Twenty years after the O.J. Simpson murder trial riveted the nation, FX’s new series on the subject, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” has broken out of the gate a ratings winner.
FX will again wait for three days’ worth of time-shifted viewing before making its ratings pronouncements, but the same-day numbers released Wednesday by Nielsen were pretty impressive. In fact, “People v. O.J. Simpson” set an FX viewership record for an original drama premiere with 5.11 million viewers — eclipsing the previous same-day record of 4.83 million for the network’s first-ever drama, “The Shield.” (Several shows, including “Sons of Anarchy” and installments of “American Horror Story” have had higher season premieres.)
In adults 18-49, “People v. O.J. Simpson” averaged a 2.0 rating, tying with the CBS special “Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials” as Tuesday’s No. 1 program in the demo. The 2.0 tops the premiere of the first installment of “American Horror Story” in 2011 (1.6) and is the highest for an FX series premiere since “The Shield” opened with a 2.4 in March 2002.
“People v. O.J. Simpson,” the first season in an “American Crime Story” anthology franchise created by Ryan Murphy, has garnered the best aggregate review total of any television premiere of the year, according to Metacritic. In his review, Chief TV Critic Brian Lowry of Variety praised the drama’s “illuminating touches and stranger-than-fiction moments” and called the performances of the marquee names in the cast “almost uniformly superb.”
Anticipation has been building for the project for months and went into overdrive in mid-December when FX circulated screeners of the first four episodes to media types. The series also received substantial promotion during Fox’s coverage of football’s NFC Championship game on Jan. 24.
“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” is based on the book “The Run of His Life: The People V. O.J. Simpson” by Jeffrey Toobin, and the series is a look at the Simpson trial told from the perspective of the lawyers. The star-studded cast includes John Travolta, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Sarah Paulson, David Schwimmer and Courtney B. Vance.