Guilty of Being Good: Why You Should Watch ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson’

If you don’t know the actual events, then there are spoilers below.

Huddled around a radio on an early fall day in Chicago, I was listening for the verdict on O.J. Simpson. It wasn’t a matter of “guilty” or “not guilty.” We’re were waiting to see if it was “riot” or “not riot” in Los Angeles. Everyone knew he was guilty, but the case didn’t appear to be about that anymore.
I tuned out most of it and frequented places that had “OJ TRIAL SAFE ZONE” signs. They had no TVs and/or kicked people out for talking about it. I knew the highlights of the trial and most the key player’s names. I have zero recollection of the name “Kardashian” until people were “keeping up” with them much later.
When I heard they were doing a mini-series, the cast alone piqued my interest. Yet, I couldn’t watch it as it aired since I stopped watching cable back in 2008. Instead, I survive on a healthy diet of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Thankfully, this month it appeared on Netflix. I watched all the ten episodes in two days.
I didn’t read any reviews and I’m not sure of the accuracy of the mini-series itself. I judged them as episodes of a television mini-series and not as a true story.

Here are my main takeaways that are also the reasons you should watch it:

The main character…

I think the main character is Robert Kardashian. His character’s arc from the first episode to the last is a complete transformation. In the beginning, he is 100% convinced there is no way that his friend could have done this. As he hears the evidence, he begins to doubt. He struggles the hardest after hearing the DNA testimony. No one on the team is reassuring him of OJ’s innocence. They focus on convincing him that OJ will win the case. David Schwimmer did an excellent job conveying the turmoil and you find yourself sympathizing with him.

The structure of the episodes…

Each episode is crafted to one specific theme while staying in chronological order. This is what I think makes the writing so stellar. The case lasted eight months. A lot happened in that time. They made each episode’s theme stand alone while all contributing to the overall plotline of the case. The episode title tells you what to exact from each episode:

  • From the Ashes of Tragedy
  • The Run of His Life
  • The Dream Team
  • 100% Not Guilty
  • The Race Card
  • Marcia, Marcia, Marcia
  • Conspiracy Theories
  • A Jury in Jail
  • Manna from Heaven
  • The Verdict
If it didn’t fit with these main points, it didn’t make it in. The scenes all play to character or plot. If it isn’t adding value to either one, then it was cut. For example, Kato Kaelin shows up a handful of times and yet his testimony wasn’t in any of the episodes.

The stars aligned…

There are many little things that happened throughout the case that could have changed the outcome:

  • If this had happened in New York instead of Los Angeles
  • If Detective Mark Fuhrman hadn’t been the one to find the glove
  • If they had taken O.J. into custody instead of letting him turn himself in
  • If O.J. didn’t try the gloves on
  • If Judge Ito‘s wife had disclosed she knew Detective Mark Fuhrman
  • If it had been a closed session without the cameras
You can’t help but think of “what if” as you watch these things unfold. Change any one and the dominoes could have fallen in a completely different way.

The last line before the end credits…

The last line serves as the guiding thesis for their choices; “He will be eligible for parole in 2017.” The viewpoint of the filmmakers was clear. While it has been two decades, people need reminding of what happened.

If this was pure fiction…

If this had been as historically accurate as Star Wars, I would still recommend watching it. The story, characters, writing, the acting…everything came together to make a very enjoyable series. No matter your opinion of the actual players or events, the perspective of the filmmakers is clear and concise. Remove any pre-conceptions and watch it on the merit of the production. It won’t disappoint.
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