FX’s American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson only debuted last month, but it’s already being called one of the best new shows of the season — and for good reason. Between a stellar ensemble cast and the gripping retelling of one of the most infamous trials in history, Ryan Murphy’s latest anthology series isn’t one you want to miss out on, even if you think you already know the whole story. Here are five reasons you should definitely be tuning into The People v. OJ Simpson.
1. It features an exceptionally strong cast
We all know Murphy has a talent for assembling excellent casts, and The People v. OJ Simpson is no exception. For the most part, the actors deliver wonderful and nuanced performances that help ground a scandalous and complex case.
As O.J. himself, Cuba Gooding Jr. is able to show two very different sides of Simpson’s personality — the charming, beloved football star and the manipulative ex-husband who’s prone to fits of rage. He’s conflicted but controlled, never going too over-the-top in order to match Simpson’s big personality.
But the true standouts of the show? Sarah Paulson is superb as the determined, chain-smoking prosecutor Marcia Clark, whose belief in the justice system is shaken more and more as the case unspools. Courtney B. Vance is also outstanding as boisterous attorney Johnnie Cochran, whose race-driven argument played a major role in Simpson’s defense.
2. You actually don’t know everything about the OJ case
Considering how highly publicized this case was, it’s hard to resist thinking we know all there is to know about it. But the case involved so many legal, social and cultural elements (all of which were only made more complicated by the media circus surrounding it), it’s worth a deeper exploration.
Plus, the show delves into many of the behind-the-scenes events we didn’t see — from the crafting of a seemingly impossible defense strategy to the personal toll the case took on everyone involved (particularly those not used the spotlight, like Clark and Simpson’s close friend, Robert Kardashian).
3. It has ties to today’s celebrity culture
Many consider the OJ Simpson trial to be the first de factor reality show, as it created a level of national spectacle never quite seen before. For many, the trial and its surrounding fervor marked the beginning of the celebrity culture that’s all too prevalent today. It should come as no surprise then that the case features an interesting link to one of the mainstays in today’s pop cultures sphere: the Kardashians.
Robert Kardashian was Simpson’s best friend and one of the lawyers on the defense team and the show makes a point of showing how the case gave him and his family (including a certain trio of daughters) their first real taste of fame. Case in point: a scene in which a young Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, and Rob revel in their father getting recognized while dining at a restaurant on Father’s Day. Not everyone is happy with their inclusion, and the show is certainly not about the Kardashians (at least, the ones we’re familiar with), but it is fascinating to see the case’s lingering connections to today’s pop culture. Plus, it’s hilarious watching Schwimmer’s Kardashian tell his kids, “Fame is fleeting. It’s hollow.”
4. It’s another riveting true crime story
From Serial to Making a Murderer, true crime is having a major moment right now. While you’re probably way more familiar with the OJ case than you were with the others, that doesn’t make the retelling any less captivating. If anything, knowing how the trial ends and watching the details play out all over again adds a whole new layer of “Can you believe this really happened?” to the story.
5. The show is about more than just the OJ case
While series sticks to the facts of the trial, there’s also plenty of subtle commentary on all of the major issues that this case has come to represent: the nation’s obsession with money and celebrity, the effect of race and media coverage on a trial, and the many faults of the criminal justice system. All of these themes and more are touched upon, but the show never beats you over the head with them. Instead, it allows you to draw your own conclusions, also serving as a reminder that these issues are still very much a part of the national dialogue today.
The People v. OJ Simpson airs on Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. Eastern on FX.