'Lost' O.J. Simpson interview stunt on Fox crushed in ratings by 'American Idol'

The Turnstile

On Sunday, ABC premiered its version of “American Idol,” the former ratings monster brought back to life after Fox put its 15-year run on its network to bed in 2016.

Fox, apparently not pleased at the prospect of a rival profiting off its scrap heap, dug deep — waaaay deep — to try to spoil the amateur singing party in its ABC debut.

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Recognizing the critical and ratings successes of ESPN’s “O.J.: Made in America” and FX’s “The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” Fox pulled out 12-year-old video of a Simpson interview that was deemed in such poor taste when conducted that the network scrapped its plans to air it.

Fast-forward to Sunday night in a popular culture with entirely new bounds for what is and isn’t in good taste, and U.S. television viewers were presented with “O.J. Simpson: The Lost Confession,” a shelved 2006 interview that was to coincide with the book “If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer.”

O.J. Simpson’s hypothetical confession on Fox airwaves Sunday was a ratings bust. (Reuters)
O.J. Simpson’s hypothetical confession on Fox airwaves Sunday was a ratings bust. (Reuters)

In the interview, Simpson gave an account of how he murdered Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman in 1994 with the caveat that the story was “hypothetical.”

“I just remember Nicole fell and hurt herself, and this guy kinda got into a karate thing,” Simpson said of Goldman. “And I said well, you think you can kick my ass? And I remembered I grabbed a knife. I do remember that portion.”

But not even 2018’s brand of culture standards appeared ready to swallow what Fox was serving Sunday night. “The Lost Confession” got crushed in the ratings — like more than doubled-up crushed — by “American Idol.”

The numbers came in on Monday, and around 10.3 million viewers tuned into “Idol.”

While that pales in comparison to “Idol’s” peak on Fox that saw around 37 million viewers, it’s a ratings bonanza compared to the 4.4 million viewers who tuned into Fox on Sunday to hear Simpson give a “hypothetical” confession to murder.

Those are encouraging numbers for the American viewing public. It’s good to see that Fox was not rewarded for reverting to its infancy stage strategy of throwing whatever trash it could find against the wall to see what sticks.

Maybe there’s hope for U.S. pop culture yet.

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