Simpson Unplugged: You'll have to read all about it

August 28, 1996|By MIKE LITTWIN

AN OBSCURE (for now) judge in an obscure (for now) courtroom made a ruling that will change (real soon) all our lives.

He's the new O. J. judge in the new O. J. trial.

His name is Hiroshi Fujisaki, and you won't get to know him. You may not even know what he looks like. And you almost certainly won't get the opportunity to do the macarena with the Dancing Fujisakis.

Because the judge is determined, perhaps in self-defense, that O. J. Redux will not devolve into a circus.

In order to prevent another circus-like atmosphere, he has come up with a plan: Kill the elephants. Meaning there will be no TV cameras at the new trial. The cameras, Fujisaki said, robbed the double-murder trial of its dignity. And the right to a dignified trial is, of course, a constitutional protection that far outweighs the pesky First Amendment.

Is Fujisaki right about the cameras?

Did Mark Fuhrman plant the glove?

Does Kato use hair gel?

You see, it all depends on whom you talk to.

Fujisaki didn't talk to anyone. He listened to the lawyers, but those in the courtroom suggest he had already made up his mind. No TV, and that's just for starters. No still photographers, either. No courtroom sketch artists, who will, presumably, have to resume doing those charcoal drawings on the boardwalk that all end up looking exactly like Ned Beatty.

It's a total picture blackout, meaning if you want to know what happens inside the courtroom, you'll have to -- shudder -- read about it, maybe in a newspaper or something.

Bummer, huh? Like, who reads newspapers anymore?

The original O. J. trial was, if nothing else, one of the great events of the modern television era.

It was so good that they had to bring it back -- ratings, man -- for another season, opening Sept. 17, around the same time as the new "Nanny." (By the way, I'm still waiting for some O. J. spinoffs, say, "Johnnie Cochran's Def Jam.")

It's back, but it won't be showing at a screen near you. It's as if they made "Godfather II" and then decided that nobody outside of Mario Puzo's immediate family could watch it.

O. J. Redux is different from the original trial. This one is a civil trial, in which the plaintiffs try to go after O. J.'s remaining money, since Marcia Clark and company failed to put him in jail the first time around. Yeah, it sounds like double jeopardy, which is, of course, another great TV show.

For the rest of us, it's an opportunity to renew all the old arguments and reopen some old wounds.

But we'll have to do it on our own time and on Judge Fujisaki's terms.

This will be a test for America, circa 1996, in the waning days of the millennium and hip deep into the information revolution. Will we care about something that we can't see? Does our attention span extend beyond the length of 24 diagonal inches?

The O. J. case was the ultimate example of television's pervasiveness in our lives. We watched the show from beginning to end. We watched O. J.'s slow-speed chase and we watched him ride home in another white Bronco after the jury, in about three minutes, found him not guilty.

For months, "Nightline" was hostage to the case. CNN did all O. J. all the time. E! found it entertaining. Court TV took its place on your cable lineup. The late-night guys did jokes. The early-morning guys did interviews. Many people got famous, and a lot of people got rich, and everyone wrote a book. It was a media bonanza.

Day in and day out, the television never went dark. People watched at home, they watched at work, they watched at Sears, as if the trial were a ballgame. It wasn't. It was a soap opera, pure and simple, in which we tended to forget that real people were actually butchered.

And it was as if television, for which the McCarthy hearings and then the Watergate committee hearings were a watershed, had reached either a new high or a new low, or both.

But now, Fujisaki, apparently a Luddite, is attempting -- if you don't mind mixing metaphors, and I sure don't -- to stuff the genie back into the bottle. The judge has decided you can't have your daily O. J., or you can't have it like you're used to having it, anyway. You can't even watch when O. J. finally testifies and the world comes to a stop.

This is another take on the old tree-falling-in-the-forest debate: If we can't find the O. J. trial with a clicker, will it make a sound, or even a sound bite?

Pub Date: 8/28/96

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