The Force Will Be With You, Always: Love and Loss through STAR WARS

On December 24, 2016, news broke that Carrie Fisher had suffered cardiac arrest on a plane. She was in the hospital. She was stable. She had been through plenty of figurative heartbreak, literal heartbreak was the natural progression. As a fan, an admirer, I knew she would be fine.

About a year earlier, December 28, 2015, I got a text at work that my grandmother had been taken to the hospital. She had been out, buying a birthday gift for me, when she unknowingly suffered cardiac arrest in a restaurant. As a fan, an admirer, I knew she would be fine.

I was wrong on both.

On December 27, while I waited in the lobby at WXXI to discuss the cast of Rogue One and representation of women and minorities in pop culture, I read the news. I had the misfortune of sharing that with the other guests on the show, and with the host. Instead of hearing it on the radio and reacting, privately, I had to react live on air.

It wasn’t fun. I mentioned her approach to meeting the fans she loved, keeping her words during our exchange for myself, her role, not just as Princess Leia, but as a tireless advocate for mental health. What I didn’t mention, because, really, no one wanted to hear it, was that Carrie’s death was another jab in an already-open wound.

I had taken the last few days of 2015 off. I was going to do something. Instead, we planned a funeral, canceled credit cards, and she fed us for the last time from the leftovers of her last family – including friends of several decades – party. The following Monday I went back to work. I cried at my desk, with no prompt. If anyone noticed, they said nothing. I’m still not sure if that made it better or worse.

A year later, I, again, had the last days of the year off. I was doing something, and agreed to talk about Star Wars. Sharing the news with other fans was a burden, but was met with reactions mirroring my own.  Of the five people in the room, I was the only one who had met Carrie Fisher (in August 2013; after signing across her character’s chest she declared “Right on the boobs; that’s what they’re good for”), but anyone who had read her books or seen her in interviews (which were more frequent in the wake of The Force Awakens and her last memoir, The Princess Diarist) was familiar with a sometimes shockingly-candid Carrie.

A common criticism of funerals is that a priest or some other stranger tells a few dozen of the departed’s closest friends and family vague, surface-level facts about someone they likely never met. Reverse roles, though, and something special happens, as it did at Star Wars Celebration in April 2017. Four months after Carrie’s death, she was celebrated by her fellow cast members, her daughter, and even John Williams conducting the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. Later, her on-screen brother and friend of four decades Mark Hamill led an intimate look at her life with thousands of her biggest fans.

It may seem strange, but I often find myself wondering what Sue Gregory and Carrie Fisher would think about what I’m doing at that moment. By random chance, they have become linked in my memory. It’s good company to keep.



The Results Are In: World Video Game Hall of Fame Class of 2017

Spring 2008, Cedar Point. After years of playing imitations, I met the real thing. Photo by Eric Stevens.

2017 has been a dark year, but today, on a cloudy spring day in Rochester, NY, there is a spot of brightness. Donkey Kong has finally been recognized, joining classics from Nintendo and other video game publishers in the World Video Game Hall of Fame at The Strong National Museum of Play.

Donkey Kong, of course, was instrumental in Nintendo’s early success in America when it was released to arcades in 1981. The great ape stood atop the beams of an unfinished building, holding a woman named Pauline captive. Unlike King Kong, the film which would inspire a lawsuit between Universal Pictures and Nintendo, there were no airplanes dispatched to rescue the damsel in distress; there was a carpenter in red, her boyfriend known only as “Jumpman.”

Shigeru Miyamoto, Donkey Kong’s designer and, over thirty years later, a living legend in the industry, had intended Jumpman to star in many of his games. While his name and occupation changed, Jumpman lives on as a plumber named Mario (Super Mario Bros., Mario’s breakout role from 1985, was inducted in 2015). Donkey Kong spawned two sequels, Donkey Kong Junior (which feature Mario as the villain) and Donkey Kong 3, as well as the educational Donkey Kong Junior Math, before taking a leave from the spotlight as Nintendo moved into the home console market.

Donkey Kong and the titular arcade game returned to Nintendo’s Game Boy in 1994, followed by the Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong Land series developed for Nintendo by Rare. In the two decades since, Donkey Kong has appeared in many more titles as the hero, a sports icon, and a musician. The Kong family has grown to include dozens of primates of all species.

The 2017 class of the World Video Game Hall of Fame also includes Pokémon Red and Green for Game Boy (the original versions released in Japan in 1996), 1991’s Street Fighter II arcade game, and Halo, released on Xbox in 2001.

