Review: 'The People V. O.J. Simpson' gives 'Marcia, Marcia, Marcia' a fair trial
A few thoughts on tonight's The People v. O.J. Simpson coming up just as soon as my stylist turns me into Rick James...
How appropriate that we get to wrap up International Women's Day with "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia," The People v. O.J.'s sympathetic mash note to doomed O.J. prosecutor Marcia Clark. It's not straight-up hagiography, as it points out various mistakes Clark made during this period — continuing to dismiss Darden's concerns about letting Mark Fuhrman testify, taking a big stand in court about needing to get home to her kids and then asking her husband to watch them that night (a move that she had to know would blow up in her face, given the contentiousness of the divorce and her new hugely public identity) — but it also illustrates the many challenges she had to face throughout the trial that none of her male counterparts did. Radio stations weren't having call-in segments to determine whether Bob Kardashian was hot or a bitch, and no one was pressuring Gil Garcetti to get a makeover. Even when she wins, like her dissection of Cochran's surprise witness, or her verbal smackdown of him for mocking her maternal responsibilities, the triumph gets drowned out by noise about her looks, her demeanor, and her personal life.
And, god, that makeover! For those of us who remember the ultimate result of it, and the nasty reaction to the tighter perm, the salon montage — scored to Seal's very '90s love ballad "Kiss From a Rose" — was a car crash in slow motion. Sarah Paulson is fabulous throughout the episode — like Courtney B. Vance and Sterling K. Brown last week, she completely owns this spotlight opportunity — but particularly during the sequence where Marcia arrives in court, expecting admiring oohs and aahs from the crowd for her bold new 'do, only to be crushed by the actual reaction.
And it's not like Brown recedes into the background this week. As the title suggests, "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" is a Clark-centric episode, but it's not exclusively about her. There's a lot going on with the trial, and particularly with F. Lee Bailey's loud vivisection of Furhman during cross, but more and more we're seeing that the one thing keeping each of these prosecutorial loners sane during the trial is their friendship — or is it more? There was speculation at the time of the trial, and after, about how close the two actually got — speculation that two male attorneys wouldn't have to deal with — and while Clark later denied it utterly, while Darden wrote in his memoir, "We sat up listening to hip-hop and R&B. We danced a few times and drank a few bottles of wine. In my mind, that is a relationship." The show seems to be following Darden's version, showing them becoming close and leaning on each other, but no more, and their scenes together in the DA's office in this hour dance tantalizingly close to the romantic line without ever going over it. Great stuff from both actors, and some fine soundtrack choices from The Isley Brothers and Otis Redding.
Some other thoughts:
* If you're too young to remember the trial, you're also probably (give or take cable airings of The Brady Bunch Movie) too young to remember the sitcom episode that provided its title.
* As with so many aspects of the trial, Bailey's cross-examination of Fuhrman gets condensed for dramatic purposes, but it's a nice spotlight moment for Nathan Lane, and for an attorney whom Bob Shapiro was so dismissive of earlier in the case.
* Unexpectedly timely: all the references to the size of Bailey's hands and what that implies about his manhood.
* Unrelated to most of the Marcia stuff, but accurate to the larger picture of the trial, is all the material about how the public began to view the whole thing as a soap opera by this point, and not just because the networks started pre-empting their soaps to air trial footage. Note the scene where a civilian suggests they should "put Kato back on the show," as if the whole thing is just scripted entertainment for the public's amusement.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com