'The People v. O.J. Simpson': Lead Reporter "Impressed" By First Episode's Accuracy
"I thought they were fairly true to the characterizations and the events as I knew them."
Former Los Angeles Times reporter Jim Newton, who covered the O.J. Simpson criminal case intently, was among the 5.1 million viewers who watched the premiere episode of FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story on Tuesday night.
His reaction: "I was fairly impressed," Newton said.
Now a UCLA professor in the communication studies department and editor of the university's Blueprint magazine, Newton said he went into the show expecting it to be somewhat over the top, after all, it is not a documentary.
"I thought they were fairly true to the characterizations and the events as I knew them," said Newton, who covered the LAPD for the paper at the time. "I found it to be a fairly revealing and entertaining portrayal [of events featured in that episode]."
The only aspect that seemed to be a little much was the Johnnie Cochran character's gigantic, motorized closet packed full of color-coordinated suits, Newton said.
"He was a flamboyant, extravagant character, but that felt a little caricaturey to me," he said.
Newton has not previewed any future episodes, so he could only comment on the premiere, which ended with Simpson and Al Cowlings beginning to lead LAPD on perhaps the most famous, televised car chase of all time.
Covering the case "ate up" Newton's life then, but that commitment was essential because the degree of public interest was "staggering," he said.
"My colleagues and I were just deluged with tips and inquiries," Newton said. And while the FX series may re-ignite fascination with the case, the professor doubts it will be anywhere near the level it was originally.
However, Newton said the series will likely be a talker because "it does touch a lot of chords in American society: race, class, quality of the justice system, police-community relations, briefly there's a debate about the death penalty, there's a lot of discussion about spousal abuse. It has so many tentacles that I would assume that if the later episodes in the series are of the same quality as this one, they will be of great interest to people."