Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Pilot Review: American Crime Story

American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson (FX) Premiered February 2 at 10pm

Don’t confuse this show with “American Crime,” another limited series that focuses on a different crime each season. Instead, think of “American Horror Story” and creator Ryan Murphy’s continued expansion into new genres after finding success with “Glee” and this show’s horror companion, which has already completed five seasons. While neither of those highly successful series purported to be based on truth, this show definitely does. I’ll start with the qualifier that I wasn’t even ten years old at the time of the OJ Simpson trial, so I don’t remember any of it other than stories that I’ve heard or read since then, most notably that of the glove fitting perfectly. As a result, I can’t comment on whether any of the portrayals or performances are true to life, but I can simply judge them based on their objective merits. Cuba Gooding Jr. is an actor who delivered a fantastic performance that won him an Oscar in “Jerry Maguire” and hasn’t done much since. It’s possible that he was the right person to play OJ, but I’m not too convinced based on his work in this first episode. Similarly, David Schwimmer feels hopelessly lost in a dramatic role as Robert Kardashian, whose young daughters and future heirheads (people famous for being famous) made a brief appearance. There are so many familiar faces here, including “American Horror Story” alums Connie Britton and Sarah Paulson, both of who go a bit over the top in their characterizations. That’s the rule here, and John Travolta is the biggest offender, barely moving any part of his face in an attempt to create a character unlike his usually excitable persona. The style of this show is intensely dramatic and designed to be suspenseful, and I’m not sure this case quite merits it. I’m minimally intrigued, though the great reviews this show has gotten make me think that maybe I should stick around even though I’m not inclined to.

How will it work as a series? How this actually played out is documented fact, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of developments along the way that can make for great television. With so many actors and characters, I’m sure that a season of this show could prove riveting, if it comes down from being so overdramatic and tries to be a bit more personable.
How long will it last? It didn’t need strong reviews and equally strong ratings to guarantee it a second season. Limited series with different plotlines each season are all the rage these days, and FX has popularized that with “American Horror Story.” Investing in another Ryan Murphy production is surely what they will do with a renewal of this show assuredly coming very soon.

Pilot grade: B-