'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.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to 'The People v. OJ Simpson': Why critics love this TV miniseries
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today