As the fifth installment of O.J.: Made in America — airing Saturday night on ESPN — reminds us, O.J. Simpson filmed a reality television show back in 2006, called Juiced. (You may remember a This American Life episode about it, and an essay in Vice written by the “Kato” of the show, Harmon Leon.) Ostensibly it’s a hidden-camera prank show in the style of Punk’d with O.J. Simpson as the prankmaster general. It was supposed to be his big comeback vehicle made during a time when reality television was the Wild West. In it O.J. plays himself, sometimes he plays a version of himself, and more rarely, he plays a character. The pranks are often so ill-conceived that when O.J. utters the show’s tag line, “You’ve been juiced!” it’s unclear, what, in fact, has just happened.
Juiced is closer to an anthropological artifact than it is a coherent TV show — a sizzle reel turned fever dream. And it’s disturbing because it is, without any qualification, a gross, sexist, and racist show made all the more surreal because O.J. Simpson is a willing participant. Take a music video at the end (pictured above) where O.J. Simpson raps “Get Juiced” dressed up as a pimp surrounded by half-naked women. The interstitial clips are sequences of near-naked or topless women caressing themselves to a soft-core soundtrack. Sometimes O.J. is with them, sometimes he’s not. Sometimes he’s accompanied by a little person. This is just one of the bizarre, disorienting moments from a show that is sophomoric in its sensibility and half-baked in its execution. Here are ten other instances:
A homeless O.J. sells bags of oranges for $2.
Something you have to understand about these bits is that they can last a minute long at best, with no punch line. In this one, you just see O.J., apparently homeless, selling oranges. He doesn’t even get to utter his tag line, “You’ve been juiced!” because people are trying to get away from him. Perhaps one of the bewildering effects of this image is that there is something inexorably pitiful about it, as though it were a harbinger of what’s to come.
O.J. pretends to cuckold this guy.
This clip is called “Scandalous” and the set-up is that there is a reality show where an investigator helps this man catch his girlfriend in flagrante. In this case, his girlfriend is supposedly cheating on him with O.J. Simpson. But during the clip, the man doesn’t pay attention to this fact (and mostly demands his girlfriend come out of the motel bathroom where she’s locked herself in). This is the moment he understands what’s happening.
Here’s O.J. as an old white man (or the clown from It).
This is O.J. Simpson made up to look like an old white man. He actually gets into character for this bit, playing a fumbling but well-meaning senior who is excited to call bingo numbers for the first time. The joke, apparently, is that he’s bad at it, which pisses off the players at the senior center. As with most of the other pranks, there is no follow-through.
A topless woman jumps on a trampoline.
It’s unclear what the premise of this prank is. There’s a real-estate agent showing a house to unsuspecting buyers. She “pranks” them by breaking things and blaming them. Then another person, supposedly the owner, but not O.J. Simpson, gets mad at the buyers. It’s unclear why O.J. is there: Is he one of the owners? A real-estate mogul? A prospective buyer? And amid all of these questions, there is a topless woman bouncing on a trampoline outside.
Kimmy is uncomfortable.
O.J.’s interactions with women throughout Juiced are the most uncomfortable moments, and this exchange is the worst. O.J. — who’s dressed like a rapper with bad teeth — clearly enjoys flirting with women, and this woman, bless her, was leery of him. She was there to audition to sing backup for a song that O.J. was apparently recording, only to have O.J. ask her out to a concert. Here’s the full exchange:
O.J.: What’s your name?
O.J.: We’ve got a good concert in town here tonight.
Kimmy: Are you serious?
O.J.: Do you like Britney Spears?
Kimmy: She’s … yeah, she’s cool. She’s cool .
O.J.: What are you doing tonight? Want to go to the concert?
Kimmy: [nervous laughter] With who? Like a whole bunch of people?
O.J.: Maybe, maybe not.
Kimmy: [nervous laughter]
O.J.: What’s wrong with me? Is it my teeth?
Kimmy: No, not at all. I like parties, I like clubs and stuff.
O.J.: Well, we got backstage passes.
Kimmy: Oh, are you serious? I’ll go … If I can bring a friend of mine.
O.J.: Guy friend?
O.J.: Guy friend?
Kimmy: No. Girlfriend.
O.J.: Well, that might be better. For me.
Kimmy: [nervous laughter]
O.J. is a homeless person washing car windows.
This is perhaps one of the few conceits that “works” in any conceivable way, in part because people don’t realize that it’s O.J. Simpson washing their car. Once they realize they’ve been “juiced,” they lighten up.
O.J. is dressed as Elvis surrounded by strippers.
Do you feel drunk yet?
O.J. signs a white Bronco with a bullet hole in it.
In this bit, O.J. plays a car dealer trying to sell a used white Bronco that he signed, with a bullet hole in it. Rather than get upset about the fact that the producers are bringing up his past, O.J. is in his element trying to get people to consider the Bronco. One of his big selling points: “It has escapability, that’s the main thing. I know it,” he tells one prospective buyer. “My boy Al Collins was driving this thing, and if we wanted to get away, it was easy to get away.”
Here’s some random homophobia.
The only context I can give you for this is that O.J. Simpson starts singing “They’re homosexuals” over and over again to these two men.
This guy’s anguish is all of us.
This man is one of the prank victims. In the setup, O.J. is a pizza delivery man, and he gives the man, who is the bartender, the wrong order. The man has clearly had a long night and is trying very hard to be reasonable. He asks for his money back because another delivery person has arrived with the right order. O.J. tells him that he needs the pizza back. The man returns it to him, only to have O.J. drop it on the ground and blame him. This man is tired. He has been working all night, or possibly watching this DVD, and he has had it. I feel you, man.