Friday, August 22, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

O.J. TV: ‘The Trial of the Century’ and then some

By
From page D2 | June 14, 2014 |

NEW YORK — O.J. TV was a national pastime.

The O.J. Simpson Show — with its centerpiece a former football great on trial for double homicide — commandeered the media, especially television, along with a spellbound audience for nearly 16 months.

It began as little more than a juicy crime story: the ex-wife of a celebrity and a male acquaintance slain outside her home on June 12, 1994.

Then things took a shocking turn: Simpson, initially seen as the grieving former husband, became the accused.

But O.J. TV erupted in full force late in the afternoon of June 17, with Simpson (charged with the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman) the focus of a slow-speed police chase in his white Ford Bronco, apparently considering suicide en route.

More than 90 million Americans watched, thunderstruck, as TV helicopters tracked this beyond-bizarre motorcade along the freeways of Los Angeles, then, after some 90 minutes, witnessed Simpson surrender in the driveway of his Brentwood home.

“You didn’t dare turn away,” says Greta Van Susteren, now a Fox News Channel host, who became a legal analyst for CNN’s trial coverage. “Everybody was watching it, live, wondering if O.J. was going to blow his brains out. That’s when the hook was set for everything that followed.”

What followed was labeled the Trial of the Century, with TV perfectly poised to give it the full treatment, serving as its primary dispatcher and enabler. Endowed with cameras in the courtroom, this was the first big TV trial. It was lurid, star-driven and racially charged, with elements of glitz, sex and domestic violence all wrapped in mystery and supercharged with who-will-win suspense.

And it had the perfect headliner.

“Here was a man who had transcended sports and even race, a guy who had achieved single-name status,” says Jack Ford, now CBS News Legal Analyst, who covered the trial for NBC News.

O.J. TV kept viewers hooked with jury selection that fall, through the trial’s start in January 1995, then through months of proceedings, carried gavel-to-gavel by numerous networks and recapped daily on numerous shows.

It swamped the airwaves, from network evening newscasts (where the Simpson case was the most heavily covered story of 1995) to magazine shows, talk shows and CNN, whose ratings increased eight-fold.

“At the beginning we knew it was a big story,” says Ford, “but I don’t think any of us anticipated how the public would be so invested in it.”

The case, with all its constituent parts, became second-nature to viewers: Nicole’s front walkway on Bundy Drive and O.J.’s towering hedge on Rockingham Avenue. Ron Goldman’s father’s upturned mustache. O.J. houseguest Kato Kaelin’s flowing locks. Judge Lance Ito on the bench pecking at his laptop. Robert Kardashian (the father of future TV dominatrices Kim, Khloe and Kourtney) as O.J. lawyer and hanger-on. And so many more, including O.J., of course: somber, stone-faced, always leading-man handsome.

The jury was unseen, out of camera range, but it, like the rest of Simpsonalia, was scrutinized, analyzed and argued about. And not just by the scores of on-air commentators. The Simpson case was Topic A among the watching hordes, and television welcomed their opinions. Thus was O.J. TV a forerunner of today’s interactive media.

Geraldo Rivera’s nightly CNBC talk show, all-consumed with the Simpson case, invited viewer call-ins. E! solicited viewers’ faxes, one of which, shown on camera, advised prosecutor Marcia Clark to “take a pill and chill, or O.J. will walk.”

Then on Oct. 3, 1995, the jury’s shocking verdict was pronounced. Identical courtroom video was carried by ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The WB broadcast networks, and by cable channels CNBC, CNN, Court TV, E! Entertainment, ESPN and Headline News, with 91 percent of all TVs in use tuned to this bombshell.

O.J. TV came to an end with the audience deeply divided on his guilt. But there was unity on something else: Viewers wanted more and since then, have joined the media in hopefully framing each new trial (Timothy McVeigh, Scott Petersen, Casey Anthony, Oscar Pistorius) as the Trial of the Century.

Yet none has been. As tawdry, tragic melodrama, nothing has come close to O.J. TV, the first and only of its kind.

“It was a freak event in television,” says Van Susteren.

Other news stories have seized society and rattled the culture. News will never lose its capacity to startle, grip and horrify its audience en masse. But such seismic TV stories as 9/11 and Katrina didn’t unfold in a courtroom.

With a bland, cramped LA courtroom its main stage, O.J. TV boasted characters, theatrics and novelty ensuring its reign as the Trial for the Ages. To expect it to be equaled by a future trial is to imagine that, someday, four young Liverpool lads could spark another round of Beatlemania.

