Fox is banking on the O.J. Simpson case

March 20, 2013

Fox has been trying to cash in on the O.J. Simpson murder-case story for years. On Wednesday, the broadcast network announced its latest attempt.

The network is developing a “tentpole event series” called “The Run of His Life: The People V. O.J. Simpson,” based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book of the same name.

“Everybody remembers where they were when O.J. Simpson, riding in a white Bronco, led the police on a low-speed chase all over Los Angeles,” Fox noted in its announcement, crediting the event with the emergence of the 24-hour news cycle and “the birth of reality television.”

“The Run of His Life” will “take viewers behind the scenes of ‘The Trial of the Century,’ driven by the nonstop plot of a courtroom thriller and presenting the story of the trial as it has never been told,” Fox promised.

Fox last tried to get into bed with Simpson’s sordid story in 2006, announcing in November of that year The Practically Perfect November Sweeps Stunt: a two-hour interview in which Simpson himself would detail how he would have murdered his wife, Nicole, and her friend Ron Goldman more than 10 years earlier.


O.J. Simpson, center, on Oct. 3, 1995, with defense attorneys F. Lee Bailey, left, and Johnnie Cochran after Simpson was found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. (MYUNG J. CHUN/Associated Press)

Had he done it.

Which he didn’t.

Just ask him.

“O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here’s How It Happened” also was to have been based on a book of the same name, this one from the NFL Hall of Famer himself; the book was scheduled to drop a couple of days after the interview — and just in time for the holiday gift-buying season. Because who wouldn’t love to find a copy of O.J.’s sort-of-hypothetical confession in their Christmas stocking on the morning of the day when we celebrate the birth of baby Jesus?

That book, BTW, was being published under an imprint of Fox parent News Corp.’s publishing house, and the head of that imprint, Judith Regan, was to have conducted the TV interview.

At that time, TV-industry suits predicted that the country would be outraged — and that viewers would tune in by the millions.

Sadly, a few days later, News Corp. canceled the book and the TV interview, succumbing to the outrage, after a dozen Fox-affiliated TV stations said they would not air the interview.

“I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project,” News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch said at that time, adding: “We are sorry for any pain that this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson.”

Out Leno, in Fallon?

NBC — once the king of prime time, morning infotainment and late-night television — is now an also-ran in prime time and is struggling behind ABC’s “Good Morning America.” But NBC has managed to hang on to its front-runner status in late night with Jay Leno (after nearly falling off that throne. too, during the seven months it gave Conan O’Brien the keys to the “Tonight Show” kingdom).

Naturally, NBC is working, apparently, on another plan to remove Leno from “Tonight.”

This time the plan reportedly involves Jimmy Fallon, who’s warming the bench where Conan once sat.

Fallon is reportedly destined to take over for Leno when the latter’s contract runs out in the fall of ’14. This time, however, NBC thinks it knows how to avoid the mistakes it made with Conan, reports the New York Times’ Bill Carter (who has the inside track, having written the books on late-night TV — literally).

The problem, it turns out, was geographical.

Fallon won’t be moving to Los Angeles to take over “The Tonight Show,” as Conan did; instead, the show will move back to New York, whence it came, Carter reports. “Tonight” was broadcast out of Manhattan from its launch in the mid-’50s until the middle of its Johnny Carson era.

There’s a sense of urgency about replacing Leno since ABC moved relative youngster Jimmy Kimmel to Leno’s 11:35 p.m. time slot — the fear being that Kimmel will suck up the younger viewers if Fallon doesn’t move in quickly.

Since Kimmel moved to the earlier time slot in January, Leno has hung on to his lead among 18- to 49-year-old viewers, who are the currency of late-night TV ad sales. Which does not matter.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, visit washingtonpost.com/
tvblog.

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