‘The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’ Recap 1×03: ‘The Dream Team?’

"The two O.J.'s" of American Crime Story.
“The two O.J.’s” of American Crime Story. FX

Price Peterson, one of my favorite reviewers on all the Internet, began his most recent Yahoo meme-recap of TPVOJS:ACS (seriously this show’s acronym and not something I made up to parody how unwieldily Ryan Murphy’s titles have become, but I can see how reality mimics satire in this one specific instance) (maybe that’s just a metaphor for this whole show though?) (Discuss!) by asking: “How many lawyers is enough?” This episode doesn’t even answer that question, which in O.J. Simpson’s case was eight by the end of the trial. Eight lawyers! That doesn’t seem exactly fair, considering that on the defense, all you have is Bill Hodgman, everyone’s favorite guy who is not making it out of this horror movie, and “Modern Day Mom who CAN have it all…the house, the kids and the Crusader-mobile!” Marcia Clark. Poor Marcia. She’s taken on so much, but it’s hard, already, to find her “likable.”

Though let’s not go down that rabbit hole…of course Clark doesn’t need to be–and wasn’t–“likable,” but there is a very good argument that history serves as a better basis for determining whether likability played a factor in the O.J. Simpson case than a million thought pieces by modern-day recappers. Marcia Clark, good intentioned-though she may be, alienated both the jury and the public with her stridency and rigidness. As Toobin himself put it in The Run of His Life, the prosecution lost the O.J. Simpson case by falling into two cardinal sins: arrogance on Clark’s part and incompetence on Christopher Darden’s. The latter hasn’t been shown yet in the mini-series, so let’s put it to the side and check out Marcia Clark. Is she, as Toobin said, “arrogant?” More-so than the shocking and incendiary N-word argument that is eventually put forward– represented in the con side (against letting jurors hear it) by Darden and the pro-side by Johnny Cochran (and chosen by the writers to include as a moment on cable television)– the “a-word,” as applied to Clark, is a dog-whistle politics at its most insidious. Not unlike calling Hillary Clinton “shrill,” Clark’s “arrogance” is just a way to call attention that there is another major difference between her and Cochran, one that has nothing at all to do with race and everything to do with sexism. I mean, just wait till we get to her haircut.

But back to the Dream Team, which has now expanded past Robert Kardashian (already distracted from the case and trying to keep his kids grounded when his newfound celebrity status garners him a table at Chin Chin for Father’s Day) and Robert Shapiro to include the latter’s dear old friend, F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane), Alan Dershowitz (Harry from Sex and the City with a toupee) and, by the end of the episode, Johnnie Cochran (Courtney Vance, who we’re used to seeing on the other side of the courtroom as the D.A. from Law & Order: Criminal Intent).

The defense is doing a good job, we learn, scooping up all of the lawyers who have gone on television to criticize their handling of the case, including the optics of the Time cover fiasco, where the magazine took Simpson’s mugshot and darkened his skin for dramatic effect…something that certainly got people’s attention, especially when compared to Newsweek’s identical cover that week, which kept its subject un-Photoshopped (or whatever people used back then before #filters). Shapiro gets a bad rap because of his handling of the case, but you’ve got to admit, he had some pretty good ideas, one of which was “If you can’t beat them, hire them to come work for you.” Another being “Thread the needle with that meddling New Yorker writer coming to write a ‘trash-for-cash’ story by implying that one of the officers on the scene at both O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown’s house the night of the murders is a crazy racist.”

I really do appreciate that Toobin, both in his book and in the show (for which he’s a consultant) doesn’t shy away from the depiction of him as a reporter in over his head. He’s not quite a patsy, but he does get played. There’s no great shame in this, considering the level of expertise employed by the defense team, which played the media coverage like its own personal orchestra; turning it into the eventual cacophonous roar that would help change the narrative of the trial from that of the murder to that of the L.A.P.D.’s racism. Still, it takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong–and though Toobin’s character so far may be as guilty as incompetence and arrogance in his professional capacity as much as the defense team was in theirs, at least the show feints toward fairness by showing how even the meta-text from which they are working from might still be tainted by ghosts of this story’s past. ‘The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’ Recap 1×03: ‘The Dream Team?’