The World Video Game Hall of Fame was established in 2015 and is part of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games at The Strong in Rochester, NY.

The Strong announces 2017 World Video Game Hall of Fame nominees

Sega’s “Time Traveler” arcade game. Justifiably not in the hall of fame. Photo by Eric Stevens.

In Rochester, NY, where every day is a day for play, today is a little bit bigger. The Strong, home to the National Toy Hall of Fame and International Center for for the History of Electronic Game, among others, announced the third class of nominees to the World Video Game Hall of Fame.
Some titles return from previous nominations, as well as some new additions, though it may be a stretch to call 1981’s Donkey Kong “new”. Nominations were open through February 28.

2017 World Video Game Hall of Fame Nominees:

  • Solitaire – Microsoft Windows
  • Myst – PC
  • Mortal Kombat – arcade
  • Donkey Kong – arcade
  • Halo –Microsoft  Xbox
  • Resident Evil – Sony PlayStation
  • Portal – PC
  • Final Fantasy VII – Sony PlayStation
  • Pokémon Red and Green – Nintendo Game Boy (previously nominated in 2015 and 2016)
  • Street Fighter II – Super NES (previously nominated in 2016)
  • Wii Sports – Nintendo Wii
  • Tomb Raider – PC (previously nominated in 2016)

Six games will be inducted after a public voting period and revealed early this summer. Visitors to the museum can view the current inductees and play a wide range of arcade classics today.

Long Live Rock and Roll: Chuck Berry in Rochester


Photo by Reed Hoffman, Democrat and Chronicle. Published February 27, 1988.

I know “Sweet Little Sixteen” is about a girl, but that was about the age that music became a major part of my life. Rock and roll was about fifty years old at the time, and I learned it backwards. I traveled through time, learning who influenced my favorite artists, then who influenced those artists, and eventually, it all came back to one man: Chuck Berry. He was never given the royal treatment, but he crafted the crown that Elvis wore. His influence – whether directly, or through the white artists that made his music acceptable – has shaped more than six decades of popular music, from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to every guitar player, big or small, playing today (or in the past, if they accidentally traveled back to 1955). It’s easy to listen to his many hits today and hear a generic, 1950s rock and roll sound, but those records broke new ground in popular music, pushing lyrics and the electric guitar to new levels.

The package tours that were a staple of early rock and roll brought Berry to the Rochester Community War Memorial on four occasions in the late 1950s, along with Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, and others, including Rochester’s own Jerry Engler. On July 14, 1956, “Rochester teen-agers exploded in appreciative applause” according to the next day’s Democrat and Chronicle. “The two most popular artists, Al Hibler and Chuck Berry, illustrated the catholic taste of the young audience,” wrote Constance Gomberts. “… Chuck Berry inspired rhythmic clapping and squeals of joy with his twangy, pulsating ‘Maybelline’ and ‘Roll Over, Beethoven.'”

Ms. Gomperts was not as enthusiastic just a year later, however. While her July 15, 1956 piece began with the line “Man, it was cool!,” her September 18, 1957 article was titled “Rock ‘n’ Roll Show Solid – Solid Noise, That Is.” Perhaps she deterred Berry from returning to Rochester, for his next performance in the City of Rochester was August 1, 1985, just a year before joining the inaugural class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The “Rock  Roll’n Remember” package tour also brought Frankie Avalon and Johnny Rivers to the downtown festival site. Three years later, on February 26, 1988, he returned to Rochester, performing two shows at the Renaissance Theatre on Liberty Pole Way.

Like so many acts in the years since then, Rochester was passed over for Syracuse and Buffalo on subsequent tours, though Berry would perform at the Nazareth College Arts Center in 1968, and at SUNY Geneseo in 1995. For the latter half of his career, Berry traveled without a band, picking up a local group to support him at each stop. In 1988, he was supported by a band led by Chet Catallo. Unfortunately, I have failed at finding which local bands backed him in 1985 and 1995. Hopefully, they remember.


I Ain’t Afraid of No Goat: A Very Subjective Rant About GHOSTBUSTERS



Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones). Image courtesy Columbia Pictures. All rights reserved.

Sunday morning, I tweeted something along the lines of “It’s not 1984. Get over it, nerds.”

It was the morning after seeing Ghostbusters. It was the morning after sitting with three other people, laughing at a movie at all the times the movie wanted us to laugh. It was the morning before going to see it again, and laughing at all the same parts. It was about twelve hours before I sat and watched Bill Murray get slimed, and laughed at all the parts I’ve laughed at for years.

