The People v. O.J. Simpson: The Dream Team

"...right now it's an emotional thing. It's not a rational thing."

It turns out that things can grow out of toxic soil. The events of 'The Dream Team', part jaw-dropping and part horrific, show the architecture of a stunning defense. And it's bloody genius.

I don't think it was just the LAPD's racist history that poisoned the proverbial soil. There was a metric ton of self-interest in that conference room of smug smartypants lawyers. This was not your average biologically-appropriate vanity, either! But according the The People v. O.J. Simpson (as well as Toobin's book, which I picked up this week), Shapiro pulled the trigger when he sat down with Toobin and laid out the angle from which he and his stable were going to come at the prosecution. (Interestingly, other very famous lawyers declined to join the team, stating that they did not want to participate in something that could have complex and devastating consequences on our society.) Shapiro is the textbook opportunist. But as soon as that New Yorker article came out, his whole team was harmonizing on the melody. Is this a good time to mention how much I love seeing this constellation of actors assert their character's charismatic personality 7 ways to Sunday?

But Johnnie Cochran is different. By all accounts, in The People v. O.J. Simpson, he's portrayed as a prince among thieves. He back-burnered his ego, knowing that his race won him a seat on the bench above all else, in order to take this shite situation and remain authentic and genuine, committed to what he believed to be a greater good. Each moment we've seen of him so far has illuminated a nuance that somehow makes him even more endearing. This is a wonderful marriage between writing and actor -- maybe the best one of the lot. Vance makes Cochran tender and real and uncertain in all of the best ways. But really, what else could we glean from someone who pipes in Roberta Flack through the home sound system?

Over in the DA's office, even though Clark enjoys a brief moment of fame of her own (and Darden, too, to some extent, when praised by Clark), the process by which their team realizes how f'ed up things have increasingly become is a frustrating and somewhat painful one to witness. The glare of the fluorescent light and paper plate breakfasts go a long way to dramatize how out of their league the prosecution was, outmatched in so many ways by Shapiro, et al., not least of all, financially. I can't wait for this to take a turn for the gender inequalities we all know are on the horizon. I suspect that as sophisticated as the writing has handled the other heavy social ills, this will be as intelligently presented. Paulson's Clark has like five settings, all perfected, and some of them happen in the space of ten seconds. (I hope to god that somewhere Clark feels a sliver of solace that an actress with an off-the-charts EQ is playing her.) While Clark, by this point in the proceedings, is starting to wise up to the degree in which they do not have a handle on this (even the way she holds her cigarette from the third act onward screams her misgivings), her colleagues still seem quasi-shellshocked at the hugeness of both what's happening around, and before them. But none of them got the drop on Mark Fuhrman like Shapiro's investigator did. And to see Darden beam with pride that he had personally sidelined the New Yorker reporter asking for Fuhrman's file leaves a weird taste behind. He didn't think anything of it.

Closing Statement

* Hard to believe the show isn't making up the details surrounding Mark Fuhrman's history with the LAPD. It's almost too much to conceive that things would have gone very differently if he hadn't been the first one at O.J.'s Brentwood house.

* Uh, but that Time magazine cover unwittingly ignited race issues a month before Fuhrman's past surfaced and Shapiro talked to Toobin. So. Yeah.

* Did anyone see the article in EW where Sarah Paulson said, "I love a shoulder pad." Bless.

* Of course Rob Kardashian's shirt matches the landscaping at his children's home.

* Cash-for-trash is describing a highly specified circuitry that happened so frequently in our world that we needed a name for it.


Hostess: "You can have whatever table you want."

Bailey: "Yeah, I caught that on the news."

Clark: "I'm kidding. It's the truth but I'm kidding." It takes a special person to toss out a line like that.

Dershowitz: "Right now, he's sort of like this handsome, gifted Greek god laid low."

Scheck: "Make every single piece of evidence either thrown out, untrustworthy or confusing."

Shapiro: "Now... you're New York Magazine or New Yorker?" Hilarious.

Clark: "Come on, guys. We have all the aces. Let's hold the high ground."

O.J.: "Well I'm not black, I'm O.J.!"

Kato: "Fame's complicated."

Clark: "This move may be sleazy and cynical, but it could work."


Billie Doux said...

Terrific review, Heather. And I just now realized why the guy who's playing Darden is so familiar. Supernatural and Person of Interest. The bald head threw me off.

Heather said...

He's got a great face! So glad you're watching ACS, by the way.

sunbunny said...

This episode really made me get what Josie said in the comments on the last review. The opening with the Kardashians was just too cute. And I don't mean that in a good way. As much as I appreciate the kids being used in the first episode, it's gotten repetitive. And the whole "oh they're so fame hungry because of this time when they were kids and they got free stuff" was too pat, too neat. Can the show be about OJ Simpson et al. and not the Kardashians' origin story? Although the kids they got are very, very good matches, I have to say. I'm not adverse to them being included, but I feel like the show's focus suffers whenever their onscreen.

Josie Kafka said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one, Sunbunny.

I have no idea why I'm watching this show. I'm full of criticism. And yet I've started to really look forward to it each week, and after each episode I can't stop thinking about it.

I know Dershowitz is a real guy. But, because he is played by Evan Handler, who had an interesting role in Lost, I sort of like to think of him as the Dream Team's imaginary friend. Maybe that's why he only pops in every now and again.

I love Nathan Lane. He should be in everything.

Heather said...

You guys, I hate the Kardashian kids stuff.

Josie Kafka said...

You know what's ironic? I don't hate the Kardashians in real life. I am 100% "whatever" about them IRL. But on this show...

ChrisB said...

Part of the reason this show is working so well for me is that I know the resolution. Because I am not wondering whether or not Simpson will be convicted, I am able to concentrate on the smaller moments. Watching Clark et al start off so smugly ("he did my job for me") is difficult to watch with the benefit of history. Watching Clark come to the realization that she may be outgunned is fascinating.

There was a great deal of talk about fame in this episode, which I found an interesting choice. The Kardashian kids discuss it with their dad and Kato discusses it with his friend. Being famous doesn't come across as all that much fun, I must say.

Great review, Heather.