FLASH FORWARD: The People v. O.J. Simpson Episode 3: The Dream Team

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So the Bronco chase is over and O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding, Jr., still not looking like he could take out a moth, let alone two people) has surrendered.  We know that Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) is heading up the prosecution, but when it comes to the defense, we know three things: there is an older gent who was seen in the first episode as his “lawyer,” but he’s not been seen since; St. Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) offered to renew his license as a criminal attorney to help the Juice, though he’s not proven especially able in that department so far, telling O.J.’s family he was dead when he wasn’t; Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) is definitely part of the team, though no one has yet told him there is no “I” in team.  They are about to, as the the finest legal minds (fine, a few are questionable…fine, they are all questionable) in the country assemble to assist O.J. on what would come to be called “The Dream Team.”

Or “also” called “The Dream Team” because it had been used for a long time to describe the US Olympic Men’s Basketball Teams in a few consecutive Olympiads, but since the trial, this has been the only “Dream Team” widely accepted as such.

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Now, let’s also remember that Murphy-Falchuk do not allow an episode of any of their TV shows go by without a theme being wielded like a crane knocking into a brick building.  It hits you the first few times and then eventually, you just cave.  I can’t say if the theme I get is always the one they intended.  I’m not so sure “unrestricted selfishness” was really what they had in mind for Episode 2, but as we’ve proven:

“If my theme is a hit, on them we can call bullsh*t.”

Before we get to the Dream Team, let’s check in with the Nightmare Team, shall we?  St. Robert Kardashian is having a meal with his brood at La Scala.  “It’s Father’s Day, so it’s a bid crowded,” he nervously says as the foursome chimes in with braying reasons to stay where they are.  For maybe the first time ever, the Kardashian name came in hand.  Well, almost.

“Oh my God, you’re Richard Kordovian.  You’re the O.J. guy!” one hostess gushes (she’s dressed like Bea Lillie in “Thorough Modern Millie,” in other words a white woman in chinoiserie, but this is an Italian restaurant in the Valley–the 90s were a confusing time stylistically) and slides them ahead of everybody else.  “Wow, we don’t even have to wait,” says a very excited Jr., who has been known to love himself some food now and then as an adult.  The kids want to know if dad things O.J. is guilty.

“Of course not.  You know Uncle Juice,” St. Robert replies.  Uncle Juice?  That’s up there on the creepy scale with Bruce’s model helicopters.  “Mom says he did it,” one replies (I think it’s Kim because she’s the oldest, but it may be Kourtney, the bitchiest), and St. Robert even has an excuse for his cow of an ex-wife, “she’s very emotional right now,” though he does add, “but she shouldn’t be talking to you about these things.”

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In other words, we’re two minutes into the episode and we’ve already had our Special Time With Kris Jenner, though now she doesn’t even need a name!

But it gets soggier!  St. Robert tells them he intends to say that Uncle Juice is innocent on national TV because Barbara Walters is interviewing him.  One pissy sister said, “she’s already interviewed Mom and Bruce,” to which Jr. clucks, “Bruce is famous, he won the Olympics.”

Do we need to parse this exchange?  Can you guess where my mind is going here?  Special Time with Kris Jenner Part 2, no name, and now even the-decathalete-now-no-long-known-as-Bruce gets a shout out?  When did E! buy FX?  Ah, the foreshadowing of life 20 years hence is going to be part of Episode 3 also, huh?

BUT, THEN THEY GO THERE:

In a bit of pontificating that Schwimmer can clearly barely get out without a laugh, he says to his gang, “look you know your grandparents, you know me and what I try to pass onto you.  We are Kardashians and we believe that being a loyal friend and a good person is more important than being famous.  Fame is fleeting, it’s hollow, it means nothing at all without a virtuous heart.”

No, no, please, let’s silently digest that one for a moment.

No, no.  Two moments.  For those of you who were too busy laughing instead of digesting.

And we’re off to the opening credits.  So this whole three-minutes of valuable 10-hour historical miniseries TV time was dedicated to the Kardashians?  And without mentioning Kris by name?  Where does she go to get this changed?

Now we can get to the actual episode.

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Our Marcia gets her first real moment in the public glare at a press conference where she details the charges (and a moron guard at the jail has it on full blast so O.J. can hear it all).  He will be charged all by himself, “because is the sole murderer.”  And “everything is on the table,” including the death penalty.  “Congratulations, a star is born,” her boss DA Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) says proudly.  “Well, thank, but with this kind of physical evidence and a run for the border, he practically did my job for me,” he replies, beaming, for perhaps the last time.