It’s no secret that there is some controversy around this movie. There’s going to be some controversy any time someone touches a beloved piece of art and does something different with it. Especially when it’s something nerds like.

Normally, my use of “nerds” is as much a term of endearment as it is an insult. I’ve been to my share of comic cons. I’ve even been in costume for some of them. But behind all of the people laughing and enjoying whatever sci-fi-superhero-fantasy-zombie-Deadpool-for-some-reason-I-still-don’t-understand thing they like, there’s this toxic group who thinks you should only have fun the way they want you to. These are the people who, for decades, have been shunned for liking nerdy things, and now that the stories and characters they love have become pop culture icons and are setting box office records, they want to make everyone else feel as bad as they, as a group, did for a long time.

And that’s where the problem of women comes in. I hate to resort to stereotypes, but this is a group that doesn’t have a lot of experience with women, aside from their mothers. Women who like these nerdy things have been labeled “fake geek girls” because, for some reason, they aren’t allowed to read and enjoy comic books without it being a veiled attempt at attracting male attention. They aren’t allowed to play video games, and they certainly aren’t allowed to star in sci-fi or fantasy movies if they aren’t going to fall into the classic damsel-in-distress role. And if they do star in them, they deserve to have their every word and every action, on-screen and off, scrutinized for the slightest hint of hypocrisy. And when you find that one thread sticking out, it needs to be pulled as hard as it can, until the whole thing just refuses to unravel and you have no choice but to give in and threaten to murder and rape them.

I may have gotten a little off track there. This was about Ghostbusters, right?

Paul Feig and Katie Dippold have written a new movie. It takes a concept that was very successful – a group of people catching ghosts – and puts a whole bunch of stuff in it. This is not a remake of 1984’s movie. This is not an eraser that wipes the existence of that movie away. Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones have brought to life four new, unique characters that are not simply re-named clones of Spengler, Venkman, Stantz, and Zeddemore.

There are missteps in this movie. There are also great successes. It is not wrong to reject it, and it is not wrong to embrace it. You are not sexist for objecting to rebooting an existing franchise. You are not sexist for wanting a real sequel to the earlier films. You are not sexist for not liking this movie, and you are not sexist for simply being uninterested.

You are sexist for panning it because “women can’t be funny.” You are sexist for slamming it because “Ghostbusters aren’t women.” You are sexist for helping to hold up a society where men and women are at odds with each other over the roles our ancestors decided for us.

In a week when people are being shot in the streets, hateful rhetoric is spewing from the mouths of our elected leaders, and – remember that bit about people being shot in the streets? – the most divisive thing I do should not be watching a comedy.

If your childhood has been ruined by a group of women hunting ghosts in a fictional version of Manhattan, you should put some energy into making your life better instead of making someone else’s worse. Because the only thing that has aged worse than the original Ghostbusters‘ special effects is the crying children of 1984 that are crying adults today.

We Deserve Better: The Faces of Comedy and Tragedy

For my regular reader, please indulge this stream of personal feelings in response to the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police officers, the attacks on police officers in Dallas, and locally, the apparently-unrelated murders and subsequent burning of two people.

I’d like to promise it won’t happen again.

This week has me down. I have a compulsion to make jokes, but today, it feels inappropriate. When David Letterman left TV, I wrote a little story. It was rambling; it was personal;  it was not terribly dissimilar from what I’m writing now. The theater is represented by the masks of comedy and tragedy. From the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway, Dave was an example, to me, that it is okay to “turn off” and not be funny. He did it when he returned from his heart surgery, to thank his medical team. He did it when he went public with a blackmail attempt and revealed his own affair. He did it on September 17, 2001, when The Late Show was the first late-night show to return to air after the terrorist attacks the previous week.

We, as human beings, deserve better than what we are given, and what we are giving to others.

That night, he expressed a frustration very much like I feel today. The Late Show, and Late Night before it, mocked New York, just as I mock Rochester, the city that I love. Dave was speaking about one specific set of tragedies, but in the fifteen years since, then, his message can apply to any one of the horrible events that have happened. His call for us to be courageous should not limited to the times when we face the unknown evils that lay before us, as the city of New York, the United States, and the world were in September 2001, but in the face of a known evil that we face every day. We, as human beings, deserve better than what we are given, and what we are giving to others.

Passion and Christ: Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz


Ted Cruz. Photo by Eric Stevens.

