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American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson

FX

The world was a different place in 1994.

It was a time of car phones, flannel, and Full House. Friends premiered. Bill Clinton was president. Twitter was a way you might describe the sound that birds make, and Facebook was just two words thrown together.

When O.J. Simpson and his friend, Al "A.C." Cowlings hopped in a white Bronco and took a ride down some Los Angeles freeways, there was no such thing as social media beyond a few lesser-known message boards. People were forced to talk to each other's faces about the ins and outs of the insane legal case without a single hashtag in sight.

Now, 20 years later, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story is giving us that chance to discuss the case—and TV's latest dramatization of the case—in a way we never could in the ‘90s, using a whole new kind of language and a very different perspective on how breaking news is reported and spread.

It's also giving a whole new generation of people the chance to experience a major part of American culture that we missed the first time around, either because we were too young to remember or just not even born yet.

In the spirit of that second chance, a four members of the E! Online office gathered together on the internet to discuss episode two of The People v. O.J. Simpson, "The Run of His Life," featuring that infamous car chase.

Senior Editor Natalie Finn and reporter Holly Passalaqua remember the trial and followed it relatively closely, while social media editor Taylor Banks and I were barely out of diapers at the time. I was 3, and I remember watching the Bronco chase—or at least later coverage of the Bronco chase—on TV. Taylor remembers even less.

What did you know going into this, and what surprised you most about the episode?

Taylor: I've followed OJ Simpson through headlines. I never really knew of him in his NFL prime, when he was "The Juice," or an actor in The Naked Gun. (Yes, I googled and just found out he was in The Naked Gun.)

I was two when the trial was happening and don't really have much recollection. I hardly know any details about his trial other than the moments that still stand out in the media years later: The black glove, the verdict, the Kardashian connection etc.

It's safe to say I wasn't one of the 100 million people that watched the infamous Bronco chase. I don't remember much about the Bronco chase. I remember seeing clips on the news of a white car, but never truly put everything together. I would probably tell you that OJ Simpson was driving the car.

Lauren: I would have definitely said that O.J. was driving his own car. I've never heard of A.C. before. I've also never heard of Kato Kaelin.

People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story

FX

Holly: Kato was one of the stars of the entire thing. I'm trying to think of who I can compare him to. He was "the houseguest." 

As far as the whole Bronco chase fiasco—and that's what it was, a giant fiasco—I wasn't that excited about seeing it played out on the series. When I look back I remember the actual news breaking of the murder, OJ's mugshot, the rise of Court TV, the trial, the glove and Robert Kardashian's face when the verdict was read. I always forget about A.C. and his bronco.

Natalie: Actually, what I most loved about the episode were all the real-life ‘90s things going on—the NBA Finals, Arnold Palmer's last US Open, Tom Brokaw…

Taylor: I found it really interesting how they included a scene of cutting off the NBA play offs in the episode itself.

Holly: I want to know if Robert Kardashian really told OJ's family that he had killed himself.

Natalie: It's not in the book (Jeffrey Toobin's book, "The Run of His Life", which this show is based on). I'm filing that under FICTION.

Lauren: They're really making Robert Kardashian look sympathetic and like a pretty normal guy who just happens to be pals with O.J. Simpson.

Natalie: The show is definitely building him up to be the voice of reason/moral center.

Taylor: What most surprised me about the episode is how mentally unstable [O.J.] really seemed. Growing up I only saw somber looking O.J. in the court rooms. I had no clue about the suicide note, and that he was holding a gun to his head in the back seat.

Natalie: I always assumed he wasn't really that upset, but they were saying that to keep the police away.

Lauren: I sort of wish we could have seen at least a little bit of what O.J. was like before the murders, because I have no clue. I think it would give context to how everyone treats him.

Since we're part of the media, what did you think about how the media were portrayed in the episode?

Natalie: I think the media made the whole thing a "Thing."

Taylor: I'm interested to see how if they evolve the media in any way throughout the trial. In the first couple episodes, because of the breaking news angle, the media just seems like a complete nuisance.

Holly: I think they are portraying the paparazzi as slimy but I think by showing CNN, Brokaw, and Rather it shows the media doing their job and covering the breaking news stories. I liked that they showed the guys building the obit package in the edit bay before they even knew if he had died or not.

Taylor: It was also interesting that they were called out for making news coverage seem like an obit.

People v. O.J. Simpson, OJ Simpson, American Crime Story

FX

Lauren: I just keep trying to imagine a story like this happening now, because it's such a line to walk. It would be the biggest story, but it's such a sensitive topic.

Holly: I kept thinking about working on a newsdesk and having to confirm if O.J. was dead or alive. It sorta gave me anxiety.

Taylor: You really have to prepare for everything, It wasn't incredibly surprising to see those BTS media preparations in the episode. For that moment it really felt like he was gone.

So what would it be like if something like this happened today?

Natalie: First of all, if it happened today it would break Twitter. #OJwhitebronco

Lauren: Oh I didn't even think of hashtags!

Natalie: Presumably Twitter would have taken the place of all the people cheering him on along the road.

Lauren: There would be Periscoping.

Taylor:  I can only imagine the live-tweeting—sightings from people on the freeway etc. It would be even more of an event.

Lauren: The things that unite the internet now are just so trivial that I can't even imagine what would happen if a major celebrity was accused of a murder like that.

Taylor: Even with the Making a Murderer trial that took the Internet by storm, this was a man that was just introduced to us. To follow an athlete that has such a following through a trial like this in 2016? I can't even wrap my head around it.

Lauren: Who would we look to as the authority on something like that now? Would we still turn on CNN or would we just all be watching twitter for updates from various news feeds?

Taylor: That's tough to say, I feel like in OJ's case he spanned from sports, to entertainment to now criminal.

Lauren: I don't remember the last time I turned on any kind of news, and I feel like a lot of young people, especially teenagers, don't do that as much anymore.

Holly: I think if this happened today I would watch CNN (and E! News, of course). I don't go to Twitter for breaking news really. But I think it's because I am in news and people tweet unconfirmed information.

Lauren: And I'm not sure I've ever turned on CNN. 

Final Thoughts:

Lauren: To me this whole thing just feels very surreal, like something that couldn't have actually happened.

Taylor: Like...A TV show. I keep watching entertained and then remember that this was something that actually happened.

Lauren: And knowing how it ends is strange, because on one hand I'm like "wow this ends terribly" but then I don't really know enough about the whole thing to decide if I think he actually did it or not.

Holly: It was the first reality TV show before reality TV.

Taylor: You think you know, but you have no idea.  Also, Sarah Paulson for President!

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.