The top 5 ways the O.J. Simpson saga changed the world


By Adam Pouliss


The summer of 1994 was a much different media landscape than today’s. In fact, it was the white Bronco chase and subsequent trial that helped mold media as to what it is today.

On June 12, 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman’s murders at Brown’s home resulted in a low-speed pursuit between police and Simpson in the back seat of a white Bronco, NFL teammate Al Cowlings behind the wheel a few days later. The event came to a controversial acquittal of Simpson in October 1995. The Friday evening car chase nabbed 95 million viewers on that Friday evening, and was the beginning of a new era for television, especially for continuous 24-hour news service. CNN, just 14 years old in 1994 went live with continuous coverage, airing the bird’s-eye view of a white Bronco slowly cruising through Los Angeles. It launched continuous coverage from CNN, unheard of for its time, helping lay the groundwork for the 24-hour news model that occupies every major breaking news situation.

And in a time when most daytime television was scripted entertainment, the real-life soap opera that was the chase and eventual trial proved to be great television, and is often cited as the birth of reality television.

Rise of Court TV

Murder defendant O.J. Simpson grimaces as he tries on one of the leather gloves prosecutors say he wore the night his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered, during the Simpson double-murder trial Thursday, June 15, 1995, in Los Angeles. MORE PHOTOS

What started as a stiff, limited-access channel in 1991 saw a spike in success thanks to the 1995 trial. Court TV launched in the summer of 1991 and was only available to about three million viewers. It would air court cases and commentary. Though Court TV had already aired the Menendez brothers’ trial in 1993, the 16-month Simpson trial that began in 1995 and the attention it earned was only a further boost for Court TV, which became TruTV in 2008.

Kardashian Connection

The 2013 Kardashian family Christmas card photo by David LaChapelle.MORE PHOTOS

Before their name became synonymous with reality TV, expensive weddings and sex tapes, the name Kardashian was synonymous with the O.J. Simpson trial. Defense attorney and Simpson’s friend Robert Kardashian was one in a team of nine in a defense team throughout the 1995 trial. Kardashian was a friend of Simpson for years and even reactivated his license to join the “Dream Team” of lawyers.

On June 18, 1994, Kardashian read a letter to the media that Simpson read before turning himself in.

Kardashian died in 2003. Fred Goldman, father of stabbing victim Ron Goldman, recently told MailOnline he believes Kardashian hid evidence that would have sealed Simpson’s fate.

Jay Leno

A young Jay Leno had only been host of “The Tonight Show” on NBC for barely two years. But like any topical comedian, he knew the situation in all its craziness and tragedy was ripe for fodder, which helped Leno gain notoriety. Easily the most popular “Tonight Show” sketch to come out of the Simpson frenzy was the Dancing Itos, a band of well-choreographed dancers that looked like Judge Lance Ito.

One time, a doppelganger to prosecutor Marcia Clark joined in. Not only did Dancing Itos and Clark resemble their targets, but they were also surprisingly good dancers, making them a hit with viewers. Also, Leno’s cheesy TV-style opening to a faux sitcom titled “O.J.’s Trial” is, in it’s own right, a well-done summation of the events of the trial up to that day.

As Leno’s reign as late-night champ came to an end -- for real this time -- in February, George Mason University’s Center for Media and Public Affairs analyzed all 43,892 of Leno’s monologue jokes, and found Simpson led the pack of roasted celebrities with 795 jokes told throughout his career, ahead of Michael Jackson (505), Martha Stewart (208) and Paris Hilton (153).

Just about every aspect of the Simpson saga was a boon for satirists. Shows like “South Park” was particularly ruthless in lampooning the Bronco chase and Cochran even 

though it premiered two years after the verdict after Ito banged the gavel.

A career springboard

With the constant media attention, the O.J. Simpson saga paved the way to a successful career for many. The O.J. Simpson trial helped launch the career of Fox News host Greta van Susteren. Back then, Van Susteren was a trial attorney and pundit called to provide legal analysis on the ongoing court case. Van Susteren was propelled into the media spotlight. She went on to co-host “Burden of Proof” and “The Point” before signing with Fox News in 2002. Harvey Levin, who covered the case, eventually founded TMZ. Many other key players in the case, including Simpson himself, went on to write books.