A match-up between Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz has seen little discussion this primary season. With neither being their party’s frontrunner, the odds of these two facing off in the general election are slim. It is my pleasure, then, to pit these two candidates against each other.

Following last weekend’s onslaught of campaigning from Clinton, Kasich, and Trump, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont visited the Bill Gray’s Iceplex at Monroe Community College Tuesday morning. Scheduled to begin at 10am, I was met with thousands of people patiently waiting to enter the arena when I arrived around 6:15. When doors opened around 7:00, the arena floor and bleachers quickly filled. After a short two-hour wait, local musician Teagan Ward performed, her assignment being to “warm up” a crowd that was already quite warm. After short speeches from local organizer Tim Ellis (who those in the rave scene will better know as DJ Dynamic) and former Texas Department of Agriculture commissioner Jim Hightower, the main event began.

Until last Tuesday, the loudest experience of my life was witnessing the first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in a room with 2000 Star Wars fans. Bernie Sanders topped that, easily. Not because the senator has been known to speak loudly, but because of the screams from 6800 Sanders supporters the moment he appeared on stage. His speech was standard. At this point, the campaigns are finely-tuned machines, navigating over speed bumps and potholes, making their points and speeding on to the next stop.

After four high-energy rallies, it was nice to have a little break on Wednesday and Thursday. That break was only slightly interrupted by the Ted Cruz rally on Friday. I stood in line, where people were more interested in mocking the religious conspiracy theory newsletter being passed out than anything else. We filed inside, with no security check, and took our seats. This may have been the only campaign event actually called a “rally,” but almost every one of the 1500 people admitted was sitting.

A few years ago, I attended a panel with Adam West and Burt Ward, stars of the classic Batman TV series. Scheduled to begin at 3:00, our heroes arrived around 3:20. After fighting crime and questions for less than half an hour, the Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder quickly departed once again. Ted Cruz, apparently, is Batman. The event was scheduled to begin at 7:30. At 7:49, local media reported on Twitter than Cruz was arriving at MCC (the event was held in the same location as Hillary Clinton’s, one week earlier). A few minute before 8:00, a highlight reel of Cruz’s primary performances was introduced by two students. Finally, Senator Cruz made his grand entrance, embracing the two young presenters in awkward hugs. His speech was surprisingly compelling. He made jokes and was met with laughter. He criticized Trump, he criticized the radical socialist running in the Democratic race, he even criticized Bernie Sanders, in a twist straight out of late-night television.

Cruz’s message was punctuated by religious imagery. His policies seem to be guided by what God wants, and his final statement was a pledge to return this country to “Judeo-Christian values.” His crowd, likely conditioned by regular church attendance, was very willing to frequently stand to applaud, and then sit back down. Though his religious message may alienate those who are not members of his particular faith, it was apparently welcome news to his supporters.

There was a stark contrast between these two events. The crowd at the Sanders event was passionate, overwhelmingly in favor of a Bernie Sanders presidency. Three days a a few thousand feet later, the crowd for Ted Cruz was… present. Standing in line, many people were there just for an evening of entertainment. Some were drawn to Cruz for his religious message, others because he “isn’t Trump.” Though I’m sure Sanders has drawn some supporters for the similar reason of not being Hillary Clinton, police turned more people away from his weekday morning event than Cruz drew to his Friday night rally.

After five rallies from five candidates, the voters of the Rochester area should be itching to vote on Tuesday. Unlike most years, we have a real opportunity to shape the direction of the candidate selection. If nothing else, it will mean these candidates can leave us alone and pretend that New York’s northern border is Yonkers, as we like it.


Bernie Sanders. Photo by Eric Stevens.

An Exercise in Exhaustion: Three Rallies in Three Days


For the first time in my lifetime, New York’s primary actually matters, and all eyes are on us. Just over a week before the election, my favorite city (or its suburbs, anyway) is hosting four of the five major candidates. Hillary Clinton visited Monroe Community College on Friday, John Kasich in Greece on Saturday, and Donald Trump in Gates on Sunday. With a Bernie Sanders appearance Tuesday morning at the Bill Gray’s Iceplex and an as-yet-unscheduled appearance from Ted Cruz in the coming days, it is an exciting time to be a Rochesterian with an interest in politics, or a guy who wants to sell t-shirts and scream horribly sexist things into a crowd.

