‘Frogmen’: The O.J. Simpson Pilot the Public Never Saw

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With the 20th anniversary of the White Bronco chase causing the O.J. Simpson trial to loom large in the rear-view mirror, a brief word about the football star’s last, still-unseen TV pilot, “Frogmen.”

As I detailed in a fairly exhaustive 2000 piece about the project, Simpson had starred in an NBC series prototype in 1994 – he was longtime buddies with the network’s then-president, Don Ohlmeyer – that was shelved after the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

In the pilot – which wasn’t picked up but remained in contention, and at the least would have aired as a two-hour movie – Simpson played the leader of a crack team of ex-Navy SEALs. The group worked out of a surf shop in Malibu, and the tone seemed designed to tap into a vibe similar to “The A-Team.”

In a moment that fleetingly drew attention during the trial because of its parallels to the murders, there was one sequence in which Simpson’s character, John “Bullfrog” Burke, surprises an intruder and holds a knife to her throat. It turns out it’s Bullfrog’s grown daughter. (The prosecution opted not to use the video.)

Researching the piece, I was able to watch a 25-minute presentation for the pilot – a source screened it for me, but wouldn’t let the videotape out of his possession – and interview a number of the co-stars. They had watched their hopes of the show being picked up for midseason slowly disappear as that Bronco cruised down the freeway, and were subsequently hounded by the press obsessed with all things O.J. The cast included Evan Handler (of “Californication” and “Sex and the City”), Louis Mandylor and Todd Allen, who had auditioned for another Warner Bros. pilot for NBC that year: “ER,” and the role that went to Anthony Edwards.

As noted at the time, the decision to lock “Frogmen” away no doubt meant sacrificing a small fortune – a rare and welcome act of self-restraint, given the morbid curiosity factor. (Frankly, I had practically forgotten about it until last week, when a TV news staffer ran across the earlier story and called asking if I could supply them with the pilot, or the means of accessing it.)

Handler, actually, might have put it best in 2000. Asked if he was surprised the pilot hadn’t aired, he said, “That is about the only proof you have that there is some dignity in the advertising and television business.”

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  1. Jeremy Dalton says:

    Every time I hear about that savage I can’t help thinking of the racist, empty headed, illiterate bunch that served as jurors. What a joke they were. Typical though. If they had to endure a crime in their family they would whine and cry racism. So typical, and that’s one reason they make zero progress

  2. jabalong says:

    It sounds like grasping at straws, looking for deeper connections where there isn’t anything much.

    Look if a show was about a rapist and the star actor turned out to be a rapist, then I could see the unfortunate connection.

    Or if it was a kids show and the actor turned out to be a pedophile, again it’d be really unfortunate.

    But because OJ gets physical in it, then it’s too much? C’mon.

    The bottom line is they buried this because OJ became a pariah. And it’s fair enough that the show never went ahead, but it’s silly to hide away the pilot like it’s a snuff movie or something.

    Again, it’s unfair to all the people that worked hard on this, that the product of their work should be buried for no one to see.

    • DebLA says:

      There was no grasping at straws. The Prosecution decided not to enter it as real evidence of OJ’s real ‘silent kill’ knife training by a real Navy Seal. THEY didn’t believe their ‘mountain of evidence’ needed any help from Hollywood.

      • Dell McClure says:

        Eyes wide open, he had the knife from the movie folks, they never found the knife, he buried it or took it and threw it into a river, eyes wide open Jury they are and were blind as justice is blind, O J hated white people and he was jealous of Nicole, he stalked her and found out she was seeing other men, so he killed Ron and Nicole because he had evil hatred for Nicole and Ron, he just could not see a white man with his white wife, 80 to 90 percent of people are killed by someone they know, i.e. O J killed them in a jealous rage he is a racist and hated to see a white man with her. case closed he did it, the Jury got it wrong or they were paid off. LA did not want another riot on there hands so he was acquitted, f the glove did not fit, hell he had two set of gloves and planted the smaller ones, duh? May the Jury rot in hell along with that racist killing O J, he will be free soon and they will be waiting for him to make a mistake, I just say O J stay clear of my state do not show your lying conniving acting stupid devil face. If I were O J I would look over my shoulder everyday. everyday!!

  3. Skylark says:

    I seem to remember the news reporting that OJ was “learning” or “rehearsing” or “practicing” how to grab a person from behind and slit their throat. It seems if he was rehearsing that move it might have been, perhaps, easier for him to do it in real life. I thought it was relevant.

  4. Lois Penberth says:

    They did mention the similarities in the media. But I think it is BS I learned Algebra in high school to and have not used it once since then .

  5. jabalong says:

    “That is about the only proof you have that there is some dignity in the advertising and television business.”

    Normally, I’d applaud this sentiment, but it really seems misplaced here.

    There is no connection or significant parallels between the plot of Frogmen and the murders that took place.

    It just happens to be O.J. Simpson’s last TV project beforehand. So while clearly this wasn’t going to go forward as a series starring Simpson, there is no good reason for the pilot to never see the day of light.

    Frankly, it’s disrespectful to everyone else who worked on it.

  6. PT Ryan says:

    I can still remember Entertainment Tonight’s behind-the-scenes report on this pilot, before the murders occurred. It really is remarkable that the full pilot never leaked out online.

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