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It’s hard to imagine a world without the Kardashians. For most of us their origin is traced to a certain sex tape. However the true beginning lies in the events of June 12, 1994 when the bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and friend Ron Goldman were found slain at her house in Brentwood, LA. At the scene of the crime, a single glove that would eventually acquit the prime suspect—O.J. Simpson: Nicole’s ex-husband, and a sporting hero whose prowess on the football field would be eclipsed by an infamous police chase, and the ensuing live televised court case that captivated an entire nation.
But back to that Kardashian connection via Robert Kardashian Snr, father of Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, and Rob Jr, and a longtime friend of O.J. Simpson. At the time of the murders he was a retired lawyer but quickly had his license reinstated to join his friend’s defense team. The O.J. Simpson trial was the original celebrity scandal, catapulting all involved to instant household names. It can be seen as the beginning of the reality television genre, with the Kardashians as a reigning dynasty.
FX has teamed up with executive producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck (American Horror Story (AHS), Nip/Tuck, Glee) for this new true-crime anthology series, though Murphy’s input is limited so hopefully this series won’t dissolve into chaos as AHS has been known to do. Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as the titular O.J. Simpson, with an energy that teeters on the edge of overacting but fits with his character’s extreme ego. A grey-streaked David Schwimmer takes on the role of Robert Kardashian—he declined to meet with the Kardashian family before filming—and does a good job despite it being hard to separate him from his iconic role as Ross Geller (Friends). However he seems like a virtual stranger next to a tight faced John Travolta as celebrity lawyer Robert Shapiro, whose stiff camp tone seems possibly more suited for Murphy’s Scream Queens. AHS alumni Sarah Paulson finds another strong female character in district attorney Marcia Clark, and shines in spite of an absolutely terrible wig. Early anti-police brutality advocate and high profile lawyer Johnnie Cochran is played by a powerful Courtney B. Vance. He guides viewers as the show examines the heated racial tension of a post Rodney King America, and the influence it poses for the trial and its eventual outcome. I am particularly excited for further scenes with an excellently cast Selma Blair as Kris Jenner, ex-wife of Robert Kardashian, close friend of Nicole Brown Simpson, and current reality television matriarch.
American Crime Story is only two episodes in but a high contender for my series of the year, quenching a thirst for true crime after the success of shows like The Jinx, Making a Murderer, and the podcast Serial. Though we know the outcome, American Crime Story promises a smart and detailed retelling for a new audience that wasn’t there for the white Bronco car chase, or the disastrous and frustrating court proceedings. The ensemble cast and writing is so strong that any small mistakes—or the big ones made by Travolta’s surgeon—can be forgiven to allow for a thoroughly entertaining and engrossing ride. And yes, a young Kim Kardashian appears. Maybe you’re sick of them on your television, but take a chance to explore the beginnings of modern day celebrity scandal, and the crime that absorbed mid-90s America in this so far beautifully done mini-series.