“Trial junky,” co-counsel Bill Hodgson (Christian Clemenson) teases her.

“Mmmm hmmmm, it’s better than sex!” he replies.

The only person I want to think about sexually less than Marcia Clark is Sarah Paulson, so ewwww.

Meanwhile, Bob Shapiro is upset at the tabloid coverage of the case and knows he need some help. “Linda,” he bellows to his secretary, “get F. Lee Bailey on the phone.”  F. Lee Bailey arrives in the person of Nathan Lane, so we can be sure of two things: first, a terrific actor is on hand to guarantee a great performance (he’s up there with Barbara Stanwyck and Polly Bergen with a light toupee); second, because he’s Nathan Lane, he knows this tripe is ripe, so he’s going to speak each line as both F. Lee Bailey-as-written and as Nathan Lane-making-sarcastic-commentary.

As for F. Lee Bailey himself, when he came on board, he was perhaps the most well-known attorney in the country: Sam Sheppard (“The Fugitive”), Ernest Medina (the My Lai massacre), Albert DeSalvo (The Boston Strangler), Patty Hearst (Patty Hearst) and lots of “possible” drunken encounters over the years (including the closing argument for Patty Hearst and the infamous flask on the desk during O.J.’s trial).  You will remember that Lee lit the match that sparked Cochran’s defense and, coupled with the ineptitude of the prosecution, kept O.J. from jail.

So, when a line is all Lee, we’ll note it as such.  However, if I credit it to Lee-Lane, you will know that it’s said with more Nathan Lane than F. Lee Bailey (who, at 82 isn’t likely to argue anyway, though Bob Shapiro let Travolta get away with a head-scratching performance).

Lee and Lee-Lane, got it?

“Wowzie, you’re sure up a creek with high-grade manure,” Bailey (and Lane, who rolls his eyes) tells Shapiro right off the bat.  Shapiro is furious at the blood trails, the gloves, “that stupid Bronco,” and… “yes, I saw that on television,” Lee-Lane remarks (you got it, you are good!).  Shapiro is upset because every legal expert in the country is saying O.J. is guilty, including, on Larry King (King plays himself with a really funny toupee), Alan Dershowitz (Evan Handler), who kept Claus Von Bulow out of jail, among others.  Dershowitz says two things that hit Shapiro hard: first, that the evidence is overwhelming and second, that plea bargains, as opposed to actual trials, are Shapiro’s specialty.

Shapiro rants that the public is going to see him as “the schmuck who walked O.J. to the gas chamber” and that now the “most famous lawyer in the country” is spouting off on Larry King.

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“You think Alan is the most famous lawyer in the country?” Lee-Lane asks, in a line that you can hear him speaking, it’s so perfect for his deadpan delivery, adding, “thank God he’s so photogenic.”  “How do you shut Dershowitz up?” Shapiro asks, as Lee reaches for another drink.  “He’s a smug son-of-a-bitch, every 15th word is ‘Harvard.’  Look, there’s only way to shut up Dershowitz…hire him,” Lee says with Lane’s ace timing.

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Shapiro-Bailey-Dershowitz-Kaf;kdk;arwianizcitiz, that’s the legal team now.  Three out of four ain’t bad and the fourth has hair to rival Marcia Clark’s.

The prosecution has a different set of worries.  The trial can’t be held in Santa Monica because they are recovering from an earthquake, so it will be done in Downtown LA.  That’s fine for DA Garcetti because of their “resources” available Downtown and the “optics.”  Marcia snidely baits Gil about it, but essentially it comes down to Gil wanting a black jury, “my voting base,” as he notes.  “But doesn’t he deserve a jury of his peers?  You know, rich middle-age white men?” Marcia replies with a lilt.  “I’m kidding.  It’s the truth, but I’m kidding,” she adds.  Neither is worried.  Not only has Marcia won 19 of 20 cases, but Gil says, “we have a winning hand.”

There’s that future watching thingy that this miniseries adores.

