Thursday, February 09, 2017

Dramatizing historic criminal cases, this absorbing anthology series premieres with the tangled saga of the O.J. Simpson trial, in which the former football star was accused of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.

O.J. Simpson in 1990 in Saudi Arabia while visiting American troops during the lead-up to the first Gulf War.

American Crime Story was developed by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who are executive producers with Brad Falchuk, Nina Jacobson, Ryan Murphy, and Brad Simpson. It is a spin-off of the television series American Horror Story, also by Falchuk and Murphy. It premiered on the cable network FX in the United States on February 2, 2016. Similar to American Horror Story, each season is presented as a self-contained miniseries, following separate unrelated true events. The first season, subtitled The People v. O.J. Simpson, presents the murder trial of O.J. Simpson, based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson. A second season is in development, and it will focus on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, relying on Douglas Brinkley’s book The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast as the primary source material. Series creators Alexander and Karaszewski will not be returning for the second season. The third season, which is also in development, will examine the assassination of legendary designer Gianni Versace by serial killer Andrew Cunanan, based on Maureen Orth’s book Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History. The fourth season, in development as well, will analyse the Bill Clinton sex scandal and the ensuing events during his presidency, based on Toobin’s book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President. In January 2017, it was announced the second season would not premiere until 2018 due to the source material, while the third will air within six months from the second season airing.

Cuba Gooding Jr. and Sarah Paulson were the first to be cast as Simpson and Marcia Clark, respectively. Subsequently, David Schwimmer was cast as Robert Kardashian. In January 2015, it was reported that John Travolta had joined the cast as Robert Shapiro. He would also serve as producer. In February 2015, Courtney B. Vance joined the series as Johnnie Cochran. It was announced that Connie Britton would co-star as Faye Resnick in March 2015. April 2015 saw the casting of Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden, Jordana Brewster as Denise Brown, and Kenneth Choi as Judge Lance Ito. In May 2015, it was confirmed Selma Blair would be portraying the role of Kris Kardashian. In July 2015, it was announced Nathan Lane had joined the cast as F. Lee Bailey.

In February 2017, Annette Bening joined the cast of the series’s second season as Kathleen Blanco.

The first season of American Crime Story has received critical acclaim. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the season an approval rating of 97%, based on 73 reviews, with an average rating of 8.7/10. The site’s critical consensus reads, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story brings top-shelf writing, directing, and acting to bear on a still-topical story while shedding further light on the facts — and provoking passionate responses along the way.” On Metacritic, the season has a score of 90 out of 100, based on 45 critics, indicating “universal acclaim”.

Many critics have singled out many cast members for the performances, particularly Paulson, Brown, Schwimmer, and Vance. Dan Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter praised Paulson and Vance’s performances, writing: “As Clark’s discomfort grows, Paulson’s collection of tics seem more and more human ... Vance’s Cochran is sometimes hilarious, but he has a dynamic range such that he’s occasionally introspective and always intelligent as well.” Brian Lowry of Variety praised the casting of the smaller roles, particularly Connie Britton as Faye Resnick and Nathan Lane as F. Lee Bailey.

Despite the praise for the rest of the cast, Travolta’s portrayal of Shapiro and Gooding’s portrayal of Simpson have received mixed critical reviews. Brian Lowry of Variety called Travolta “awful” in the role, adding: “Yes, Shapiro spoke in stiff, measured tones, but the actor’s overly mannered line readings turn the attorney into a buffoon, in sharp contrast to the more nuanced portrayals around him.” Nicole Jones of Vanity Fair called his performance “campy and calculated.” Dan Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter also criticized his performance, calling it “a mesmerizingly bad performance from the eyebrows down.” Feinberg also observed: “His unnecessary accent varies by episode, and Travolta’s laser intensity feels arch and almost kabuki at times, turning Shapiro into a terrifying character from the next American Horror Story installment, rather than a part of this ensemble.”

Maureen Ryan of Vanity Fair, conversely, became more impressed with Travolta as the season progressed: “I started in the realm of puzzled disbelief, arrived at amusement, and ultimately traveled to a place of sincere appreciation. You simply can’t take your eyes off Travolta, and that is a form of enchantment.” Elisabeth Garber-Paul of Rolling Stone also called it “arguably Travolta’s best performance since Tarantino brought him back from the dead.” Robert Bianco of USA Today wrote that Travolta’s was the show’s “broadest performance.”

Dave Schilling of The Guardian panned Gooding’s performance, writing: “his whiny, gravely voice sounds absolutely nothing like the real O.J. Simpson’s deep, commanding tones.” Michael Starr of New York Post was also highly critical of Gooding’s performance, saying that he “portrays Simpson as a hollow, sad-sack cipher who speaks in a high-pitched whine and sleepwalks in a fog he never shakes after being arrested for the brutal double murder of ex-wife Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman. He’s a forgettable, annoying presence in what should be a showcase role for Gooding — who, to be fair, is reciting lines written for him, so he can only do so much with the material.” Gooding’s Emmy nomination for his work on the series was criticized by some reviewers.

On the other hand, Joe McGovern was more positive on Gooding’s performance, writing that his casting “takes a risk and pulls it off.” Elisabeth Garber-Paul of Rolling Stone described his performance as “an unnervingly believable take on a potential psychopath with teetering sanity.” Nick Venable of Cinema Blend also opined that Gooding’s turn as Simpson “could indeed get him on a shortlist of Emmy nominees.” Source.

Watch American Crime Story S1 online.

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