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YMMV / The People v. O.J. Simpson

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  • Alas, Poor Villain: While anyone who felt before watching the series that O.J Simpson was responsible for the murders probably won't have their feelings changed by the end of the series, it's often hard at first not to pity him while his life falls apart around him, especially when he is almost Driven to Suicide. In the finale, he also expects to throw a massive party to celebrate his acquittal, but ends up alone after his old friends and neighbors reject him. Of course, if one does believe he's guilty, then it's at least a form of karmic justice.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Is Marcia Clark the Only Sane Woman outmaneuvered by the dirty fight of an amoral defense team and the world's obsession with celebrity, or a person way over her head who compromises the prosecution's case because of her ego and poor decisions?
    • Is Robert Shapiro a two-faced Attention Whore who tries to play all angles in order to keep up appearances and lashes out at his team because he's frustrated at the spotlight being taken off of him, or is he the Only Sane Man who recognizes the damage they are doing to racial relations and tries to reign in his more amoral colleagues?
    • Is Johnnie Cochran an idealist convinced of O.J.'s innocence and trying to challenge the LAPD's racism and corruption, or is he a Knight Templar who stretches the truth and manipulates his associates as much as possible to make people think that Everything Is Racist, while being just as dirty and attention-seeking as everyone else involved?
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    • Is Christopher Darden a good lawyer who was simply overwhelmed by the machinations of the Dream Team, or was he a resentful member of the DA's office who figured he was the token black guy in their minds and made it his goal to prove he was someone individually worthwhile...whose wounded pride ended up sinking the case?
    • When Johnny Cochran and Lee Bailey go to South Carolina to obtain the tapes and transcripts demonstrating the racism of Mark Fuhrman, they initially argue to get the tapes before a single judge. Cochran asks to approach the bench, and is flatly rejected. The judge eventually tells Cochran that his courtroom has no cameras, that he does not approve of Cochran's theatrical means of presenting himself, and denies him and Bailey the tapes. The ambiguity comes in asking whether the judge was just rejecting Cochran on the grounds of racism, or if he was genuinely just a no-nonsense judge. The latter view is weakened by Bailey then appealing to a panel of judges in apellate court for the tapes, starting, himself, with a bombastic, if soft-spoken, introduction about being in one of the original 13 colonies, praising the history and idealism of the region, but the first judge is not on this panel, which, incidentally, is not all-white. It is not implausible that the first judge would also have denied Bailey the tapes. Even if the judge was just racist, at this stage in the series, some viewers might view him as an unintentional case of Jerkass Has a Point, given Cochran's Knight Templar tendencies. Certainly, that judge is one of the few characters who unambiguously stymies and defeats Cochran, which can be satisfying to see, even if it is only a temporary setback.
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    • And of course, did OJ kill Nicole and Ron?
  • Award Snub: Courtney B. Vance, considered by many an absolute lock for his role as Cochran, lost the Golden Globe to Tom Hiddleston in The Night Manager. He won the Emmy, though and the series itself did win the Golden Globe for Best Miniseries.
  • Base-Breaking Character: The Kardashian kids. Are they necessary? Is their mere presence a form of pandering to their adult selves, even if they aren't portrayed in a very flattering light?
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Even people who don't like the show will praise Courtney B. Vance's performance as Johnnie Cochran.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Marcia's mockery of the notion that people would believe Cochran's conspiracy theory about a "B-Grade Brentwood eatery" being a front for criminal activities gets a lot less funny in the wake of Pizzagate.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: A very bizarre and meta-case of this happens in the Japanese dub. O.J Simpson is voiced by Keiji Fujiwara, which dubbed Simpson in the Japanese dubs of some of the films he worked previously. In this case, he is voicing Simpson as a person, not the actor who played all those characters Fujiwara voiced before.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Despite how utterly ruthless Cochran can be as an attorney and a Manipulative Bastard, Courtney Vance refuses to turn his character into a caricature and gives such an excellent performance, you can't help but sympathize with him at times such as when he's pulled over just for being black. He becomes so impassioned about the Fuhrman tapes laying bare the institutional racism of the LAPD that was officially denied for years (and continues to be), some viewers could almost root for him.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Johnnie Cochran is a criminal defense attorney who considers himself a black advocate. Seeing the impending O.J. Simpson trial as a perfect opportunity to push his political agenda, Cochran manages to become lead council of the Dream Team by outmaneuvering his predecessor Robert Shapiro. Cochran further outwits the prosecutors repeatedly with clever schemes that damages their own case, confuses the jurors with a prolongued Chewbacca Defense, redecorates O.J.'s mansion before a guided tour to make O.J. appear to be an active member of the African American community, and uses political leverage to threaten a race riot over the release of the Fuhrman tapes. Cochran's fiery rhetoric and dominant personality allows him to secure a not guilty verdict for a double murderer, something he considers a small price to pay as he goes on to celebrate his triumph.