I am no stranger to big events. From the streets of Manhattan to the Anaheim convention center, I’ve spent dozens of hours waiting in line. Usually that line has a Star Wars actor or a famous TV couch at the end of it, but I guess a political candidate in one of various stages of desperation is line-worthy. The weekend’s brisk spring, with delightful winds to keep the crowd from overheating in the harsh 35-degree temperatures, did little to discourage the crowd. Clinton attracted several thousand people to MCC’s gymnasium. Monroe County Republican Party chair Bill Reilich brought John Kasich to the Greece Community and Senior Center, conveniently attached to the town hall, where Reilich serves as town supervisor. Donald Trump appeared at JetSmart Aviation, next to the Greater Rochester International Airport, likely so he could get in and out before the area’s rural residents try to adopt him.

The events themselves aren’t that different. Clinton and Kasich both delivered broad speeches that were hard to disagree with, regardless of which side of the political spectrum you fall on. Kasich’s strength or weakness, depending on whether you are a supporter or not, was in the question and answer session. It is far easier to compare these two “traditional” politicians than it is to compare them to Trump.

Now, my intention when I started this article was to present the facts and not let my own beliefs color the narrative. The description of Clinton’s and Kasich’s rallies, and anything not dealing with Donald Trump, was mostly written at the counter of a diner while I ate a humungous cheeseburger (listed on the menu as a “slider”). Trump’s event looked like it was held in a hangar, but it felt like an alternate reality. While his supporters ate up every word of what he said, the rest, and there were many, exercised every ounce of self-control they possessed to stop themselves from shouting out. Some were not successful. By the third sentence, Trump had already removed one person from the audience.

I lost most of my phone’s battery to Twitter, dominated by local media providing almost line-by-line coverage. Trump’s constant attacks on the media were far from the events I saw unfold online. His claims that the media wouldn’t admit to the size of the crowd were punctuated by local media showing the size of the crowd and the people who couldn’t make it to the event. Trump’s campaign has been accused of playing on the fear of his supporters, but it appeared to me that he was afraid they would figure his game out. His hype man, Pastor Mark Burns, told the crowd that Trump would be landing his plane (a plane the audience seemed to be obsessed with) “any minute.” That minute, according to the Twitter feeds of every local news outlet, actually occurred fifteen minutes earlier, because Trump was sitting in a media room holding an interview at the time. Regardless of how anyone feels about Trump’s policies, his campaign events had more in common with a magic show than the events held earlier this weekend.

But let’s start at the beginning again. Bill Reilich was notably absent from this event, after introducing John Kasich the day before. Our first speaker was Carl Paladino, the Buffalo businessman and, to borrow a phrase from Trump, a loser. That is, after all, what happened when he ran against Andrew Cuomo to become governor of New York. He spewed attacks at the press. He went after Governor Cuomo. He accused “the government” of trying to stop Donald Trump from winning the nomination, overlooking the fact that it is the Republican party, if any group, that is working against Trump. Pastor Burns continued on a similar path, blaming the media and the establishment for any perceived roadblocks the Trump campaign is facing. That was a recurring theme in the speech given by Donald himself. The rules are unfair. The media is unfair. The fact that there are still other candidates running against him is unfair. Trump did compare his apparent struggle to Bernie Sanders, who he said is being treated by the Democrats and the media much the same way. The Trump campaign apparently only bought $15 worth of music for their pre-rally playlist, as it repeated many times. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (an example of good American jobs being outsourced to foreigners) was a staple, though if Trump has ever heard it, the message bounced off the top of his majestic hair.

Even the crowd at Trump’s event was very different than at the others. Supporters of Kasich and Clinton were friendly and polite. Trump’s crowd, complaining about how the current generaton “has no respect,” had no problem pushing people out of their way for a better view or turning to present a rude gesture to the news cameras. Evidently, “entitlement” is not limited only to social programs when talking about politics. I will give them a small amount of credit, however. When a man in an electric wheelchair tried to navigate through the crowd and one brave soul dressed as Marty McFly decided to make a stand to stop that injustice from happening, he was quickly turned against by Trump supporters and opponents alike.

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (an example of good American jobs being outsourced to foreigners) was a staple, though if Trump has ever heard it, the message bounced off the top of his majestic hair.

Looking back on happier times, the Kasich and Clinton events were very positive. While their specific plans were different, each presented a vision for a better future in a great country. Kasich played big on his past in Congress and as Governor of Ohio, and spent a great deal of time talking about his family. Clinton herself skipped over much of her political past to talk about issues, and mentioned only once, at the end of her speech, her young granddaughter. Perhaps it is because the Clinton family has been in the national public eye for nearly 25 years, but it appeared as a stark contrast between the Republican and Democratic identities. Hillary Clinton appeared genuinely pleased to see Blake Moore, president of MCC’s student government, leading a group of students so interested in the system. John Kasich was sincerely grateful for the support he received, drawing attention to the call from his opponent to drop out.

