To put it mildly, 2016 has been a dramatic year. But now as it draws to an end, it’s time for people like us to put together our “Best of” lists. And if you watched any TV this year, you probably would’ve noticed the unlikely comeback of O.J. Simpson. February saw the launch of The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, a miniseries that took home nine Emmys. In June ABC aired the ESPN documentary O.J.: Made in America, a sprawling, nearly eight-hour look into the life of Simpson and the role of race in American culture. As of this writing, it could become the first TV documentary to be nominated for an Oscar.
So in 2016, when the line between news and entertainment is more blurred than ever before, we stepped back and relived that first moment when the two began to overlap. Simpson, of course, was the 1968 Heisman Trophy winner, the first round draft pick out of USC, named to five Pro Bowls, an NFL MVP, and a Hall of Famer. He was also one of the most high-profile TV pitchmen for the better part of 25 years, and acted in Hollywood films like the Naked Gun trilogy. And on June 17, 1994, he became the most famous fugitive in the world.
Simpson was the prime suspect in the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Failing to turn himself in as evidence mounted against him, he led police on a history-making low-speed chase that was captured on live television. But while Simpson sat crouched behind the front seats of his friend Al Cowlings’ car with a gun to his head (he safely surrendered), he inadvertently created a pop culture icon. After nearly 30 years in production, the Ford Bronco had become the most infamous car in the world in a matter of hours. Less than two years later, the venerable nameplate was gone.