  • Narm:
    • The attempted suicide scene in the pilot is pretty well acted. Robert Kardashian repeatedly calling O.J. by his nickname Juice can ruin it for some though.
    • This show really shoves the Young Future Famous People trope in your face. In the second episode, Robert Kardashian is called to read O.J.'s note in front of a crowd of reporters and journalists. None of them know who he is and one of them mishears his name. Meanwhile, at home, it cuts to his four kids, one of whom spells out their name. Then, all four kids start chanting their last name, as if you didn't already understand the irony. Becomes a Take That! in episode 3, where Robert lectures his kids on how fame is hollow if you're not a good person.
    • Marcia Clark pre- and post-perm looks so similar that everyone's reactions to it seem ludicrously over the top. Of course, this just highlights even more the sexist nature of the media's focus on it. She does get a markedly different hairstyle in the last few episodes, though.
  • Older Than They Think: The Goldmans' car is seen to have remote locking/unlocking, in 1995. Yes, that existed then.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Evan Handler as a young Alan Dershowitz in the third episode shows up for one scene as a legal consultant, and absolutely blows it out of the water as the snappy, Harvard-educated wiz kid. He pulls off another one in "Conspiracy Theories" when he gleefully pulls an alternate theory for the murders out of his ass, managing to upend the courtroom.
    • In "A Jury in Jail", Susan Beaubian manages to present jury foreman Armanda Cooley as someone who could be your best friend or your worst enemy.
    • Los Angeles Sentinel writer Dennis Schatzman only has two scenes, but nevertheless makes quite the impression.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: Whilst everyone is, for the most part, well-cast, some actors were noted for decidedly looking, acting, or sounding nothing like the real-life people. The differences are more clear in the end of the series with a "where are they now" showing the actors against the people they're playing.
    • John Travolta's performance as Robert Shapiro has gotten a lot of flak from the critics.
    • The real Marcia Clark has praised Sarah Paulson's performance highly, but does laugh that "I wish I had ever looked that good." The jury is out on that one
    • Numerous people have complained about Cuba Gooding Jr.. not looking or sounding much like the real OJ, or being believable as a former football player; some even wished Dwayne Johnson was cast instead, due to his greater physical and vocal resemblance to Simpson. However, Gooding Jr's performance has been well-received, possibly making this a case of Ability over Appearance. On the other hand, this is more of a case of Reality Is Unrealistic in regards to Gooding Jr's body type, because Simpson had a very lean and non-muscular build when he was playing. Still, those who are familiar with Simpson's slim, angular face and fairly deep voice will find Gooding Jr's casting somewhat odd.
    • Similarly, whilst Nathan Lane gives a characteristically excellent performance as F. Lee Bailey and even looks a little like him, his voice is about an octave too high and has none of Bailey's gravelly drill-instructor vibe.
    • Dale Godboldo didn't look, act, or sound anything like the real Carl Douglas, who was one of the four main lawyers for OJ during the trial.
  • What an Idiot!: In the series, Robert Shapiro tries to convince F. Lee Bailey work for free (pro-bono) on the O.J case for no discernible reason. O.J had near-infinite money to spend on his defense at the time. Thanks to this, F. Lee convinces Cochran to make moves to become Lead Attorney on the case over Robert. It's successful, and Robert is Demoted to Extra (outside of a few instances) on a historic case where he was O.J's first call.
  • The Woobie:
    • It's hard not to want to give Marcia a hug as she has to contend with the sheer emotional and mental ordeal of a trial that has gone completely off the rails.
    • It's just as hard not to empathize with Chris the more frustrated he becomes with the accusations of being an "Uncle Tom" for prosecuting a black man while firmly believing O.J. to be guilty, being publicly humiliated by his former mentor Cochran, feeling obvious sexual and possibly romantic attraction to Marcia that goes nowhere, and especially when Marcia won't listen to his advice and he begins suspecting he wasn't brought onto the prosecution for his abilities but as a Token Minority so the prosecution won't appear racist.
      Chris Darden: You know, you put me on this trial because you wanted a black face, but the truth is, you never wanted a black voice.
    • Fred and Kim Goldman, the father and sister of one of the murder victims Ron Goldman, are also this as they have to watch the media circus surrounding the case act dismissively or insultingly towards Ron, and worst of all is that they never got the closure they felt a conviction of O.J Simpson would have provided.
    • Robert Kardashian. A genuine friend of O.J. to the point his kids considered the other man an uncle. He truly wants to believe his friend is innocent, but as the case keeps going, he starts to realize O.J. might really have done it, and becomes increasingly distraught over the future of his career and his friendship having been wrested out of his control thanks to the trial. He also ends unintentionally turning his kids into quite possibly the most famous attention whores in the modern era.

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