Friday, September 19, 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

Missouri Street Theatre set to open ‘Bonnie and Clyde’

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Shelter uses technology to reunite pets, owners

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Weekend full of jazz on tap in Vacaville

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

Royal Tailor plans high-energy, genre-blending show

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Police make child molestation arrest

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Dignitaries celebrate opening of $30M courthouse

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Fairfield police arrest 2 in robberies investigation

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3, 8 Comments | Gallery

 
Police seek help to find missing Fairfield man

By Glen Faison | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Fairfield eyes sale of excess government land

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4

 
Men, again, are seen as missing in Fairfield

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 5 Comments | Gallery

Stolen vehicle investigation leads to 3 arrests

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Weather for Sept. 19, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B12

Suisun City police log: Sept. 17, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: Sept. 17, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

.

US / World

Man arrested in fast-growing California wildfire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Strong Senate vote for Obama on Syria rebel aid

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Scots reject independence in historic vote

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Passenger says JetBlue plane filled with smoke

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Law makes earthquake insurance more understandable

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
GOP pushes diverse candidates, but will it matter?

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

PG&E emails may have violated rules, judge says

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
500 Berkeley students missed sex abuse classes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Boxer indicates big decision to come next year

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Father arrested in fatal stabbing of 6-year-old

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Health exchange addresses dropped policies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
UC system plan calls for anti-sex abuse effort

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Democratic state lawmaker arraigned on DUI charges

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

 
Sheriff: Fla. man kills 6 grandchildren, daughter

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Couple in Craigslist slaying sentenced to life

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
In wake of beheadings, Busch Gardens removes props

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Trooper ambush suspect added to most wanted list

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
CDC tells healthy adults not to forget flu vaccine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Border Patrol to test wearing cameras

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Kansas court: Remove Democrat from Senate ballot

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Ukraine’s pleas for lethal aid from US go unmet

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
British hostage appears in new video

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Witness: 21 killed by Mexico army had surrendered

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Militant gains illustrate plight of Syrian Kurds

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Series of attacks kills at least 36 in Iraq

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Sierra Leone to shut down for 3 days to slow Ebola

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

.

Opinion

 
Did the ‘War on Poverty’ fail?

By Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis | From Page: A11

 
Do you feel more secure?

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

My support for anyone but Moy

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 13 Comments

 
.

Living

Today in History: Sept. 19, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Sept. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Sept. 19, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
Mother-in-law bothers me at work for kid’s minor infractions

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

Week in preview Sept. 19-25, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Review: ‘Leave You’ has A-list cast, B-grade result

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Adam Driver shifts into hyper drive

By Jake Coyle | From Page: B2

 
‘The Voice’ winner goes to Broadway’s ‘Pippin’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
TV Guide Network renaming itself POP

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Peter Fonda’s ‘Easy Rider’ bike going to auction

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Entertainment calendar Sept. 19, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B4

Darrell Hammond takes over for Don Pardo on ‘SNL’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

The Roosevelt trail, from Maine to North Dakota

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
.

Sports

Vanden volleyball team remains undefeated in SCAC play

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B7

 
49ers’ Derek Carrier ready to step in at tight end

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7, 1 Comment

Raiders seek ways to get Reece more involved

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Athletics out of top wild-card spot as Texas sweeps

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

Nashville new home for Athletics’ Triple-A team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
 
Falcons romp to 56-14 win over hapless Buccaneers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
2-time Grand Slam winner Li Na retires from tour

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Stacy Lewis, Mi Jung Hur share LPGA lead in Alabama

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
WR Simpson, in more trouble, released by Vikings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Royal & Ancient votes to admit female members

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
MLS says Chivas USA might not play in 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Tiger Woods says he might coach himself

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Police: Cardinals RB Dwyer head-butted wife

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Prep football capsules: Week 3

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B10

 
Signups for Friday, Sept. 19, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B10

Appeals court reconsidering Barry Bonds conviction

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
.

Business

Nissan’s small car excels at affordability

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

 
Self-driving cars now need a permit in California

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2 | Gallery

Ellison gives up Oracle CEO role, becomes chairman

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
California bill increases Hollywood tax credits

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

Fed keeps rates low, but brace for the inevitable

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Alibaba prices IPO at $68 per share

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11 | Gallery

Home Depot says malware affected 56M payment cards

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Applications for US jobless benefits fall sharply

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

Apple locks itself out of devices with passwords

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Alibaba’s plan: Today, China. Tomorrow, the world.

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

Chevron meets new, voluntary shale drilling rules

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
.

Obituaries

Margaret King

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Mae Frances Jones

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

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

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9