OpEd Columns

If Fox Had Aired it, Here’s How it Happened

Even though OJ Simpson failed to live up to Fox’s stringent standards this holiday season, we should all be thankful for the Juice.

Twelve years ago, AC Cowlings steered the white Bronco through the streets of LA like a sixteen year old auditioning for a learner’s permit. Who could’ve thought that his funeral procession-pace car antic would be a turning point in American television history?

But here we are a decade later and look at what that joyless ride has spawned.

With OJ in tow, the lazy white Bronco stopped national TV broadcasts. News choppers  hovered, then became fashionable. They popped up in skies all across America. Big towns, small towns. Seems every town now has the irreplaceable, irreverent news chopper.  Stirring up winds, and stirring the pot. Tirelessly searching for breaking news a few hundred feet below…or at least a local high school football game.

Thank you OJ.

Thank you for launching the TV careers of Greta Van Susteren and Roger Cossack.  The Donny and Marie lawyers-on-the-spot during the trial of the century. He’s a little bit prosecutor, she’s a little bit defense attorney. The Greta and Roger show spawned the legal talk bonanza we know and adore today. From John Gibson to Nancy Grace, every serial killer gets the best trial analysis these days.

How did we follow these psychopaths before OJ? We didn’t.

But thanks to OJ, America learned daily about crime scene investigations in microscopic detail. Blood swatches, DNA analysis, bloody footprints.

Imagine today’s television world without The Trial.

We’re still reaping the benefits of those months of wall-to-wall law and murder… with wall-to-wall Law and Order. Sexy victims, savvy investigators, CSI.

Cold Case. Without a Trace. Thank you OJ.

It’s been a decade. Can’t think of a better time to re-visit OJ with a two-part Fox TV interview. 

Well, it seemed like a good idea. Disco made a comeback. Why can’t the Juice? It’s time a new generation is introduced to him.

“Hey Tyler, you might not remember this, but when you were two years old, there was this football star who ran from the police, and it was on TV, and….well, let’s kickoff the holidays by watching this  “If I Did It, Here’s How It Happened” Judith Regan interview together as a family.”

OJ’s a despicable human being, so why shouldn’t he be back on television? And why shouldn’t he be on Fox?

After all, their leader, the irrepressible Rupert Murdoch stands tall on Mt. Blushmore along with PT Barnum and Hugh Hefner, as the trio of American icons (Murdoch’s not even American) who made their careers and their riches out of exploitation behind the veil of journalism. Murdoch’s omnipresent media have trampled journalistic integrity for years. So why not take advantage of OJ’s made-for-Fox tome with some televised Orenthal fiction?

“I agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project,” said Murdoch Monday after the project was pulled from the public faster than E.coli-laced spinach.

Ill-considered meaning “Well, we tried. But it’s not worth the hassle.”

Here’s a stab at the transcript (oops, sorry), if Fox would have aired it.

Judith: “Tell me OJ, if you approached Nicole’s Brentwood condo that fateful night, how would you have done it?”

OJ: “ I certainly wouldn’t have been able to kill both Nicole and Ron by myself. I needed…I mean I WOULD HAVE needed help. So I brought….WOULD HAVE brought…duh, there I go again. I would have brought an accomplice.”

Freeze Frame.

Deep, sinister voiceover accompanied by deep sinister music.  “Who did (smoker’s cough) Who WOULD the Juice bring with him to the crime scene? 1) Kato Kaelin  2) AC Cowlings  3) Professor Plum.

Vote now. 1-800-OJ-IDOL-1, 2, or 3, or text message on your Verizon Wireless phone.

At the end of the second night of OJ interrogation, we find out that America believes OJ and Professor Plum committed the crime with a candlestick in the bedroom.

Then a promo for the new Fox “If I Did It” series. Pete Rose, Michael Jackson, Bill Clinton. Next Spring.

This cicada-like re-emergence of OJ might make some long for the day when TV journalism had more soul than opinion. But the rest of America couldn’t care less.  It’s the normal ten-year cycle of popular culture coming full circle for a new audience that thinks Beyonce writes her own songs.

And for an old audience still staring at the tabloids in the checkout lane…who now have to scratch “If I Did it” off their Christmas lists.

Ted Mandell teaches in the Department of Film, Television and Theatre at the University of Notre Dame.

Copyright 2006 Ted Mandell

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