It’s been years since O.J. Simpson riveted the attention of nearly 150 million Americans to their TV screens as they witnessed his acquittal of the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman, after the Trial of the Century inadvertently made him the biggest TV star of all time.
The dust has settled, though memories of the trial linger and the mere mention of the former NFL star’s name still kicks up a tornado of passions. It’s time to bring O.J. Simpson back to the TV screen.
We’re not talking about American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson, the buzzy FX event series starring Cuba Gooding Jr. surely poised to set more TV ratings records when it premieres next Tuesday. (It is, for the record, quite good.)
No, we’re traveling back to 2006, the year when the greatest, most offensive, most mystifying, and—it has to be said—must-watch reality TV show of the past decade came to fruition: a hidden-camera prank show starring O.J. Simpson called Juiced.
This is a thing that actually existed.
This is Punk’d featuring O.J. Simpson almost 10 years after he set fire to the zeitgeist with his murder trial, at a time when 78 percent of Americans believed he probably or definitely was guilty. This is the most notorious man in America, going undercover at a fast-food restaurant and pretending to mess up people’s orders, cheekily chirping, “You’ve been Juiced!”—“Juiced” being a reference to his nickname as a football player.
This is flabbergasting. This is fascinating. This is so much worse than you could even imagine. You really need to watch it.
Juiced was a one-time special airing on Pay Per View, that was then repurposed for a special-edition DVD. The website hocking it still exists. You can visit it here.
“Has reality TV gone too far?” the site teases, unaware it is asking a rhetorical question. “You be the judge.” It teases the special as starring “The Most Notorious Celebrity on the Planet.” Are you confused? “Yes, that O.J. Simpson!” Oh.
Should you think that this peak moment in culture was above capitalizing on Simpson’s reputation as a, um, murderer, you needn’t fear. “No one is safe because ‘THE JUICE’ is loose,” the site promises, ominously. “…Again.”
Juiced was produced by the same patron of the arts who shepherded Bum Fights and Backyard Wrestling to the Earth. This would be his crowning achievement.
The idea is straightforward—almost chillingly so.
This isn’t an image-rehabbing celebrity comeback, a charming comedy bit meant to erase negative feelings the public may have about its star.
It’s your typical hidden-camera show. Simpson would infiltrate some establishment, sometimes in disguise and sometimes not, needling customers to their breaking point before shouting, “You’ve been Juiced.”
The punchline is as obvious as you suspect, and that’s what makes this whole thing so dumbfounding.
As Harmon Leon, who played Simpson’s sidekick on the show, relates the typical chronology: “A prank is pulled, OJ Simpson pops out, and goes, ‘You've been Juiced,’ at which point the person pranked goes, ‘HEY, AREN‘T YOU THAT GUY WHO MURDERED THOSE PEOPLE?! YOUR WIFE AND THAT OTHER GUY?!’”
You’ve been Punk’d! By that guy we still think is probably a killer.
There are multitudes of can’t-make-this-shit-up gems in Leon’s testimonial, which reads almost as a survivor’s memoir of sorts.
On his first day of production, for example, Leon was sternly warned by his producer, “You know, Harmon, we really can’t mention… the murders.”
His recounting of how abysmal Simpson was at improv—a key talent for the star of a hidden-camera show—is hysterical, about as hysterical as his recollection of how most of the innocent victims reacted to Simpson is horrifying.
“I thought, oh, man, there’s going to be like just outraged people, or people freaking out,” Leon told This American Life reporter Nancy Updike. “And that was actually the most mind-numbing part about the two-week production, was that people just were actually thrilled when they find out they’d been juiced by O.J.”
For gossip hounds, too, it’s more than worth reading Leon’s account for his regaling of Simpson’s behavior on set. Key line: “O.J. was completely shitfaced.”
But, really, the glory is in watching this beautiful, shameful disaster. This pinnacle of trash TV that simply does not have its due. This treasure that is Juiced.
It opens with a rap video.
Yes, a rap video.
O.J. Simpson is dressed like a pimp, surrounded by topless dancers who gyrate all over him. He spits lyrics: “Don’t you know there’s no stopping the Juice / When I’m on the floor I’m like a lion on the loose / Better shoot me with a tranquilizer dart / Don’t be stupid, I’m not a Simpson named Bart.”
The video then shows Simpson in a recording booth, for some reason wearing a curly wig and—yes, for the love of god—a wife beater. Cut back to the dancing hos.
In the first sketch, Simpson pretends to work at the drive-thru window of a fast-food joint. “If I pulled up to a window where O.J. Simpson was at, I would not eat that food,” says one of his accomplices to the camera. Another: “I would go to another restaurant.” That Simpson is a scary person is very much the joke.
Oh, hijinx ensue. He takes a sip from a drink before giving it to a customer to make sure there’s enough ice in it. He asks an overweight woman if she’s sure she wants fries. (Get it? Because she’s fat.) In one bit where he bullies an employee he says, oh-so charmingly, “I think he’s a retard.” He rubs cheese on his apron before serving the burger to a customer. Health code violations! You’ve been Juiced!
(Warning: Below video NSFW.)
In another sketch he dresses as a homeless man and sells oranges on the side of the highway—oranges from O.J.—as…a meta-commentary on his fallen celebrity? (Just kidding! There’s no deep meaning here.) He pretends to be having an affair with a guy’s girlfriend. He puts on prosthetics to transform into an old white man who wanted to call a Bingo game before he died. The sketch is called “B-I-N-G-O.J.”
Through it all, he tells people who have been Juiced that he’s the guy from movies like Naked Gun or from the football field. Yes, O.J. That’s what they know you from.
The one truly funny bit, in that it is seriously uncomfortable, involves Simpson pretending to attend an open house. Leon, playing the homeowner, keeps calling Simpson Danny Glover. Simpson, perhaps forgetting it’s all staged, gets visibly angry. When someone at the open house breaks a vase, Leon asks Simpson if it was him. He says it wasn’t: “I’ve been blamed for enough shit.”
At one point a woman in the backyard begins jumping on a trampoline topless. There’s no reason for this. She just is.
Topless women factor prominently into Juiced, dancing on Simpson in acid trip montages that play before and after each sketch as the show transitions between them. You may stare dumbfounded, but it’s all a warm-up for what is the show’s most excellent and most shocking bit.
Simpson goes to a used car lot in Las Vegas and attempts to sell a used white Bronco.
There’s a bullet hole in it. He autographs the Bronco right above it. His pitches to prospective customers read as if from a Saturday Night Live skit. “This is a collector’s item,” he says. “It was good for me. Got me out of harm’s way.”
And then the line that will have you fumbling to lift your jaw off its newly permanent residence on the floor: “I can guarantee this car has escapeability,” he says. “If you ever get in trouble and have to get away, this car has escapeability.”
According to This American Life, Juiced was not a hit, with Updike reporting that fewer than 100 copies of the DVDs were sold. It was released right around the time when Simpson was at work on his book, If I Did It, a work of such colossal controversy that the publisher who commissioned it was fired.
She spoke to Rick Mahr, the executive producer of Juiced, who conceded that amidst all the uproar he pulled Juiced from circulation, too. All these years later, however, he began peddling it again, under the title Ungloved: The Lost Tapes. He concedes, though, that his attempt at creating a reality show that would make noise over all the clutter ultimately flopped with a whimper.
“You know, I’d be the first to say it,” Mahr says. “It’s not everybody’s—it’s not everybody’s cup of tea.”
In other words, sir, you’ve been Juiced.