Dershowitz shows up at Shapiro’s office, where he and Bailey are waiting for him, and yet more fun is made of St. Robert’s anonymity.  Dershowitz has brought along Barry Scheck (Rob Morrow), “the best DNA mind in the business.”  Shapiro notes they have a reservation at Spago, like any good name-dropping Angelino would make happen, but Dershowitz isn’t interested.  He wants to work through lunch and be home later that night.  “That’s how this will work,” he says, noting that he’ll be out when he need to be, but “my resources will be back in Boston.  At Harvard.”  To that, Lee-Lane mouths “Harvard” to Shapiro, who nods knowingly (and it’s roughly 15 word or so).

However, Dershowitz, after telling Shapiro he and St. Robert have done everything wrong so far, give them a bit of honest truthing: “Right now, he’s sort of like this handsome gifted Greek god laid low.  It’s a tragedy, but he’s still a Greek god.  The longer he sits in that cell, the more the public sees him in a jumpsuit and cuffs, the more mortal he becomes.  That’s the clock we’re fighting.”

“Excuse me.  He’s never going to stop being the Juice,” St. Robert butts in.  He is ignored.

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Meanwhile, Shapiro is furious at being raked over the coals.  “Tell us something we don’t know!” so Dershowitz unleashes Barry Scheck’s very technical talk on DNA.  Shapiro thinks DNA will work again them.  “I’m not going to contest the DNA matches.  I’m going to keep them out of court entirely,” he announces, which suddenly perks up Bob Shapiro.  “If it can be shown that there may have been errors in the collection and handling of the samples…we can contest the validity of the test itself.” This would be a good time to sound the “Law and Order” gong.  It’s that kind of moment.

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(Here’s a Lee-Lane visual)

“I never thought I’d say this, but I like the nerd science guy,” Bailey admits to Shapiro later.  Not relying solely on that possibility, Shapiro has his own people digging.  So far, nothing too exciting, except that Detective Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale) once did security for a party at Johnny Carson’s and was “never asked back.”  It seems he’s not very nice.  “This Forman?” “Fuhrman,” he’s corrected, “dig deep.”

Who would ever have thought that St. Robert Kardashian and Mark Fuhrman would have anything in common.  And yet, they do, people don’t pay any attention to their names.

Upon hearing the “Dream Team” named, Marcia is not worried.  Not only is Shapiro “a settler,” she asks “when’s the last time Bailey won anything more than a drinking game?” which causes a big laugh from her office pals.  They tear apart Bailey and Dershowitz and then Bill says, “and Robert Kardashian…I literally did not realize he was a lawyer” to another round of chuckles.  WE GET IT!

“It’s really sad.  The most famous collection of expensive lawyers in the world trying to buy O.J. out of trouble,” Marcia says as she thumbs through tabloids.  To her, this is nothing more than show.  It’s a fait accompli.  O.J. is clearly guilty, she has the evidence to prove it and there’s no way to lose.  Fancy lawyer are just a nice distraction.

Oh, Marcia, how wrong you would end up being.  However, let’s be fair.  Once the prosecution laid out its case publicly, it looked airtight.  On pure legal terms, the evidence added up to only one conclusion: O.J. did it.

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Therefore, it’s this moment, a third of the way through Episode 3, that is the crux of the case, and also of the miniseries: how did the prosecution, holding all the cards, manage to obliterate themselves against a gaggle of arguing preening ego-driven high-priced lawyers?

Well, “ego-driven” is a term we can apply to almost everyone involved. It’s taking the “selfish” theme of Episode 2″ to the next level.  These people aren’t just self-focused, they are blinded by it.  They see the future through their egos, not through reality.

Oops.  Greek tragedy.

Johnny Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) tells his wife he’s a “Senior O.J. Analyst” for “that NBC” thing, but with Roberta Flack on the speakers, food cooking 12 rooms away and not a servant to found, Mrs. Senior O.J. Analyst seductively tells her husband to find a way to join the case.  Johnny once again demurs, thinking, “they are going to lose.”  “How would it feel is someone else got him off?” she asks?  “It wouldn’t feel good,” he replies.  We assume he is speaking of the case.

