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REVIEW: The People v OJ Simpson (American Crime Story) | @ChannelTen

ReviewSteve Molk

David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian & John Travolta as Robert Shapiro
Image - FX

The opener reminds us 1994 was a tense time in American race relations. The Rodney King bashing & LA Riots were only two years prior. The arrest of much-loved American icon OJ Simpson for the murder of his ex-wife and her new partner threatened to reopen those wounds.

The trial itself was a media explosion, at times entirely farcical. The world had watched as OJ was the focus of a slow-speed police chase along a number of Los Angeles roads and freeways. "The Juice" would go down swinging and the media would play a massive role in what was to play out - especially the verdict.

In AMERICAN CRIME STORY: THE PEOPLE V OJ SIMPSON we're reminded just how insane the trial was by exposing the ludicrous behind the scenes goings-on from both the prosecution and defence. 

Don't even start me on the outrageous shoe-horning of the Kardashian kids into this series (look out for the Father's Day brunch Robert Kardashian shares with his kids at the start of episode 3 and the lecture he gives them on fame - it's so ironic it hurts in real life).

The 10 ep series is so hyper-real it almost parodies the actual events - if it were a work of fiction the series would be lambasted for being too unbelievable.

At the centre of it all OJ Simpson is given a fairly sympathetic portrayal by Cuba Gooding Jr, who delivers a performance that is reminiscent of his turn as Rod Tidwell in Jerry Maguire - full of swagger and emotional ferocity, but sadly none of the nuance. If you're playing a drinking game then be warned: taking a shot every time Sarah Paulson (lead prosecutor Marcia Clark) has a cigarette in her hand/mouth/on-screen will have you drunk for the entire series.

Nathan Lane (F. Lee Bailey), Evan Handler (Alan Dershowitz - with amazing hair/moustache combo) and Selma Blair (Kris Jenner) are all filling out the cast with very little depth to their performance - reflecting the one-dimensional nature of their characters in the story (more like half a dimension for Blair). Entirely wasted.

Connie Britton (Brown-Simpson's "best friend" & tell-all author Faye Resnik) milks every moment on-screen, and who wouldn't when you have such a disaster of a person to play. She's a delight to behold. Courtney B Vance (Johnnie Cochran) does the best he can with another over-the-top player in the saga, and offers some enjoyable nuance against a number of performers who couldn't even spell the word.

Then there's David Schwimmer (Robert Kardashian). While Kardashian absolutely was involved playing OJ's best friend it's the eternal references to the Kardashian kids and even their inclusion that degrades the entire series. The script writing around these scenes is laughable, and Schwimmer's permanently confused face is completely understandable.

As lead counsel Robert Shapiro special mention must be given to John Travolta's hairpiece and eyebrows.  They are mesmerising, and deliver a far better performance than he does.

The only actual insight the series offers is what went on inside the white Ford Bronco during that car chase... keen-eyed Cosby Show fans may recognise the driver all grown up (Malcolm-Jamal Warner), and note it wasn't OJ driving or even his car.

The People v OJ Simpson is incredible - both for the subject matter and for how overblown it is. There are few touch points for Australian audiences, especially those born in the last 22 years, yet once you start watching like the car accident it is it will be difficult to turn away. Tune in to be simply amazed that so many big names phone-in their performances. The Kraft services offerings had better have been good.

American Crime Story: The People v OJ Simpson (10 eps) - Sun 8:30pm Ten.