“You saw it all, but you don’t know the half of it.”
That was the promotional come-on attached to “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” television’s buzziest blockbuster of the winter.
How astute. The producers and writers realized that an all-star cast and a simple dot-to-dot rehash of a 21-year-old court case that transfixed — and polarized — a nation wouldn’t be quite enough to suck us back into the lurid details surrounding the 1994 murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
No, it was vital that they find ways to lace their 10-part drama series with enticing, little-known personal details, while shedding fresh light on a trial that exposed America’s racial divide, set the stage for reality TV and touched off a hellacious media frenzy.
So what do we now know that we didn’t know then? As the compelling series approaches its conclusion, here are some things we learned from “The People v. O.J. Simpson”:
Marcia Clark deserved better
The show gave us a tragic glimpse into the appalling amount of ridicule, misogyny and blatant sexism that the chief prosecutor was subjected to during the trial.
For a media thirsty for daily stories, nothing about Clark was off limits.
And when Clark wasn’t being severely scrutinized by an entire nation, she was serving as a verbal punching bag for Johnny Cochran, who derided her need to find time to care for her kids.
Dad not at fault for Kardashians
If the series writers are to be believed, defense attorney Robert Kardashian, as played by David Schwimmer, was a good-hearted man who tried to shun the limelight.
In one hilariously ironic scene, Kardashian is shown having lunch with his young daughters, Khloe, Kim and Kourtney, and lecturing the girls on the perils of fame.
“We are Kardashians, and in this family, being a good person and a loyal friend is more important than being famous,” he says. “Fame is fleeting. It’s hollow. It means nothing at all without a virtuous heart.”
Producers Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander admit they took creative liberties with this conversation, but insist it’s true to the character of Robert, who died of cancer in 2003 at the age of 59.
Jurors felt like oppressed inmates
When the actual Simpson trial was in progress, most of us likely gave little or no thought to the jury — until the verdict came in.
But the series took us where the cameras couldn’t, devoting an entire insightful episode — “A Jury in Jail” — to their sequestered existence. It wasn’t pretty.
It’s tempting to wonder if the case would have gone differently if the jurors hadn’t been so strung out.
Outcome gains more clarity
Even if you don’t agree with the verdict, it’s at least easier in hindsight to understand how Cochran was able to make the trial a referendum on race. Simpson’s case came just two years after the Rodney King riots — footage of which served as the show’s opening image — and many blacks in Los Angeles and elsewhere clearly felt that the acquittal represented a form of long-overdue payback.
And now, given recent tragedies involving Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Walter Scott and others, “The People v. O.J. Simpson” feels much less like a historical piece.
Says executive producer Brad Simpson, “I hope what people will take away from (the show) is that we’re in this endless conversation that’s important to have: Basically, your experience of the criminal justice system and policing is very different based on the color of your skin and where you are economically.”