'The People v. OJ Simpson': Why critics love this TV miniseries

'Simpson' stars actors including Cuba Gooding, Jr., John Travolta, and Sarah Paulson. Reviewers have almost universally been won over by the show, saying that the series thoughtfully examines issues of race and the law.

Ray Mickshaw/FX/AP
'The People v. O.J. Simpson' stars Sterling K. Brown (r.) and Sarah Paulson (l.).

The FX miniseries “The People v. OJ Simpson,” which is a fictionalized retelling of the 1995 Simpson trial, continues – and critics say the issues of race, law, and others raised by the miniseries are as relevant as ever. 

“Simpson” is airing as part of the FX anthology program “American Crime Story,” which debuted earlier this month with the story of Simpson’s trial. 

The miniseries stars, among others, Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Mr. Simpson; Courtney B. Vance of “Terminator Genisys” as Johnnie Cochran; David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian; Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark; “The Wolf of Wall Street” actor Kenneth Choi as Lance Ito, the judge in the case; “Army Wives” actor Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden; and John Travolta as Robert Shapiro. 

Ryan Murphy of "American Horror Story" is an executive producer.

“Simpson” is scheduled to run for 10 episodes and the miniseries is almost halfway through that. Viewers are certainly responding to the subject matter – the premiere of the show was the most-watched first episode in FX’s history. Ratings have continued to be positive.

Before making the series, Mr. Travolta, for one, said he was concerned the story would be told in a lurid manner.

“I was worried about the subject matter,” the actor said in an interview with the New York Times. “I was worried it would be sensationalized.”

But the miniseries has gotten incredibly positive reviews for its retelling of the events surrounding Simpson’s trial. What won over critics?

Washington Post writer Hank Stuever wrote of the TV show, “By the time of O.J. Simpson’s acquittal 16 months later (oops, spoiler alert), American culture had unwittingly but necessarily entered a new kind of conversation about race, justice and the media – a conversation that remains an important precursor to the #BlackLivesMatter era… ‘American Crime Story’ makes an effective, convincing case that now is a perfect time to turn the story into a piece of topical art.”

Boston Globe writer Matthew Gilbert agreed that the series provides compelling reasons for the story being presented again.

“[The show is] a successful attempt both to vividly re-create the original case and to intelligently reframe it from a more knowing 2016 perspective,” he wrote. 

USA Today writer Robert Bianco felt the same.

“The risk for FX’s ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’ is that it could seem inaccurate or old hat to those who know the story, dull or impenetrable to those who don’t, and cheap and exploitative to all,” Mr. Bianco wrote. “Yet against all odds, this tightly written, sometimes stunningly performed 10-part drama avoids all those pitfalls, capturing the tenor of the time and breathing life into the participants.”

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