The People vs OJ Simpson could learn a lesson in simplicity and drama from Better Call Saul
What an extraordinary piece of grotesquerie is The People vs OJ Simpson .
It finds itself on perched prettily and curiously on BBC2 – Monday at 9pm – which appears to be the current sweet spot for schedulers (up against The X-Files , Sky Atlantic’s lavish Vinyl , Stephen Fry and a showpiece arts doc on BBC4).
A more natural home, perhaps, would be among the low numbered crime channels but its elevation presumably comes courtesy of a cast that includes John Travolta, Cuba Gooding Jr and David Schwimmer – and the notoriety of the source material of course.
Schwimmer borrows some of Joey’s smell-the-fart acting in this sleepwalking soap of a thing. It plays out like a hurried re-enactment segment for Crimewatch rather than a grown-up drama with proper actors. There is with some bizarre unintended drollery amid the dizzying camera work.
Travolta has his Vincent Vega puckered pose, assisted by some formidable eyebrows, Schwimmer, his mini-me, is staggeringly dozy-Ross as the original Kardashian and Cuba Gooding Jr goes through the gears to get to manic as fast as possible as though he fears he’ll lose the gig unless he can mug a camera and fast.
We know how it ends, of course, with the OJ, er, not guilty but its main source of entertainment is nostalgia. This was a case that went viral before the phrase ever existed. Whether that is sufficient to overcome the waxworks, we shall see.
A calmer pace and a cleverer caper is the welcome return of Better Call Saul (Netflix) . So much is done with so little – the exact opposite of The People vs OJ Simpson.
I loved the moment – the inevitable moment – when Jimmy peeled back the “Always leave on! Do not turn off!” label and flicked the switch in his posh new offices. Here was a man trying, and failing, to quell his rascally schoolboy nature. In that one moment, an entire character was established.