Fox is planning a two-night sweeps event whose title says it all: “O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here’s How It Happened.”
Publisher Judith Regan has taped a wide-ranging interview with Simpson that will serve as the basis for the broadcast, set to air in two hourlong segs Nov. 27 and 29, at 9 p.m. both nights. In the interview, Fox said Simpson “describes how he would have carried out the murders he has vehemently denied committing for over a decade.”
Simpson was acquitted of killing Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, but found liable for both murders in a later civil suit.
Regan is publishing the Simpson-penned “If I Did It,” which goes on sale Nov. 30 — the day after the special’s conclusion airs. ReganBooks is based at Harper Collins, which is owned by Fox parent News Corp.
Fox’s O.J. special is being produced under the auspices of alternative topper Mike Darnell’s department.
“This is an interview that no one thought would ever happen,” Darnell said. “It’s the definitive last chapter in the ‘Trial of the Century.’ ”
This isn’t Simpson’s first foray into primetime. Katie Couric interviewed Simpson for NBC News in 2004, 10 years after the murders took place.
Fox declined to comment further on the special, and a Regan spokeswoman said the publisher was traveling and unavailable for an interview.
Insiders, however, indicate Fox isn’t directly paying Simpson for his interview. However, it’s safe to assume he’s getting paid for his book.
If Simpson is making any money off the book, Ron Goldman’s father, Fred, will likely try to get that coin in order to help pay off the debt Simpson owes him after losing the civil case.
Earlier this month, a Santa Monica court rejected Goldman’s attempt to gain control of Simpson’s publicity and identity rights.
A Fox rep also declined to name the production company behind the special.
Fox special marks the return of Darnell, Fox’s own bad boy of entertainment. He has focused on more feel-good fare in recent years, from “Nanny 911” and “Celebrity Duets” to, of course, “American Idol.”
The O.J. special comes as Fox is struggling through another tough fall quarter. It’s also one of the few true sweeps “events” this November. Nets have largely abandoned movies and specials in favor of series programming this sweeps.
Immediate industry reaction to news of the O.J. special was disbelief, followed by debate over how well the event will do in the ratings.
“It’ll be huge,” one rival predicted. One producer said that while competitors might publicly dismiss Fox’s decision to air the special, “They’d all love to have it.”
Others, however, questioned whether Fox would be able to generate much interest from advertisers, since many might shy away from being associated with such a controversial broadcast.