Over the last three or four years, the television industry has seen the beginning of a sea change in which consumers, led by millennials, are cutting the cord with cable, and in turn, driving down television ratings. Separately, there has also been a trend over that time of an attempt, at least, for a more sensitive society, particularly to victims of domestic abuse.
Ostensibly, these are two very separate movements, to the extent where you're asking "Sean, where are you going with this?" One is a capitalistic change driven by free markets and consumer choice, the other is just something that, frankly, should have happened a long time ago.
Strangely enough, these two trends meet in an unlikely, conflicting nexus this Sunday night on FOX, as the decision makers for that network have chosen to air an as-yet-unaired 2006 interview they did with O.J. Simpson, in which he describes how he would have committed the murders of his ex-wife and Ronald Goldman in 1994, IF HE WERE THE MURDERER. ("Side eye" emoji here)
Why is this broadcast happening? Is it just the latest extension of O.J.-mania that's resurfaced in the last couple years, another television chapter to put alongside The People vs O.J. Simpson biopic series on FX and the outstanding, multi-day "30 for 30" on ESPN?
Well, yes, sort of. But it's also the latest example of the blood feud (no pun intended) for eyeballs among networks, as more and more viewers choose to Netflix and chill (and Hulu and chill, and Crackle and chill, and play video games and chill), broadcast and cable networks are left fighting for a dwindling pile of scraps. ABC, this Sunday, will reprise the old FOX property, American Idol, and FOX needs something with some oomph to compete. Hence, O.J. and his ratings magic.
So, here we are, with FOX airing an interview that was too controversial to air in 2006. So how does it play now in what is undoubtedly a MUCH more sensitive era in 2018? Will there — SHOULD there — be backlash? We shall see. Here is the small morsel of the interview FOX put out in a press release on Wednesday to try to get you to consume the whole thing:
Given how much more we know now about this whole story than we did in 2006 — about the Simpson backstory, about forensics, about the double murder trial itself — this is likely going to be a chilling and infuriating piece of television on Sunday. Presumably, to make this appear more documentarian in nature (as opposed to just the naked ratings grab that it likely is), FOX will deploy a panel of "experts," including Judith Regan, who conducted the original interview, to discuss and analyze Simpson's responses and behavior during the sit-down.
Via press release yesterday:
Publisher and TV/film producer Judith Regan; attorney Christopher Darden; Nicole Brown Simpson family representative Eve Shakti Chen; anti-domestic violence advocate Rita Smith; and retired FBI profiler Jim Clemente will serve as analysts on the shocking special O.J. SIMPSON: THE LOST CONFESSION?, airing Sunday, March 11 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.
On the two-hour broadcast, hosted by award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien, analysts Regan, Darden, Chen, Smith and Clemente will watch and discuss Simpson’s never-before-seen 2006 interview with Regan, providing timely analysis and context for this historic and newsworthy footage. Additionally, the special will air with limited interruptions and will feature public service announcements on domestic violence awareness throughout the program.
As you can see, FOX has also added public service announcements on domestic abuse to the veil it's placing over its American Idol counter-move, which is probably smart. Anti-domestic violence spots can't be communicated enough, and from what we now know about O.J. Simpson, the seeds for what most of us assume he did on that fateful June 1994 evening were planted during years and years of his abusing his wife (and subsequently, his ex-wife), Nicole Brown Simpson.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
FOX is calling the show O.J. Simpson: The Lost Confession, which teases a likelihood that his "hypothetical" is going to sound an awful lot like the detailed recounts we have now heard surmised in documentary form over the last few years.
And while I sit here and shake my head at the desperation to which this cord-cutting environment has driven the big networks, if you read this space enough, I think you know what my choice will be when it comes to "more O.J." or rookie songsters over on ABC.
Yeah, I'm probably part of the problem.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.