The O.J. Trial Is Coming To Your TV Screen… Again
Coming soon to a television screen near you: a series chronicling the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial, based on a non-fiction book about that infamous case. Incredibly, I'm not talking about FX's American Crime Story: The People V. O.J. Simpson . With only one episode to go in the terrific first season of Ryan Murphy's freshman anthology series, The Hollywood Reporter has revealed that a second series about the same trial is now in the works… and it's sure to ruffle a few feathers. Produced and narrated by West Wing actor Martin Sheen, the six-part true crime docu-series Hard Evidence: O.J. Is Innocent will air on Investigation Discovery in early 2017. That's right — President Josiah Bartlet himself is coming to TV to argue for Simpson's innocence.
Technically, ACS has never come down officially on one side or the other with regards to Simpson's guilt or innocence in the June 1994 murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. However, by not shying away from the accused's allegedly abusive relationship with the victim (though, during his civil trial, Simpson denied beating his ex-wife) and — in one particularly memorable scene — having prosecutor Marcia Clark use a few shot glasses to outline exactly why any theory of a police conspiracy was patently ridiculous, the writers have done a good job of building both sides of the controversial case. Now, the docu-series O.J. Is Innocent is here to vociferously argue that, well, O.J. could be innocent.
Season 1 of ACS is adapted from The Run Of His Life: The People V. O.J. Simpson , a 1996 non-fiction work by Harvard Law Review editor and The New Yorker legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Similarly, Hard Evidence: O.J. Is Innocent will also be based on a book — in this case, 2012's O.J. Is Innocent And I Can Prove It , penned by "internationally acclaimed private investigator" William C. Dear. (That's according to his own official website.) Among his renowned investigations listed on the site are the exhumation of Lee Harvey Oswald and the 1995 FOX program Alien Autopsy: Fact Or Fiction.
I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that, given ACS' warm critical reception and high ratings, someone else would try to capitalize on the nation's renewed interest in the O.J. trial. And even if, over 20 years after the trial, more people than ever think O.J. is guilty (up to 83 percent in 2014 from 66 percent in 1994), it's only natural that Sheen would want to ffer a different perspective than ACS. O.J. was acquitted after all (though he was found liable for the double homicide in the resulting 1997 civil suit and by the jury ordered to pay "$25 million in punitive damages to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald L. Goldman.). On paper, taking the stance that he's innocent shouldn't be all that controversial.
Even if you're one of the 83 percent of the population who believes O.J. committed the murders, perhaps Sheen's docu-series could still be good for one thing. It would be difficult to suddenly convince viewers to change their opinions about Simpson, but maybe it will help shed some light on exactly why and how he was exonerated in the first place.
For his part, Sheen told THR that he hopes his show will answer three major questions: "What if there were enough evidence that proved O.J. Simpson did not murder his ex-wife Nicole or Ron Goldman? What if the real killer were still at large? And, finally, what if a grand jury convened to reconsider the case based on new evidence?"
Interestingly, O.J. Is Innocent isn't the only Simpson series headed for TV in the wake of ACS; this June, ESPN will also be airing their own five-part docu-series, O.J.: Made In America . After a decades-long hibernation, it seems the media circus surrounding the O.J. trial is finally stirring from its slumber, hungry for more.