It occurred 21 years ago, yet the trial of former football star O.J. Simpson, who was accused of killing his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman, suddenly feels very much of the moment. First came a well-received miniseries and now an ambitious documentary seems poised to generate yet more interest.
Cable network FX’s 10-part miniseries “The People v. O.J. Simpson” became one of the most popular and well-reviewed dramas on TV earlier this year. It boasted a cast that included Cuba Gooding Jr., Sarah Paulson, John Travolta, and David Schwimmer.
Next up: a 7.5-hour, five-part ESPN documentary, “O.J.: Made in America,” which is debuting on ABC on June 11 and will then air June 14-18 on ESPN.
The documentary, which has also earned some early positive reviews, goes beyond the trial itself and delves into Simpson’s life before and after the event.
Caroline Waterlow, producer of the ESPN documentary, said of the detailed treatment, “We knew we wanted a lot of the racial context in terms of the history of L.A. We knew we wanted to tell a whole generation of people who don’t even know who O.J. Simpson is why he was such a pop culture icon and why he meant so much to people as an athlete or as a pioneering black spokesperson for corporate America.”
David Bushman, television curator at The Paley Center for Media, says that he believes issues of celebrity, race, and police ethics resonate as much, or more, as they did in the mid-1990s.
“With all of the stuff going on with police departments and race-based accusations in Ferguson [Mo.,] and so many other places, [the Simpson trial] is of huge relevance,” Mr. Bushman says.
In addition, “this country has become more and more infatuated with celebrity crime,” he says. “O.J.’s a big part of that.”