The players in the O.J. Simpson saga don't die, they just keep coming back in really strange incarnations.

Case in point: Christopher Darden, making his star turn debut in tonight's ABC TV movie, Crimes of Passion: One Hot Summer Night, airing at 9 p.m. (ET/PT).

It's the former prosecutor's first major acting credit--really his first any credit, unless you count a 1996 cameo on Touched by an Angel. (And Darden does. Gotta pad that résumé, you know.)

In One Hot Summer Night, Darden is Earl Mingus, a police detective assigned to investigate the murder of a wealthy sports tycoon (played by Barry Bostwick).

The suspects: the dead guy's blonde and abused wife (Baywatch alum Erika Eleniak) and her secret lover (Brian Wimmer). The partner's name: Clark.

As ABC itself asks: "Does the cast of characters sound familiar? Hmmm..."

Executive producer Michael O'Hara said he thought of Darden for the role after catching the legal eagle doing some talking-head work on Rivera Live.

"He was kind of joking around and showing this other side to his personality," O'Hara tells USA Today. "We'd had trouble casting the part in the film, so I asked my casting director to call Darden's agent the next day to see if he had any interest in acting."

Darden, who has cashed in big time since losing the Trial of the Century, was. He calls acting "very rewarding and a great way to make a statement." You know, unlike the law.

If the 41-year-old is savvy, he'll be wise to keep his attentions tuned to his lucrative side projects (novel writing, turning his O.J. memoir, In Contempt, into a feature film). The early verdict on his thespian career isn't good.

Today's New York Post calls Darden "unconvincing" and "guilty of lousy acting." The reviewer doesn't think much of his choice in scripts, either. One Hot Summer Night rates a beyond-lowly "minus 2 stars."

New York's Daily News concurs, declaring the telepic the "murder-mystery version of Showgirls." And Darden? "...Put it this way: Compared to Darden, Elizabeth Berkley is Meryl Streep."

The prosecution rests.

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