It has been a busy political week playing out on television, so some notes have been left on the cutting room floor.
After looking at the final local ratings for the FX limited series “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson," I’m wondering how the 10-hour ESPN documentary, “O.J.: Made in America,” will do here when it premieres on ABC and ESPN in June.
I have seen the first two episodes and they are fantastic.
But it is difficult to know if the popular FX series will drive interest in the upcoming ESPN series or if viewers will feel they have had enough of the topic.
FX sent out a release after its April 5 series finale noting that the scripted series broke all sorts of national records.
It was cable’s most-watched new series of 2016, the No. 2 ranked cable series of the year in all demos and total viewers, and the most watched new show on FX in total viewers and all key viewers.
It also had the best reviews of any weekly series, here and nationally.
It did very well here for a cable series. But I was more than a little surprised that the series about the murder trial of the former Buffalo Bills legend didn’t do a little better.
The ratings here for the Simpson series would have put in about 50th place among broadcast series here rated in February.
The highest-rated episode here for the FX series for same day viewership was the first one with a 3.6 rating that grew to a 4.6 after viewing up to seven days later was added.
The highest-rated episodes after seven days locally were the second episode and the final episode with 5.6 ratings. After that, the ratings for each episode up to seven days after they aired were all just below 5.0. The semifinal episode, which was arguably the best of the series, had a 4.9 total rating.
Of course, those ratings only measure the episodes that aired at 10 p.m. Tuesday. FX also carried the episodes at different times when there was more viewership.
The series finale was a strong one that showcased the excellent cast and illustrated that there was really no winner in the case that ended with Simpson being acquitted.
Prosecutor Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) felt like a failure and was in tears after the verdict despite district attorney Gil Garcetti’s (Bruce Greenwood) effort to comfort her. Simpson friend Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) was devastated after apparently coming to the conclusion that Simpson was guilty. Defense lawyer Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) was ignored by the rest of the defense team and eventually told ABC’s Barbara Walters that the defense played the race card "from the bottom of the deck.” Prosecutor Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) got some measure of dignity back by telling off Simpson’s top lawyer Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance).
Cochran thought he was a winner because the nation received the message about the Los Angeles Police Department’s longstanding racist practices. But it seemed like a hollow victory and, if you believed the scenes inside the jury room, Cochran's theatrical catch phrase about the bloody glove, “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” had no bearing on the verdict.
The families of the victims understandably were pained by the verdict.
And Simpson? He was almost all alone after learning that he no longer was welcome in the private club world because most of white America thought he was guilty anyway.
I had one complaint about the finale. I wish it could have spent more time in the jury room to show how the two white jurors who initially voted guilty were persuaded or pressured into changing their vote so quickly.
I highly recommend the HBO movie “Confirmation,” which has another viewing at 8:30 tonight on the pay-cable channel.
Many critics have likened aspects of the movie to the Simpson case, only partly because law professor’s Anita Hill’s sexual harassment claim that jeopardized the nomination of Clarence Thomas as a Supreme Court Justice was played out live on television.
“Scandal” star Kerry Washington stars as Hill, which immediately puts the audience on the law professor’s side. Washington also delivers an exceptional performance in a riveting film that illustrates the inner workings of the Senate confirmation process as well as the Simpson series detailed the inner workings of the judicial system.
TV viewers also probably will enjoy seeing so many familiar faces in the film. The cast includes Wendell Pierce (“The Wire,” “Ray Donovan”) as Thomas; Eric Stonestreet (“Modern Family”) as a key presidential aide; Erika Christensen (“Parenthood”) as a Hill friend; Dylan Baker (“The Americans,” “The Good Wife”) as Sen. Orrin Hatch, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that held the hearing; Treat Williams (“Everwood”) as Sen. Ted Kennedy, another member of the committee; Alison Wright (“The Americans”) as Thomas’ wife; and Jeffrey Wright (”Boardwalk Empire’) as Hill’s legal advisor from Harvard.
None of the senators on the committee, including now Vice President Joe Biden (Greg Kinnear), look good. Interestingly, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, who is one of the key players currently holding up President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland, is one of the Republicans on the committee in the film. But the actor playing him doesn’t have much of a role.
I wondered after watching the FX Simpson series if any members of the jury are embarrassed or ashamed today by their not guilty verdict. Similarly, I wonder the same thing about the senators who sent Thomas’ nomination to the full Senate, where he was barely confirmed by a vote of 52-48 and just recently asked his first question from the bench in a decade.