They came to praise Nicole Brown Simpson last night. Of course, they had buried her months before.
Her mother and father and three sisters went on TV to tell Nicole Simpson's side of the story. Much of it was predictably warm and fuzzy, complete with home movies of Nicole as a baby, Nicole in a red tutu, Nicole as the homecoming princess.
Then came the rest of the story.
Juditha Brown, Nicole's mother, was in tears three minutes into the show.
But none of the story, no matter how ugly, was shocking. We were through being shocked months ago. Now, we just wait to be titillated. We watch for little tidbits we didn't know, anything to advance the story. It can be the latest DNA reports that seem to link O. J. Simpson to the scene. Or it can be Nicole Simpson's family breaking a public silence on "PrimeTime Live."
FTC Did they think O. J. did it? That's what we really wanted to know.
"I can't say," Mrs. Brown said. "You're innocent until proven guilty."
But she says she had asked O. J. that very question at the viewing of Nicole's body.
"I said, 'Did you have anything to do with it?'
"He said, 'No, I loved your daughter.'"
Diane Sawyer asked the rest of the intrusive questions that no family should ever have to answer. Did they feel guilty for not knowing more? Describe how you found out about the deaths. What were Nicole's last words to you? Tell about the last day and how O. J. came to the recital and not to the dinner. Talk about whether Nicole was abused by Simpson. Did Nicole use drugs?
And on. And on. And on.
O. J. was possessive, her sisters told us. O. J. was insanely jealous, they added. Nicole was nuts about him, they said.
I hope you didn't see it. All I could do was wonder what these people were doing talking to Diane Sawyer.
The interview was another coup for Lady Di, who, if I'm not mistaken, must anchor about a dozen of these TV news magazines. She's on the air more than Letterman. And she's got better hair -- the same hair that Hillary tried to have -- and makes nearly as much money.
You can see why. She is the great journalist/actor of her generation, perfect for '90s TV. You want news, you go somewhere else. You want melodrama: This is the right place.
It's Sawyer telling us in hushed tones to note the angel pins that each member of the family wears in memory of Nicole. It's Sawyer telling us about the candle a sister lights for Nicole each day.
Twice before, Sawyer tells us, the family members had agreed to do a show and then changed their minds. You watch and you can see why they were reluctant.
But, as you watched, you also knew why they had relented. This wasn't a family's bid for group catharsis. It was, at once, a rebuttal and pre-emptive strike.
It was done with the sure knowledge that their daughter hadn't suffered her last attack.
The tabloids have had their go at Nicole, with tales of a coke-sniffing party girl. They had to answer.
It has been hard on them, the drama made of the death of their daughter and Ronald Goldman. The drama has played out as TV's longest and most enduring mini-series. It's Moby Dick on steroids.
But the drama begins with the death scene. What we know of the victims is mostly courtesy of "Hard Copy" and the other bottom feeders.
You lose a daughter, and that's bad enough. The father of your grandchildren is accused of the murder, and that's even worse. And then you see people wearing "Save the Juice" T-shirts and you watch what they do to your daughter's memory.
The mother said the tabloids are stepping on Nicole's grave. "Wicked tongues," she said. And what the family knows is that it may still get worse.
Wait for the lawyers. If the trial goes badly for O. J., you know what the lawyers will do. They'll attack Nicole.
She was a party girl, they'll say.
She had men at her place, maybe even in front of the kids, they'll say.
And maybe O. J. -- we're not saying he did it, but if he did -- went nuts and couldn't help himself because, here's where it gets really ugly, she's the kind of woman who drives men to do such things.
So there were the parents and the sisters, armed only with their home movies and tears, to say that Nicole deserves better. She does. We all do.