20 years on, TV series brings O.J. Simpson case full circle on race

Wed Jan 27, 2016 11:26am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Jill Serjeant

(Reuters) - When producers began work three years ago on a new TV series about the O.J. Simpson murder trial, they took a chance on whether Americans would still care about a case that captivated the nation 20 years ago.

Turns out, the timing was right.

"The People v. O.J. Simpson," a 10-episode drama series starting on the FX network on Feb. 2, sets the 1994 arrest, year-long trial and acquittal of one of America's best-loved sporting heroes firmly in the arena of the nation's still troubled history of race relations.

The first image viewers see is TV footage of the 1992 Los Angeles riots that followed the acquittal of four white police officers in the beating of black motorist Rodney King.

"The show is about race in America," said Scott Alexander, one of the show's executive producers. "It's about how problems between police and black Americans never really go away."

"The O.J. case has always remained of interest but it feels more ripped from the headlines now than ever," he added, referring to the deaths of more than 30 unarmed black people at the hands of U.S. police since 2014.

The series also reflects an unwavering obsession with the so-called "trial of the century" that was broadcast live on U.S. television throughout its eight-month duration.

"The O.J. case has now assumed the same status as the Kennedy assassination," said David Schmid, an English professor at the University at Buffalo, and editor of the 2015 book "Violence in American Popular Culture."   Continued...

Cast member Cuba Gooding Jr. (C), speaks as Sterling K. Brown (L), Sarah Paulson (2nd L), John Travolta, Courtney B. Vance (2nd R) and David Schwimmer (R) look on during a panel for the FX Networks "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story" during the Television Critics Association (TCA) Cable Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, California in this January 16, 2016 file photo.  REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian/Files