In 2016, much ado was made — and rightly so — about a pair of television productions that centered on the O.J. Simpson murder trial: American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson on FX and O.J.: Made in America on ESPN. The former is a brilliantly scripted and performed 10-part dramatization, while the latter is an eight-hour documentary of almost indescribable power.
Neither of these O.J.-related milestones can claim to be the small screen’s first crack at the case though.
That honor, of sorts, belongs to The O.J. Simpson Story, a TV movie that aired in 1995 on the Fox network. Boasting chintzy production values and an amusingly rushed feel, the movie’s one-and-only prime-time broadcast scored huge ratings, just prior to instantly evaporating from public consciousness.
Character actor Bobby Hosea stars in the title role. Jessica Tuck, a TV fixture perhaps best known as Nan Flanagan on True Blood, costars as Nicole Brown Simpson.
Among the rest of the cast, only Hill Street Blues veteran Bruce Weitz as Robert Shapiro remains recognizable — with the notable exception of future (Fox TV) superstar Terrence Howard in the role of O.J.’s best friend turned impromptu chauffeur, A.C. Cowlings.
The O.J. Simpson Story opens with O.J.’s akita named Kato (yes, both his canine and human pets were named Kato) fleeing from the murder scene at the house on Rockingham Avenue.
From there, the familiar post-slaughter story plays out, punctuated by happy flashbacks. We see scenes from throughout O.J.’s life as he reminisces while sweating it out at his pal Bob Shapiro’s house and during the famous White Bronco chase that supplies the movie’s climax.
It all ends with the Juice surrendering to the police gathered at his home and saying, “Sorry to put you guys through all this stuff.”
That’s not quite where the real-life O.J. saga was when Fox showed the movie, but the network held it back until after jury selection had been completed in what would prove to be “the trial of the century.”
Since starring in The O.J. Simpson Story, Bobby Hosea has worked steadily, albeit seldom in lead roles. Hosea spoke to Inside Edition about actually playing a scene opposite the Juice himself in 1990 for the HBO football sitcom, 1st and 10. He accused Simpson of rudeness.
Hosea told the show: “I said, ‘Hey Juice, I’m working with you today!’ He looks me up and down and he never says another word to me.”
Perhaps inspired by the 1992 ratings bonanzas scored by all three major networks with Amy Fisher TV movies, The O.J. Simpson Story proved to be just one in a series of quickie “ripped from the headlines” flicks that Fox paraded out in the years that followed.
Among the other noteworthy Fox endeavors were Love and Betrayal: The Mia Farrow Story (1995), an absolute howler based on the Woody Allen-Soon Yi Previn Affair; and the self-explanatory one-night double feature of After Different Strokes: When the Laughter Stopped (with original series star Todd Bridges as a crack dealer); and Unauthorized Brady Bunch: The Final Days (which opens with the two eldest Brady kids smoking cigarettes and making out).
Alas, when it comes to true crime and celebrity scandal TV movies — particularly in the case of O.J. Simpson — they sure don’t make ’em like they used to.
Watch Investigation Discovery’s six-part series, Is O.J. Innocent? The Missing Evidence on ID GO now!
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Main photo: The O.J. Simpson Story (1995) [screenshot]