- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 19, 2016


The “Nancy Grace” generation has come of age, receiving their Ph.D.s in vulture fascination with the celebration of the revival of the O.J. Simpson industry.

What better way to celebrate more than two decades of picking the bones of dead people than to nostalgically obsess about the murders where it all began— “The Juice,” the former Heisman Trophy winner and Hall of Fame running back ­— and those two people he killed.

Who were they again?

America is lining up to relive the horror of the O.J. Simpson trial. First, there was the “must-watch” FX television program, “The People Vs. O.J. Simpson,” which focused on the lawyers from both sides of the trial. The series received rave reviews.

The latest O.J. industry product, “O.J. Simpson: Made in America,” is an entry in ESPN’s “30 For 30” documentary series — except it is not a documentary, it is a “documentary event.”

A documentary event — also referred to in ESPN’s promotional material as a “docu-event.” Well, you can’t miss an event, even though most of you lived through it. When everyone is picking over the bones on social media, you don’t want to be left out, do you?

“It is the defining cultural tale of modern America — a saga of race, celebrity, media, violence, and the criminal justice system,” reads ESPN’s promotional pitch. “And two decades after its unforgettable climax, it continues to fascinate, polarize, and even, yes, develop new chapters. Now, the producers of ESPN’s award-winning ‘30 For 30’ have made it the subject of their first documentary-event and most ambitious project yet. From Peabody and Emmy-award winning director Ezra Edelman, it’s ‘O.J.: Made in America.’

“[The documentary] revisits — and redefines — it all. The domestic abuse. The police investigation. The white Bronco chase. The trial of the century. The motive, the blood, the glove. The verdict. The aftermath. Drawing upon more than seventy interviews — from longtime friends and colleagues of Simpson to the recognizable protagonists of the murder investigation to observers and commentators with distinct connections to the story — the docu-event is an engrossing, compelling, and unforgettable look at a tantalizing saga, because at the end of what seems like a search for the real truth about O.J. Simpson, what’s revealed just as powerfully is a collection of indelible, unshakeable, and haunting truths about America, and about ourselves.”

I’m sorry — who were the people killed again? I can’t find their names anywhere there.

Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. The dead people. If you are going to pick over their bones, at least have the decency to mention their names while you profit off their bones.

O.J.: Made in America” has gotten rave reviews. Here’s one:

O.J.: Made in America, I guarantee you right now, is going to blow your mind,” wrote Will Leitch in New York magazine. “It will be the only thing this country’s going to be talking about that whole week.”

As it turns out, it wasn’t the only thing.

Of course Leitch is going to like this. He is the founder of the vulture web site Deadspin, which was built on the twin towers of pain and poison (it will be fun, though, picking over the bones of Deadspin and its parent company, Gawker, as a result of the Hulk Hogan privacy lawsuit judgement).

Why anyone who lived through the poisonous time of the Simpson trial yet again and again is a sad commentary on the victory that Grace and those who followed her through cemeteries have won over American society. We now walk by the newspapers for sale and purchase the supermarket tabloids that we used to make fun of — now sold as cable television programming. We have come to believe our crime obsession passes for news and people actually believe they are “informed” now — that they are learning something of value.

This may be hard to believe, but when NBC’s Dateline first debuted in 1992, it was, according to IMDB, a program that presented “in-depth coverage of news stories in the tradition of 60 Minutes and 20/20. Rather than just reading news reports, as most news shows do, the reporters for this show research their subjects and interview the people closely involved to create an informative work of investigative journalism.”

One of the original hosts was Tom Brokaw. Today? “Even in a peaceful place, like just south of Glacier National Park in Montana, tempers can flare and personalities will clash. One man shoots, another dies. … Keith Morrison reports.” That’s one of the latest Dateline bodies they dug up.

And there are always the vulture classics:

“Keith Morrison takes a compelling new look at the infamous Manson murders, the mystery that gripped the country during the summer of ‘69. The one-hour special features rarely-seen footage from the NBC archives, including interviews with Charles Manson and the late-prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi.”

An oldie but a goodie.

The podcast “Serial,” which dug up the body of Hae Min Lee and questioned the conviction of her former boyfriend, Adnan Masud Syed, became some sort of litmus test for cultural connection. It was downloaded more than 80 million times, and copycats have followed as “journalists” rush to the courthouses of America to find their own dead body to cash in on.

We’re not done with Simpson. He is sitting in a Las Vegas jail, serving his time on armed robbery and kidnapping charges. He will be eligible for parole next year. He will turn 69 next month.

We just said goodbye to Muhammad Ali. How many hours of programming will it take to say goodbye to O.J. Simpson?

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