 

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
 
Chapkis Dance brings award-winning moves to Vacaville

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Ducks on the pond, sturgeon in the water

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1, 3 Comments | Gallery

 
Jazz invasion Aug. 30 at performing arts center

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

How I spent my summer vacation

By Tony Wade | From Page: A2

 
 
Housing specialist to speak before Senior Rountable

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

Brown approves ‘dining with dogs’ law

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3, 5 Comments

 
 
Small fire takes place at Solano College

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

Fairfield police log: Aug. 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: Aug. 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

.

US / World

Aunt of toddler killed pleads not guilty

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3, 2 Comments

 
Cops greet students at school where plot thwarted

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

San Francisco to tally bird-into-window death toll

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
GPS devices find huge water loss in western US

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

California plans aid to immigrant minors

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
California to appeal ruling tossing death penalty

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Stunt blocks traffic on Golden Gate Bridge

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Bodies of 2 men found in adjacent California yards

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Assembly approves greater disclosure for campaigns

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
US judge strikes down Florida gay marriage ban

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Gov. Nixon taking National Guard out of Ferguson

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
American Ebola doc: ‘I am thrilled to be alive’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

No bail for woman in Amish girls’ kidnapping in NY

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Lawyer: Utah restaurant had other chemical burn

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Ice bucket challenge goes awry, firefighters hurt

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

 
Marathon bombing suspect’s friend pleads guilty

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Indonesian court rejects election loser’s appeal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Liberia gives food in slum sealed to stop Ebola

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Foley case lays bare debate over paying ransom

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Pentagon: Islamic State militants will regroup

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Syria opposition: Deadly chemical attack forgotten

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Russian aid convoy advances toward Ukraine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Israel kills 3 Hamas military commanders in Gaza

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Turkey’s Davutoglu named new premier

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Thai army ruler named prime minister

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Record drought saps California honey production

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12, 1 Comment | Gallery

.

Opinion

Get it straight in Ferguson

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: A11, 9 Comments

 
Editorial Cartoon: Aug. 22, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

 
Are America’s police over-militarized and under-accountable?

By Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis | From Page: A11

 
Young men helped me, and I thank them

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 2 Comments

.

Living

Today in History: Aug. 22, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Aug. 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

My whole house shakes when my new neighbors drop their barbells

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes: Aug. 22, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

Week in preview Aug. 22-28, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
The voice-overs can’t save ‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’

By Mcclatchy-Tribune News Service | From Page: B2

Review: A sweet Moretz rescues ‘If I Stay’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Emmy hopefuls play the angles to nab trophies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Seth Meyers prizes his new role as Emmycast host

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Entertainment calendar Aug. 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: B4

‘Doctor Who’ returns with a new season on BBC America

By Mcclatchy-Tribune News Service | From Page: B6

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Julianne Hough dances back to ‘Dancing’ as judge

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Jon Hamm hopes Ferguson will come out stronger

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Fade to black: Leonard Maltin ending movie guides

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
.

Sports

Raiders’ Woodson returning to Lambeau, faces Pack

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Local boxers make weight and are ready to fight

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Serena Williams to face Townsend in Open 1st round

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Loose sod at new Levi’s Stadium removed

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Phelps back in international comp, advances in 100

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Tigers’ Price throws 1-hitter, loses to Rays 1-0

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Philly loses to Chicago in LLWS

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

Ryu sets course record at Canadian Women’s Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
McIlroy stumbles to 74, worst start in 2 months

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

Cal interim AD Williams jumps into new role

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Teams test out a new helmet, but does it work?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10 | Gallery

Goalkeeper Tim Howard taking break from US team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
Signups for Friday, Aug. 22, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B10

.

Business

Big 2015 Chevy Tahoe remains a rare breed of SUV

By Ann M. Job | From Page: C1 | Gallery

 
US housing recovery appears to be back on track

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

Airline group forecasts uptick in Labor Day travel

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Applications for US unemployment aid fall to 298K

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

United lures top fliers with promise of a hot meal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11 | Gallery

 
Family Dollar rejects Dollar General offer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

S&P 500 closes at a record; Hewlett-Packard gains

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Ford recalling more than 160,000 vehicles

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

Bank of America settlement likely to benefit few

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
.

Obituaries

George ‘Wayne’ Hause

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Sharon Ilene Boyd

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Richard Ray Jr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Mary Louise Loveall

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9