I skipped an earlier scene because it was just too idiotic, but I also knew it wasn’t standing alone.  The interesting thing is how it comes back.  That would be the Time Magazine cover of O.J.’s mugshot.  We watched Time staffers playing with shading the cover and now we see the results: next to Newsweek, which seems to have an un-retouched version.  “Can you believe it?  They made him blacker,” a newsstand owner says to…

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(Cuba Gooding Jr. looks almost happy in the photo, but you get the idea)

…Christopher Darden.  It would have been very easy to give this scene to Cochran, who is circling the drain without knowing it, to Shapiro or Bailey as an “aha” moment that they need Cochran, or even to Clark, as a way or foreshadowing her grand tumble.  But it’s given to Darden, a character barely seen so far and not yet part of he prosecutorial team.  He’s also a black man, so the puzzlement on his face at seeing the covers is a nice touch.

Meanwhile, Shapiro’s investigators have dug up dirt on Detective Fuhrman, finding that he has serious issues with black people.  “This is a gift,” Shapiro says, “imagine…imagine that O.J. Simpson was set up by the cops because he was a black man, because the LAPD has a systemic racial problem!” and somehow manage to show a hint of a smile through all of that cement-like plastic surgery.  At that very moment, wouldn’t you know, a reporter shows up to discuss something tangential, but Shapiro decides to lower the boom about the “the systematic railroading of O.J. Simpson by the LAPD because he’s black.”  “Wait, what?” the reporter asks, incredulously, “…all the blood evidence…the cops…planted it?” he asks.  “Who else could have?” Shapiro asks, though the reporter is snazzy enough to reply, “O.J. Simpson [dropped he glove]…to avoid being seen by the limo driver.”  With that, Shapiro admits the case is all about racism.  Without so much as as a word with Johnny Cochran.

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When an eye witness in the case sells her story to TV for $5k, Marcia refuses to put her on the stand, despite the objections of her boss (and co-counsel).  “If we don’t keep control, the press can hijack all of it.  We’ll end up responding to them instead of focusing on thing that matter,” she insists, adding, “come on guys, we hold all the aces, let’s take the high ground.”

Nice DA’s finish last.

O.J. has his own problems.  He complains to Shapiro, Bailey and St. Robert that none of the guys from the golf club have come to visit, he has “dirt on his elbows” and he asks why they haven’t looked into Faye Resnick’s drug connections: “I hear a lot of coke moves through Mezzaluna,” he reminds them.  “Cocaine connections?  Sure, we’ll put an investigator on it,” Lee-Lane sneers.  Shapiro brings up the idea of bring in another lawyer who can blah blah blah blah blah Downtown LA, “somebody like Johnny Cochran.”  “No, no!” O.J. insists, “that’s all wrong!”

Even the pleas of St. Robert and a football analogy fail to swap him.  “I’m not black.  I’m O.J.!” he demands.

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It’s nighttime when Johnny, working on another case, gets a call directly from O.J. Simpson.  It’s a fake.  “Diane, next time screen the damn call!” he bellows at his secretary.

We haven’t forgotten Kato (Billy Magnussen).  He sums it all up in a ten-second scene.  All of what?  All.of.it. Out jogging, he has girls baring their breasts upon seeing him, while others deride him for being a friend of O.J.’s.  “Fame’s complicated,” he says, making it sound like that took a long time and a lot of hard work to say.

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(this photo of Magunessen is not from this movie, but it’s the reason he was hired and the reason he has this scene)

“Fame’s complicated.”

“Fame’s complicated.”

Let’s pause.

Un-pause.

In the first of a zillion uncomfortable scenes because we know what happened behind closed doors somewhere along the line, Darden finds his way to Marcia’s office (he calls her “Big Time,” at least initially) to tell her about a call from a reporter asking about Mark Fuhrman and racist allegations.  “A lot of black people think O.J. didn’t do it,” Darden tells her, and she is shocked. “It’s not like O.J. is a pillar of the black community,” he whines between ciggy puffs, the same thing Darden had said to his neighbors during the Bronco chase.  “It’s an emotional thing.  That might be hard for you to understand,” he tells her, “because you never get emotional about your cases.”  She smiles, he smiles, the camera lingers way too long.

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You asked for more of her, you got more of her, she’s your problem.  Yup, Kris Jenner.

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Don’t look at us like that, St. Robert (or rather, David Schwimmer), you married her!  She’s pissed that St. Robert is defending O.J.  “He’s my best friend, Kris, I don’t turn my back on people,” he declares, polishing his halo.  “You’re turning your back on Nicole!  He butchered her, he murdered her!” she replies.  “I’m devastated…you know that…but he has nothing to do with that!” he says earnestly, asking her not to “tell the kids their uncle is a murderer.”  “Pretend Uncle, Robert.  Everything about him is pretend,” she huffs.

