Will Melodrama Sink American Crime Story: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson?

What works on <em>American Horror Story</em> might be too high-minded for its sister series

Whether the O.J. Simpson murder trial was a travesty of justice or justice served is still debated 20 years later. In terms of TV ratings, though, the proceedings were an indisputable triumph, fueled by such theatrical cheese as prosecutor Marcia Clark’s fashion makeover and lead defense attorney Johnnie Cochran’s ode to a bloody Isotoner glove (“If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit”).

Which is why we’re worried that FX’s American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, a 10-episode series from American Horror Story producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (beginning February 2), might prove too high-minded for its subject matter. Without a sneak peek, we must speculate as we did when awaiting the verdict, but the evidence is piling up. Exhibit A: CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin wrote the script. (His 1996 book, The Run of His Life, is still the most erudite account of Simpson’s case.) Exhibit B: Cuba Gooding Jr., whose last turn as a pro football star won him an Oscar, plays Simpson. (Then again, John Travolta appears as Robert Shapiro.)

There is hope that ACS may give the O.J. trial the reality-show treatment it deserves. Kris Jenner (Selma Blair) is a main character, though she divorced defense attorney Robert Kardashian six years before Simpson’s acquittal. She didn’t testify about her murdered friend, Nicole Brown Simpson, either. No matter. How fitting to see the Kardashian matriarch at the birth of the tawdry universe of celebrity revelation she would one day rule.