'O.J.: Made in America' named among year's best, despite unusual release

As critics look back at the best work released in 2016, 'Made' is turning up frequently on best-of lists. The documentary aired on TV for multiple nights and was also briefly screened in movie theaters.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
Director Ezra Edelman accepts the best documentary award for 'O.J.: Made in America' at the Gotham Independent Film Awards on Nov. 28, 2016, in New York.

The documentary “O.J.: Made in America,” which embraced an unusual release schedule when it aired on TV over multiple evenings and was screened briefly in theaters, recently received acclaim from the American Film Institute, adding to its acclaim on various critics’ lists for the best productions of 2016.

“Made” is directed by Ezra Edelman, and debuted on ABC on June 11, then aired on ESPN from June 14 to June 18. The documentary, which is more than seven hours long, also was released in some theaters. 

The American Film Institute recently gave the film a special award when announcing the best projects released in 2016. “Made” got a special award from the AFI when it selected the 10 best movies and 10 best TV shows that came out within the past year. 

Meanwhile, the documentary was selected as the best TV show to air in 2016 by Entertainment Weekly, with EW writer Jeff Jensen writing, “The American tragedy that is the life of O.J. Simpson contains a multitude of themes that sum up the story of us, right here, right now.” 

Washington Post writer Hank Stuever also named “Made” as the best TV to air in 2016, calling it “a powerfully persuasive essay on the subject of justice in America as it pertains to race … Edelman’s masterful handling of fact and context was the best thing on TV this year, notable for its deliberate, almost haunting sense of calm in a culture consumed by injustice.” 

The unusual format in which “Made” was presented demonstrates how it can sometimes be more difficult to define whether a property is a TV show or a movie today. The Los Angeles Times, for example, decided to have both its TV critic, Mary McNamara, and film reviewer, Kenneth Turan, review "Made."

"As digital delivery platforms morph and multiply, the nature of visual storytelling has changed and the lines that once clearly divided film from television or, for that matter, broadcast television from cable, cable from streaming, streaming from Internet, are fading, often to nonexistence," Ms. McNamara wrote at the time.

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