I hate to say it, but it’s a good exchange.  Obviously, it’s there to a) give us time with the most important person in the case and b) to make sure we understand how fervently St. Robert believes in the Juice.

Marcia asks Christopher to handle the case against A.C. for aiding and abetting.  “I think you’ll have fun with it,” he tells him merrily.  Fun?  Okay, whatever, Marcia.  But, Darden hasn’t been in a courtroom in a long time, he’s not right for it, but neither of them is stupid.  They both know Marcia is working up to…well, maybe she has multiple motives.  “I’m all yours, Marcia,” he replies, getting moony-eyed.  

The miniseries does pull itself out of the double entendres and mushy motives long enough to play Nicole’s 911 tapes.  We watch as the DA’s office hears them, but then we are shown people all over Los Angeles listening to it, stunned.  “This is exactly what I feared,” Marcia brays “the tail wagging the dog.”  Her case is now public.  Not to worry, Bill opines, “you have enough evidence to win five cases!”  She ain’t buying it.

And she shouldn’t.  Because then the magazine article with Bob Shapiro’s attack on the LAPD hits stands.

Bailey reads it in Shapiro’s office.  His reaction?  “I hear a sound.  The sound of metal orbs clanging against one another.  Oh my God!  It’s coming from your pants, Bob.  Balls!  Big brass balls!  God love you.  We are back in this thing!” Lee-Lane emotes.  Shapiro is worried about the 911 tapes, but Bailey wipes that away in a highfalutin and totally ridiculous analogy about a crippled car climbing back up the hill, all with Shapiro as the savior.  Naturally, Shapiro is thrilled.

Over at the DA’s office, only Darden is willing to agree that the strategy could work.  “Darden’s right.  This move may be sleazy and cynical, but it could work.  They’re trying to take down the LAPD,” Marcia finally agrees, “this article is a declaration of war.”

Get ready, here comes the driver of the car about to take them over the cliff again.

Ready?

“Bob, it was just…you know…tussling.  I can fix that.”

Fix what?   You may be asking.  Ah, that would be the 911 tapes now heard publicly of him beating his wife.  Oh, maaaaan, ain’t nobody liking the Juice in this script.

“This race issue is the crux of our case.  We need to bring in Johnny Cochran and we need to do it now!” Shapiro insists, a rare time he’s not brokering a truce, but making a demand.  When St. Robert agrees, the phone once again rings at Cochran’s office.

“Let me say this. I’ve always admired you,” Bob says, blowing smoke up Johnny’s ass.

“I’ve alway felt a strong emotional tie to this case,” Johnny replies.

BUT, before there is any hugging and mutual adoration, Bob has to clear up one thing…“I will remain as lead counsel.”  Johnny huffs at that, but takes a different tactic, temporarily.  He wants to look into O.J.’s eyes and hear the truth.  The laws of TV legal dramas is that it doesn’t matter what the lawyer thinks, right?  Look at this miniseries, blazing trails!

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“You all right, my brother?” he asks O.J. when they meet and hug. “No, no, Johnny, no,” the crybaby client admits.  “I loved her.  I loved Nicole more than you can possibly imagine.  She’s the mother of my children.  I didn’t do it, Johnny…Nicole was the center of my world,” he sobs, on cue.

“I believe you!” Johnny declares, “but I need you to stay strong.”  Johnny, sounding like a priest, best friend and lawyer, bandies about a bit and then nails the crux (another crux): “we get just one black juror, I’ll give you a hung jury.  A hung jury means you are going home.  You’re going home!” Johnny says, missing only the cheerleaders going back-up.

It’s late.  No, it’s early morning.  Marcia is in her yard with a cigarette and the morning paper blaring the headline:

“Dream Team Deepens The Bench”

“Cochran!” she sneers, “a motherf*cker!”

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Bingo, The Dream Team is complete!

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(Just by comparison, here’s the prosecution so far…

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…not quite so dreamy).

Categories: Historical Miniseries

2 Comments to “FLASH FORWARD: The People v. O.J. Simpson Episode 3: The Dream Team”

  1. Donna Bishop 30 March 2016 at 8:25 pm #

    Looking forward to watching…

    • Bj Kirschner 12 November 2016 at 1:09 pm #

      I stil have to finish it eventually. 🙂


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