American Crime Story Premiere Recap

American Crime Story: What's the Verdict on FX's O.J. Simpson Saga?

File this under gallows humor: When Marcia Clark first heard the name “O.J. Simpson,” American Crime Story informs us, she had no idea who he was.

And though Clark would go on to prosecute the beloved sports star for two deaths in one of the biggest murder cases in United States history the lawyer at first had to be reminded that he was “the guy in the Hertz commercials.”

Such are the behind-the-scenes tidbits and gory details offered up by FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson, based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book The Run of His Life. In a moment, we’ll want to hear what you thought of the premiere. But first, a brief recap:

The action starts on the evening of Nicole Brown Simpson’s and Ronald Goldman’s murders; as O.J. (played by Jerry Maguire‘s Cuba Gooding Jr.) jets off to Chicago, a neighbor finds the bodies at Simpson’s home. When the Los Angeles Police Department investigates and calls the former football star, O.J. doesn’t even ask how his ex-wife died.

In fact, O.J. is shady at every turn: Aside from the blood found at his house and in his car, and his inability to keep his alibi consistent, he fails a lie-detector test. And, as the series reminds us — most vividly via a conversation between Faye Resnick (Nashville‘s Connie Britton) and Kris Kardashian (Anger Management‘s Selma Blair) — during their marriage, O.J. beat his wife up. A lot.

O.J. soon starts building his defense team, which includes longtime friend Robert Kardashian (Friends‘ David Schwimmer) and counsel-to-the-stars Robert Shapiro (Pulp Fiction‘s John Travolta). (Though Courtney B. Vance (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) is introduced in the premiere, he joins O.J.’s “dream team” in a subsequent episode.)

Similarly, the prosecution — led by Clark (American Horror Story‘s Sarah Paulson) — begins to form a strategy for what seems like a slam-dunk win. But the series’ first hour hints at the strife ahead: Post-Rodney King Los Angeles, coupled with O.J.’s celebrity and some very media-savvy legal eagles playing for his side, means Clark & Co. will find themselves at an extreme disadvantage as the weeks progress.

Throughout, American Crime Story manages to balance the ridiculous (a shot of the Kardashian children running amok at Nicole’s funeral) with the truly tragic (Nicole’s confused daughter, who’s being held at the police station in the murders’ aftermath, cries into the house answering machine while police techs catalogue the scene). The result is an engrossing — and yes, at times entertaining — look at one of America’s most famous crimes.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson? Grade the premiere via the poll below, then hit the comments to elaborate!