A few months ago, the writer Rachel Syme asked on Twitter, “Who is a woman, who, growing up, you always thought of as kind of a public joke but upon getting older you realized her story wasn’t so funny after all.” Thousands of replies poured in: the elderly woman who sued McDonald’s in the famous hot coffee case, Monica Lewinsky, Judy Garland, Tonya Harding, Yoko Ono. It was a discomfiting reminder of all the women unfairly written off, left to the wrath of a vicious public and an even more vicious tabloid press.
Among the more popular answers to Syme’s prompt was Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial, who, for a few months in 1995, was subjected to the most derisive, intrusive media coverage imaginable. Her sartorial choices were mocked, her marital troubles dissected for entertainment. When the O.J. case was revisited in the form of two spectacular TV shows in 2016 — an eight-hour documentary on ESPN and an FX miniseries — it only seemed right that Clark be reappraised with it.
And she was. When Sarah Paulson won an Emmy for her thoughtful portrayal of Clark in FX’s “American Crime Story: People v. O.J. Simpson,” the actress took the opportunity to offer a personal and symbolic apology: “The more I learned about the real Marcia Clark … I had to recognize that I, along with the rest of the world, had been superficial and careless in my judgment. And I am glad to be able to stand here today in front of everyone and tell you I’m sorry.”
But Clark’s redemption is only a recent development. The first season finale of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” had Tina Fey doing a particularly cruel impression — bumbling, inept, unfortunately-permed — as late as 2015. A little empathy now hardly makes up for two decades of ridicule. Can you really blame Marcia Clark for wanting a do-over?
She gets one on ABC’s new drama “The Fix,” if only a fictional one. The show, executive produced by Clark, imagines a maligned prosecutor being given a second chance to convict the beloved Black celebrity who got away. Maya Travis (Robin Tunney, “The Mentalist”) is living a quiet life on a ranch in Washington State eight years after failing to convict the actor Sevvy Johnson (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, “Lost”) of the double homicide of his wife and her friend. But Maya springs back into action when her former co-prosecutor (Adam Rayner, “Tyrant”) shows up on her doorstep to ask for help: Sevvy’s girlfriend has been found bludgeoned to death on a beach, and this time, the Los Angeles County DA’s office wants to win.
It’s about as O.J. as you can get without it being the real thing. There’s an oily, coiffed Robert Kardashian-Robert Shapiro wannabe defense lawyer, a floppy-haired Kato Kaelin analogue living in the pool house, rumors of a dalliance between the prosecutors. To its credit, “The Fix” doesn’t try to pretend this is anything other than what it is: pure wish fulfillment, a postmortem revenge fantasy. Beyond that intrigue, there isn’t much here. There’s some slick production, self-important lines about carrying out justice and some very good-looking people delivering them — ABC is a perfect home for it. It’s mostly entertaining, with one caveat: A story about a white woman on a revenge crusade to lock up a rage-filled Black man plays a little awkwardly in 2019. And if we learned anything from the O.J. revisiting in 2016, it’s that telling one side of a story doesn’t do anyone much good.