For those who hear "Bronco chase" and envision a defensive end trying to sack Peyton Manning, "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story" will be a jaw-dropping trek through the legal system — with more twists and turns than a "Law & Order" marathon. For the rest of us, the 10-part miniseries pales in comparison with the real thing.
It's hard to capture the country's obsession with the mid-'90s trial of the former football great, and executive producer Ryan Murphy doesn't even try, overseeing what largely amounts to a costume party in which each guest is handed a glass of hot cider and a courtroom transcript at the door.
But what a guest list! It's a treat to watch A-list actors tackle once iconic characters, even when they can't quite pull it off. Cuba Gooding Jr. barely passes for Simpson, unless your image of the fallen star is one of a sniveling schoolboy who swears he didn't cheat on the algebra test. John Travolta may be wonderful as the attention-seeking defense attorney Robert Shapiro, but I was too distracted by what the makeup department did to his eyebrows to properly judge.
On the plus side, Sarah Paulson as prosecutor Marcia Clark runs the emotional gamut, chain-smoking her way through power grabs and emotional breakdowns. Courtney B. Vance is even better. By avoiding the temptation of presenting defense attorney Johnnie Cochran as nothing more than a showboat, he reveals the vulnerabilities of a figure previously perceived as one with Teflon skin.
The most ambitious component of "The People" is in its casting, and while that may not make for groundbreaking television, it does result in a mighty compelling version of the Imitation Game.