Tuesday night (April 5), FX aired the finale of its critically acclaimed series The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Spoiler alert: O.J. was acquitted.
The series is a re-telling of the famous 1995 murder trial, in which former NFL star O.J. Simpson, accused of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, was found not guilty, despite the seemingly overwhelming evidence suggesting he did it.
The final episode, naturally, covered Simpson’s acquittal and its aftermath (notably the intensely divided reactions among observers). Immediately after the verdict was issued in the show, FX cut to a commercial break, showing a clever promo (above) for the network’s upcoming comedy series, Atlanta.
The ad is funny and tension-breaking, sure, but it also serves as a comment on some portion of the audience’s reaction to watching the verdict—the Atlanta characters are surrogates for those too young to remember the real verdict, who are finding themselves surprised or confused by the acquittal even though it has been cemented in history for over 20 years. It’s easy to imagine similar conversations happening in living rooms across the United States at that very same moment.
Atlanta, a comedy series about rappers in Atlanta, created by and starring actor-musician Donald Glover (who also performs under the stage name “Childish Gambino”), will premiere later this year. It’s hard to tell exactly what the show is about based solely on the commercial, but that’s intentional.
TV “teaser” trailers are weird. Often between 15 and 30 seconds, they’re too short to show anything of real substance. (For comparison, here’s one for AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead). Instead, networks have to be creative with how they get the audience interested in a new show. FX cleverly used the opportunity to tie in one of its upcoming shows with an existing one, breaking the fourth wall.
Twitter was unanimous in its praise of the teaser:
It’s not the first time that a popular TV show has been referenced directly in a commercial, in order to help sell something to the viewer. And given the positive to reaction to FX’s experiment, it likely won’t be the last either.