You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Back to IndieWire

Review: ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’ Episode 8 ‘A Jury in Jail’ Plays Musical Chairs

Review: 'The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story' Episode 8 'A Jury in Jail' Plays Musical Chairs

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’ Episode 7, ‘Conspiracy Theories,’ Doesn’t Care About the Facts

Opening Statement

We finally get to spend some quality time with the 37 jurors (12 main jurors and 15 alternates) who were locked away for nearly a year of their lives… That is, if the prosecution or the defense didn’t come up with a way to get rid of them. Call it chess, call it a cat and mouse game, call it musical chairs, but over the months of the trial new reasons to excuse once-promising jurors resulted in a jury with only four alternates left from the original 15. It’s only the threat of a mistrial — something neither side wants — that stops these shenanigans.

Meanwhile, the case hits a few major moments, including Marcia Clark’s presentation of the DNA evidence and her DNA expert getting dismantled by the defense. It’s an hour full of procedural strategy, with emotional hooks like Robert Kardashian’s personal devastation over finally accepting that O.J. might be guilty and Marcia’s frustration over her beloved evidence failing her. And capping it all off is the terrifying cliffhanger that while Mark Fuhrman’s already done some serious damage to the prosecution’s case, there are tapes out there that might make things even worse.

Star Witness (Best Actor)

David Schwimmer turned in another solid week of work, his heart slowly breaking as he came to terms with the man he once truly considered his best friend. But Rob Morrow took the opportunity to steal a couple of key scenes as defense attorney Barry Scheck. In real life, Scheck probably didn’t take such obvious glee in tearing apart the DNA evidence. Actually, in real life he’s the founder of the Innocence Project, a pretty noble cause. But there hasn’t been nearly enough Rob Morrow on screen over the last 20 years (remember how good he was in “Quiz Show”). He’s gotten steady work, sure, but the more Morrow the better.


Of all the nits we’ve picked this season, this one stuck out the most and took very little research to at least tangentially confirm: the idea that for TV time, Blockbuster Video would send the jury episodes of “Seinfeld” and “Martin” to watch. Sure, in 1995, people were taping shows during their original broadcasts, but there’s no way we buy that TV shows like “Martin” and “Seinfeld” would be commercially available from Blockbuster. In fact, search Amazon for “‘jerry seinfeld’ VHS” or “‘martin lawrence’ VHS” and, yes, you’ll find a copy of the 100th episode of “Seinfeld”… but that’s clearly a special case, and there are no episodes of “Martin” available. (In fact, it doesn’t even appear to have ever been released on VHS.) This isn’t really surprising, as television simply didn’t get the kind of distribution it does now, in the post-DVD/post-streaming era.

Of course, the reason the “American Crime Story” team chose to fudge that detail is pretty clear. If you’re looking to establish a racial divide within a group of people, making them choose between Jerry Seinfeld or Martin Lawrence is a pretty simple way to pull that off. But even though that scene gave us the delightfully offhand remark that “Seinfeld ain’t about nothing,” it still bothered us.

I Didn’t Know That…

If the show’s to be believed, Simpson never took the stand during the 1995 trial… But he sure did want to. And here’s a fact: He did take the stand during the 1996 civil trial brought against him by the families of the victims; a trial he ended up losing. The LA Times covered that day in court, which doesn’t sound like it went particularly well for him.

Oh, also, let’s try not to focus on that charming fact about marital rape not being illegal in the year 1988. Thanks for that one, F. Lee Bailey.

The Most ’90s Moment

Nitpicking aside, Blockbuster Video. VHS tapes. It’s enough to make you nostalgic for denim overalls and Doc Martins.

“On the Air, On the Radio…”

It finally happened: “American Crime Story” used a song that wasn’t period accurate. To be fair, “Natural One” by the Folk Implosion isn’t too far off the mark — the fairly obscure single was released as a B-side in November 1995 — but that’s still a month after the final verdict came out.

Otherwise, the soundtrack picks were all pretty solid, including an always welcome burst of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” Thank you to Ryan Murphy and his team, by the way, for dramatically increasing our knowledge of mid-’90s music over the last several weeks. It’s been fun!

Remember, This Really Happened

We’ve used this clip already once before, but there’s something about the absurdity of The Dancing Itos that really sums up just how insane the media fervor around this case was. And this week, Lance Ito found himself face to face with a brief snippet. It can’t be easy to see yourself mocked on national television, even if those mocking you do have some pretty sweet dance moves.

“If the Glove Don’t Fit…” (Best Line)

“Of course you and your client are sympathetic to putting domestic violence in the rear view mirror.”
– Marcia Clark

That’s a hell of a zing, given what we’ve learned about Johnnie Cochran’s own history with his first wife. It’s also a valuable reminder that the statistics regarding domestic violence are horrifying. And every statistic is really a story.

The Key Takeaway

I mean, think about being a member of this jury: months of isolation, being guarded and watched and judged. Sure, it might be one of the most exciting things that ever happened to you, but to quote a period-appropriate icon…

Closing Argument

While clearly not possible, given the show’s limited number of episodes and massive cast, it’s intriguing to imagine what this episode would have been like had it been fully committed to telling the story of the trial, from the jury’s point-of-view.

There was plenty of solid meat in this episode, and bringing us into the world of the jury was exactly the breath of fresh air this show needed, For the most part, simply adding the jurors to the mix did work, but while the complicated timeline of “A Jury In Jail” compressed an awful lot of big moments into just 43 minutes, at times the execution felt a bit clunky, with the timeline not always clearly tracking. The spark was still there, though, and the set-up for next week can’t be beat. “American Crime Story’s” shown some skill before with cliffhangers, but this one was more than solid.

Grade: B+

READ MORE: John Travolta and Courtney B. Vance on the Love Affairs in ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson’ That Did and Should Have Happened

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Television and tagged , , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox