The People vs OJ Simpson: A TV Series that Towers Above All

“Pressure! You want to turn up the pressure? The city is about to explode!” Somewhere in between episode 9, Shapiro slams Cochran for aiming to heat up a story already loaded with perception, half-knowledge, and truly critical socio-political scenario. Immediately following this scene, Darden reprimands Clark with shivering rage for including Fuhrman as a witness and getting him to testify. By this time in this exceptional TV series, we are as outraged, exhausted, frustrated, and agitated as the characters in front of you are.

the-peopls-vs-oj-simpson-poster-2It starts with Cuba Gooding Jr. walking into a hired limousine to catch a flight to Chicago. Followed by a man walking a dog finding out a crime scene. Investigation begins right there, and detectives are on move capturing evidence without fail. And, as we will experience, no investigator is pure, and no evidence exists without a reasonable shadow of doubt. A witness for prosecution will step out of the box and shake hands with defense lawyers, and the jury will look at the whole scene and someone on the jury will have his or her perception dented. This was a case judged outside the court as much as it was inside it. And it’s not that the jury was all happy to be it. It underwent changes, they stayed in a hotel with restricted, and almost no access to the outside world for as long as 8 months. And to know that all these characters were real further unnerves you. And I am talking about all this because I could feel each and every emotion people on-screen felt. There were people sweating, laughing, crying, and debating. When, in a flashback, Cochran is stopped by a policeman I was as afraid as his kids. He, maybe, wasn’t. I was. I could feel how kids in his car would at the time, and I’ll be honest, it further scares me away from America. (Yes, I wanted to move to US. To some extent, I still do…but given the conditions, I am just scared. An Indian techie was shot dead only a couple of days ago in Kansas.) Could this show (and a movie called Hidden Figures) be more topical? Who knows?

Right in the beginning of the show, we are shown footage from the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and there is a person tearfully saying, “Can we all get along?” It shattered me. That line pierced through my heart and crushed my soul and it wasn’t even the beginning of the show. It was, just, some kind of a prologue to the show and it was from a news reel footage. By the end of episode 9, personal lives of the district attorney, assistant district attorney, defense lawyers, and Judge Lance Ito’s have been entangled in this case. When I go back to the first line I mentioned, that is the moment when people in this show have their spines nailed and tied with a rope to a mower called “The people of the State of California vs Orenthal James Simpson. And all of them have to move it no matter what the results are, no matter how much it aches. When Shapiro says “the city is about explode” I felt the heat, and I could so understand a city at the brink of a riot while it just stepped out of one. It was raw and powerful. Rarely do I get this emotion from a medium. I usually laugh off at people blaming a film or a book for society going in the wrong direction, but does it make me a hypocrite when I say that this show made me a better person? Because it sure does. It influences me…it guides me. And more than anything else, it moves me, emotionally. There were moments when I just stopped and held back a tear looking outside the window, feeling the sunlight of the dawn.

the-peopls-vs-oj-simpsonThe People vs OJ Simpson is such a magnanimous qualitative achievement that, ironically, can only be scaled using a quantitative example such as the box office numbers of a James Cameron movie. I watched all 10 episodes back to back (it’s now available on Netflix), and I do not regret a weekend. Each passing episode is as good as the previous, and each and every actor totally nails it through. We are never told if OJ Simpson actually killed his wife. What we see is practically what the DAs, lawyers, policemen, jury, and the judge see. We get to see all the facts, all the evidence, and we get to see how it unfolded. We participate in The People vs OJ Simpson case.

The standout performers of this show are Sarah Paulson and Sterling K Brown in a cast where each and every actor punches so hard that some the best performances in films from the last year pale in comparison. No, seriously. There are no weak performances in this TV Series. And if there is a performance stack, I’d rank one of the jurors on this show lowest, still, that actor makes more impact than, say, Casey Affleck. Every passing minute of this show has more drama and intensity than anything I might have seen in ages. This is my Fight Club for TV, and ranks amongst the best A/V experience I may have ever had. If you are reading this and you have not watched it, I suggest absolutely, 100% you must.


  1. Souvik Gupta says:

    I could totally relate to your reaction, because mine was so similar. Awesome show and a great post.


    1. Salil Shankar says:

      Oh this TV show is so good, that I was baffled by its quality. How the heck did they pull this off?


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