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Arts and Entertainment

Here's What You Need To Know About The 7-Hour O.J. Simpson Documentary

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On Saturday night, ABC will premiere O.J.: Made in America, a five-part, seven and 1/2 hour-documentary series about Orenthal James Simpson: star football player, Olympic torch-carrier, accused murderer, and convicted felon. The reviews that have come in thus far have been beyond glowing. The Washington Post called it a "towering achievement." A.O. Scott compared it to Norman Mailer's The Executioner’s Song and the biographies of Robert Caro. Kenneth Turan wrote in the L.A. Times that "you want it never to end."

O.J: Made in America is the latest work of ESPN's documentary series 30 for 30, which routinely produces outstanding sports-centric documentaries. But critics pretty much unanimously agree its the best original programming the sports network has ever produced.

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The Simpson trial has been the source of renewed fascination this year, as evidenced in the popularity of FX's dramatized miniseries American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, which was also beloved by critics.

What made FX's miniseries so compelling was that the scripted nature of the show allowed for the story to be condensed into a dramatic, tight narrative focused on the trial itself. But this focus also reinforced that the stories of what (and who) surrounded, preceded, and followed the trial extended far beyond those months in courtroom in 1995. O.J.: Made in America, directed by Ezra Edelman, is able to go deeper with extensive interviews and film footage that spans O.J.'s life from growing up poor in San Francisco to his current home in a prison cell in Nevada, where he's serving out a 33-year sentence for robbery.

More than 70 people were interviewed for the film; Vulture has compiled a list of "10 Key Figures to Know"—from beyond the most notorious characters made infamous during the Trial of the Century. These are people like O.J.'s former agent Mike Gilbert, ex-NFL player Marcus Allen, and more lawyers, business partners, journalists and jurors.

One of the 70 interviewed was former District Attorney Gil Garcetti—whose office was tasked with prosecuting Simpson in 1994—told Good Morning America that he actually learned something from the documentary. Garcetti said that Simpson was "never supposed" to have tried on the glove in the courtroom, as the prosecution suspected the glove had shrunk, and O.J.'s hand could have...grown. It wasn't until he watched the film that Garcetti figured out why:

What we didn’t know until I saw it on this film was that O.J. Simpson was taking arthritic medication for his hands and he was told, 'If you stop taking this arthritic medication, your hands will swell. Your joints will stiffen.' My God.

And that's just one of the anecdotes to be found within the seven and 1/2 hours of film.

There are a million thinkpieces out there about why O.J. Simpson and the trial itself still hold so much fascination: it's easy to see the connections to the world we live in today, as issues of race, social justice, media and fame continue to collide. A particularly prescient issue brought up by the documentary, as ESPN's Sarah Spain writes today, is the entitlement and privilege athletes evoke when it comes to committing, and getting away with, domestic violence—a topic so egregious that even a media organization that makes it money lauding athletes can't ignore.

We can't wait to watch O.J.: Made in America. Here's the full schedule:

  • Part I premieres Saturday, June 11 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

Following the ABC premiere, the final four parts will be shown on ESPN, and will be preceded by re-airing of the previous episodes:

  • Part II: Tuesday, June 14, 9 p.m. ET on ESPN (Part I re-airs at 7 p.m. ET)
  • Part III: Wednesday, June 15, 9 p.m. ET on ESPN (Part II re-airs at 7 p.m. ET)
  • Part IV: Friday, June 17, 9 p.m. ET on ESPN (Part III re-airs at 7 p.m. ET)
  • Part V: Saturday, June 18, 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
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