In the end, did these events sway anyone to a new candidate? Likely not. They are designed to reinforce support among the people who are already in their camp. It provided the people of our community with an uncommon opportunity to feel as if these candidates are aware of a part of the state north of Westchester County, and a small army of officers from local, county, and state police agencies to earn a little overtime pay. It will be seen if these events repeat four years from now, or if Rochester crumbles into a post-apocalyptic hell-scape. Really, it wouldn’t be much different than how some candidates described it this weekend.


Hillary Clinton. Photo by Eric Stevens.


John Kasich. Photo by Eric Stevens.


Donald Trump, master of (shadow) puppets). Photo by Eric Stevens.


Seinfeld: The Smarties (scene)

A short scene from an episode of Seinfeld that should be called “The Smarties.”

I may return to write the entire episode.

Credit to Reddit users 1BLOPI and UnsubstantiatedClaim for the prompt.

Background: George has found a vending machine that only accepts Canadian currency. After a few days of exchange rate abuse, the company begins stocking it with Canadian items.
Jerry’s apartment. George and Jerry are standing around the counter.
Elaine enters.
George. That Canadian vending machine – does it have Smarties?
Well it wouldn’t be very Smartie if it didn’t.
Jerry gives George a look of disgust.
I need you to get me some. I love them.
Yeah, sure. How many?
Here’s a twenty.
George looks at the machine. It only has pictures, not a window to see the candy.
$1 per pack? <George snorts> Yeah, right.
George enters carrying a brown paper bag. He drops it in front of Elaine and sits next to Jerry.
You owe me $2.
Elaine opens the bag and pulls out one package.
What’s this?
No, they’re not.
Yes, they are. See? “Smarties.”
I asked for Canadian Smarties. These are just American Smarties.
What’s the difference?
Oh boy…
What’s the difference?
There’s barely a difference between the countries, how much difference is there in the candy?
A huge difference! The Canadian Smarties are chocolate. The American kind are just… chalk. Give me my twenty.
Give you the twenty? You asked for Smarties, you got Smarties.
Well I’m not taking them. You keep them.
Me keep them? What am I supposed to do with them?
Go draw on the sidewalk.

Too Late Television: A Short Review of THE PEOPLE V. OJ SIMPSON


“We are Kardashians. And in this family, being a good person and a loyal friend is more important than being famous. Fame is fleeting; it’s hollow. It means nothing at all without a virtuous heart.”

Perhaps the funniest, intentionally unintentional, not-funny line in the history of television, it provides a brief pause from the drama. The People v. OJ Simpson has been on FX for over a month, but tonight, I decided to give it a try. I am old enough to remember the trial, but not so old that I understood it. OJ is unlike any other crime drama I’ve seen. CSI has its cheese. The Killing had a darkness. OJ is the opposite of every other show, because we have known the ending for twenty years.

Three episodes in, Cuba Gooding, Jr., despite his head size, plays an OJ Simpson that we sympathize with. We feel his pain, we understand his hurt. But in the back of our minds, we know that this is the man who has all but admitted to the crime. David Schwimmer comes across much the same way. As Robert Kardashian, he is torn apart watching his friend spiral, never sure if he is guilty or not. Meanwhile, he plays father to his children, whose names today are plastered on everything but credit cards. John Travolta is horrible, in the best possible way, as Bob Shapiro.

A wedge is driven in my brain while watching. I am angry that Shapiro neglects his client, trying to save his own reputation. On the other side, Johnny Cochran, played by Courtney B. Vance, comes across as a sympathetic, almost altruistic figure. An hour into the series, I cannot wait for Cochran to take over the defense. (Is it a spoiler, two decades after the fact?)

The prosecution, lead by Sara Paulson’s Marcia Clark, is the antagonist, if you can call a man who has allegedly murdered two people a protagonist. On one hand, they are made out as cocksure and arrogant, and the other shows them, and the Los Angeles Police Department, as stumbling and incompetent.

Unexpected additions to the cast include Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Nathan Lane, far from the comedies that made them famous. For a few more weeks, watch this drama unfold, for a second time, Tuesdays at 10, and catch up through FX NOW. Join me next week, when I review another show everyone but me has already seen.