The Brilliance of the True Crime Story

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 8.55.49 PMPhoto via FX

I have two loves. One is smart, funny comedy. The other, however, is a love for anything dark, twisted, and “based on a true story.”

Of course, in TV and film the “true story” disclaimer really just means, “Watch out we changed some things to make this more exciting, so just please keep that in mind.” We have widely accepted that disclaimer, which leads me to believe that there are a lot of Americans just like me who love a good true story. And, the darker and stranger the story, the better.

The most enticing kind of true story is the true crime story. What does true crime story exactly mean? Think Capote’s In Cold Blood meets the the movie “Capote.” Essentially, it’s a Hollywood telling of a real crime that was committed. It often has compelling characters who existed in real life as well as their fictionalized versions and more importantly features a terrible terrible thing they did. It’s obvious that we love a good true crime story because, simply put, they’re true. They happened in our own backyard and as terrifying as that may be to most, it completely fascinates the rest of us.

With the popularity of Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” documentary (which I believe to be totally biased and unbelievable, and for a different discussion for another time), we are at our true crime story height. Although it’s not a new concept by any means, we seem to be less and less interested in fictional stories of bad behavior than we are with the real deal. It’s perfect then that Ryan Murphy’s “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson” premiered last week on FX.

Unlike Murphy’s “American Horror Story,” this mini series is based on a real thing that happened. And that real thing just happens to be the most obsessed about murder trial of all time. There’s a few reasons O.J. Simpson’s trial is such a large part of the cultural dictionary. For one, Simpson was the ultimate sports star of the day and his friends thought he was the nicest person on the planet. Two, even if you don’t know the details of this case, you can recall the famous car chase in your mind like you can recall exactly where you were the night Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson’s lady parts on live television at the Super Bowl. Three, the story features people who became celebrities because of their involvement in the case. (Some, meaning me, may even venture to argue that the Kardashians wouldn’t be famous without the O.J. case.)

Forth, and this may be the biggest reason why people were excited to talk about the case again with “American Crime Story,” is the trial’s viewpoints on race and culture. And maybe most important of all, most of us believe (know) that he was guilty and quite literally got away with murder.

Whatever the reason, you know you’ve obsessed about the O.J. trial at least once in your life. I was two when the trial started and I can still tell you every detail, glove and all. Which is why you need to watch “American Crime Story” if you haven’t already. We’re only an episode in and tonight’s episode looks just as promising as the first.

What’s so captivating about this particular true crime story is that we were all there to remember it. It’s still fresh in our minds. Freshmen in high school reading In Cold Blood for the first time in English class aren’t going to be completely freaked and absorbed in the thriller because 1959 and the Clutter family farm is all but a distant newspaper clipping. But O.J.? Yeah, that dude’s still a thing, as present in our minds as the NFL and the Kardashians themselves.

Of course, “American Crime Story” isn’t really about the Kardashian family, but the all-star cast, including Cuba Gooding Jr., John Travolta, David Schwimmer, and Sarah Paulson, makes the show what it is: a freakishly accurate retelling of what we did know and the things we didn’t see. FX has prided itself on the accuracy of the show and if the upcoming Bronco chase scene is everything that’s been promised to us, we’re in for possibly the best true crime adaption Hollywood has thrown at us.

And let’s be real, we’re willing to catch the story and run with it just like we did when the trial was broadcast 20 years ago. Lucky for us, Murphy has already announced that he plans to make a second season focusing on Hurricane Katrina.

“American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson” airs on FX Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. CT/10 p.m. ET.


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