed, if a bit slighted in the overall narrative.

But then, that was the thing, wasn’t it? There was so much going on with this “Trial of the Century” that even an extended mini-series wasn’t enough to do it complete justice, no pun intended. But Lord knows, there were certainly some memorable details along the way. I won’t soon forget the snide crack that grocer made to Marcia about her Tampax purchase- which really DID happen, BTW- or the sight of that one juror finally losing it and jumping across the table at the guard.

There was some undeniably great stuff here, with fantastic dialogue and performances near every step of the way. If this sucker doesn’t at least clean up on the Emmy and Golden Globes nominations, I would be taken aback, because I’ve rarely seen such a well-cast and executed effort on TV, period, in all the time I’ve been watching it. They legitimately nailed it on those fronts, definitely.

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MVP goes to, as ever, Ryan Murphy’s go-to gal, Sarah Paulson, who has long since been one of the more crucial aces in his deck of recurring players, often making some of the iffier seasons of “American Horror Story” at least watchable for her performances alone. Here, as Marcia Clark, Paulson finally got everyone’s attention, not just the “cult” set, and it was well-deserved. Her tour de force performance in the episode “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” in particular is one for the time capsule.

On the male side, I’ve got to hand it to Courtney B. Vance for absolutely killing it as Jonnie Cochran. It would have been so easy to turn it into a complete caricature- witness everything from “Seinfeld” to the daytime soap “Passions”-but damned if Vance didn’t find the beating heart and pathos behind the bluster.

There was an especially riveting scene in the finale in which he is confronted by opposing attorney Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown, a real find, and very nearly Vance’s match every step of the way). Darden says how he may have won, but it wasn’t really going to change anything, and there were still two dead people out there to account for, and you could really see the weight of that on Cochran’s shoulders.

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Then, he stepped through the doors into his team’s celebratory party, shook it off, and in no time shifted directly right back into self-congratulatory mode as the media reactions poured in. “You got the President,” said one of his aides, excitedly, as Cochran beamed with pride. Indeed, he did. Excellent work, Mr. Vance.

Indeed, most everyone had at least one chance to shine in this gifted ensemble, from John Travolta’s bordering-on-cartoonish but still effective turn as Robert Shapiro to Nathan Lane’s wryly tongue-in-cheek portrayal of F. Lee Bailey. The latter actor’s scene in which he presented before a Southern court was truly something to behold, and a Master’s class in how to sweet-talk someone in the most calculated manner imaginable.

Yes, I’ll allow that there was the fair share of “stunt” casting, with certain name actors- Connie Britton, Selma Blair, Jordana Brewster, Malcolm Jamal-Warner- drifting in and out of the proceedings as fast as they arrived, but even those glorified bit parts were well-cast.

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Of course, none of this would have worked without a solid foundation of a worthy script to stand on, and Murphy should thank his lucky stars he got one in the form of Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski’s work here, which showed proof positive (along with “The Normal Heart”) that Murphy fares better when he lets someone else do the heavy lifting, writing-wise.

Directing and creating-wise, Murphy is a genius, but his own scripting can be a bit scattershot, reminding one of sci-fi pioneer George Lucas in the sense that he can often be his own worst enemy. Not so here, though, with such rich work to draw from.

Yes, I’m aware that Alexander & Karaszewski had their fair share of help- of course they did, it’s nearly a ten-hour effort- but that doesn’t change the fact that those two have a knack for real-life-based drama, as also evidenced by “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” “Ed Wood,” “Man on the Moon” and “Big Eyes.” Here’s hoping they keep up the great work.

In terms of the next season, it’s tough to say what they should do next. After all, how do you follow up the “Trial of the Century”? I do think they should steadfastly avoid the Charles Manson trial for now, as the market is a bit oversaturated at the moment. While it absolutely does have the requisite moments that would make for a great season of a show of this type, it’s just been done to death at this point, and recently, at that.

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I think a better way to go would be sticking with the more recent: The Menéndez Brothers, the JonBenét Ramsey case, Jodi Arias, and the Amanda Knox cases would all be worthy successors, for instance. Yes, I’m pretty sure all have been turned into TV-movies already, but each could benefit with the more extended look that a show like this could provide and they’re nowhere near as exhausted from a creative standpoint as the Manson case.

They could also conceivably go the “true crime” route with the non-lethal tales of say, Amy Fisher or Tonya Harding, but both have been done more than a few times, so I worry that they are also too well-tread to offer any new insights. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, but whatever it is, I’m in on the strength of this winning team alone.

All in all, “American Crime Story” was one of the rare shows that actually lived up to hype and, in many ways, managed to surpass it. I’m not sure anyone quite expected it to be this good, even with the level of talent involved. It’s also the rare show of its type that I could easily see myself binge-watching again, even after reviewing and reading up on it in such an in-depth way over the last few months, which is saying something.

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Oftentimes, these “true crime” shows don’t lend themselves well to re-viewings, but I genuinely think this will be an exception to that rule. Indeed, I can’t wait to check it out again on Netflix or the like, so I can simply watch it and sit back and enjoy, without having to worry about anything else.

I can certainly see why the subject matter captivated a nation back in the day, and I might even have to do a little further digging my own self, via one of the many books written about the subject. While I do feel for the victims having to relive all of this, certainly, there’s no denying this was riveting television all the way, and I can’t recommend it enough.

What did you think of “American Crime Story”? Will you be watching next season, or will it depend on the subject matter? How do you think the show did in terms of casting? Who was your favorite performer? How about the writing? Was there anything they didn’t cover that you wish they had? What was your favorite moment? How about your least favorite? Sound off on this and more down below, and thanks for reading!