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O.J., Nicole and Ron: Countdown to Murder

Narrator: Bruce Chandler.

Narrator: Bruce Chandler.

From E!, the people who have groomed Howard Stern for his date with mainstream destiny on CBS, comes this two-hour rehash of the 4-year-old murders that rocked the world and landed Robert Shapiro on the A-list party circuit into perpetuity. Blending elements of “Unsolved Mysteries,” “Hard Copy” and MTV News, “O.J., Nicole and Ron: Countdown to Murder” isn’t quite the definitive document it aspires to be but proves compelling nonetheless, rather like a traffic accident on a continuous loop.

What’s most intriguing, even remarkable, about the docutainment look at the hours leading up to the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman is that O.J. Simpson is a willing, sincere interview subject throughout, eagerly participating in a project that he must know will cast him as a liar and an assassin which, naturally, it does. Big shock.

Either this man is so arrogant and cavalier that he doesn’t believe anything can touch him, or Simpson’s ego demands that he remain in the limelight. There is also, of course, a third option: that he is innocent and has convinced himself that his only hope for clearing his name is to continue to mouth scenarios and alibis already sliced to ribbons in court. For what it’s worth, the guy appears only to be burying himself deeper.

Using warp-speed pacing and quick-cut styling seemingly designed for the toddler attention span, “Countdown to Murder” is at once superficial and commendably balanced. It serves up a heaping helping of those cheesy, grainy, herky-jerky re-enactments — including one of O.J. taking a shower, adding the all-important bathing element — along with footage both old and new of the Simpson trial all stars (fresh interviews with defense attorney F. Lee Bailey, Denise Brown, limo driver Allan Park, LAPD detective Tom Lange and the full assortment of neighbors who were out walking their dogs).

Show more or less restricts its focus to the hours and minutes just prior to the killings to weave its own timeline of sorts. The “startling” new information that the program claims to uncover involves a neighbor who saw a woman fitting Nicole’s description chatting up two men sitting in a large white pickup truck while a white man wearing dark clothing lurked nearby about 10:05 p.m. the night of the murder. It can mean only one thing: another book will soon be on the way.

The conclusion that pretty much everyone comes to in this “E! True Hollywood Story” is that (gasp) O.J. did it. And while Simpson still maintains that he was playing pitch-and-putt on his estate during the critical hour, the evidence — painstakingly woven together here with far too many manufactured graphics — screams otherwise.

Perhaps it’s time that someone take O.J. aside and re-introduce him to that “right to remain silent” concept. Tech credits are mostly sharp.

O.J., Nicole and Ron: Countdown to Murder

Production: The E! True Hollywood Story (Docu; E! Entertainment TV, Sun. June 14, 8 p.m.) Taped in Los Angeles by E! Entertainment TV. Executive producer, Jeffrey Shore; producer, Danila Koverman; segment producer, Gina Sirico; associate producer, Pam Lewis.

Crew: Camera, Carmen Mitcho, Sergio Myers; editors, Richard Arsenault, Conrad Stanley; music, Steve Celi; talent/casting, Dan Gibson, Gina Merrill. 2 HOURS.

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