People v. O.J. Simpson Recap: The Dream Team Gets Ready to Play the Race Card

Johnnie Cochran joins O.J.’s legal defense, and Marcia Clark and the prosecution team aren’t ready for what’s coming.

FX Networks

In general, I am loving this series so far. Cuba Gooding Jr. as O.J. has received some flak because he doesn’t look like O.J., especially in stature. There’s been some fuss about John Travolta’s “weird” Robert Shapiro, which is an accurate assessment, but I happen to find him hilarious. Neither of those common complaints bothers me, especially since Gooding’s distraught O.J. is great TV.

My one critique is about the amount of Kardashian name-dropping and how often the kids pop up in the first three episodes and throughout the series. (I’ve watched through episode 6.) Robert Kardashian Sr. is not even the lead attorney. His role in the Dream Team, at least as depicted in this series, is less actual legal maneuvering and more managing O.J., which, admittedly, is a full-time gig. But here we are.

At the start of episode 3, it’s Father’s Day and Kardashian is taking his brood to Chin Chin’s. It’s crowded, but his party of five doesn’t have to wait because the waitresses recognize him. It’s a testament to just how popular the O.J. Simpson case is and an indication that everyone is paying attention, even to the minor players. The kids are impressed. 

At the table, Kardashian, who is obviously uncomfortable with the newfound attention, gives the kids a speech about fame being fleeting and hollow and meaning nothing at all without a virtuous heart. Obviously, he wasted his breath.

Elsewhere, Simpson’s lead attorney, Robert Shapiro, decides to fly out attorney F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane), who once represented Patty Hearst but has since fallen from grace. Shapiro goes over the most damning evidence with Bailey. Everyone, including Alan Dershowitz (Evan Handler), “the most famous lawyer in the country,” thinks O.J. is guilty and Shapiro is “the schmuck who will walk O.J. to the gas chamber.” He wants to shut up Dershowitz, who is all over the news talking about the case. Bailey says to hire Dershowitz.

Dershowitz, aka Harry from Sex and the City, shows up with awful hair and attorney Barry Scheck (Rob Morrow) to meet with Shapiro and Bailey. Dershowitz says that O.J. has goodwill among the populace. “He’s a Greek god laid low, but he’s still a Greek god,” Dershowitz assesses.

There’s more. Scheck is an expert attorney on this brand-new thing called DNA analysis, and his legal strategy is to make the jury question all the evidence they see. “We will hack at them,” Dershowitz says. “Make every piece of evidence presented either thrown out, untrustworthy or confusing.” This is brilliant, which I can say with confidence because I know it worked.

Scheck is the gift that keeps on giving. On the way out of the meeting, he mentions that he knows one of the officers involved in the case: Mark Fuhrman. And even better, “He’s a prick.”

Across town, Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) is practicing his upcoming turn on NBC, where he is being called the “senior O.J. analyst.” The missus wonders if Johnnie should try to get in on the case. He says he isn’t interested because it’s a lost cause. She asks how he would feel if someone else got O.J. off. Cochran says that wouldn’t feel good, so his interest begins. 

Scheck does as promised and finds the Fuhrman files. The short version: Fuhrman hates black people and once sued the city because working for the Los Angeles Police Department made him have violent fantasies about beating up black people. Wait. What? Right then, Shapiro comes up with the defense’s strategy: The LAPD set up O.J. because it has a systemic-racism problem. He tells this to a reporter from the New Yorker (Jeffrey Toobin, who wrote the book on which this miniseries is based).