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What does it say about the believability of a TV docudrama that it depicts Harvard quotemeister Alan Dershowitz sitting with his mouth shut, hour after hour, in the back of a room? Dershowitz says he shouldn’t critique the CBS miniseries “An American Tragedy,” which promised the skinny on how he and other defense lawyers got O.J. Simpson acquitted of murder, because he chose not to watch it. Given the ratings — CBS ran third to ABC and NBC on both nights, Nov. 12 and 15 — he was not alone. Dershowitz’ Dream Teammate F. Lee Bailey says that after the first installment, he didn’t want to see any more either. But “I was taking this red-eye flight out of Las Vegas on Wednesday night, and guess what was playing in America West’s first class?” Bailey said in an interview from his West Palm Beach, Fla., office. And, yes, the rest of the passengers knew who he was and there was a little party afterwards, he continues. “It was crappy.” Not that Bailey, like the professional critics, didn’t love Christopher Plummer’s portrayal of him. “He’s a great actor. He can play me anytime,” says the legendary defense lawyer. But that doesn’t mean he enjoyed watching himself swallowing his pride at repeated slights and being urged by egos even bigger than his “not to be an embarrassment.” The Bailey character’s cross-examination of a footprint expert was truncated so it didn’t make sense, he contends, and it was inaccurate to show him relying on information from co-counsel and former friend Robert Shapiro before he goaded the prosecution into having Simpson try on the incriminating glove. Still, Plummer’s overriding theme — that Bailey never once doubted Simpson’s innocence after first talking to him — was square on. “I’ve represented more accused murderers than all of the rest of them put together,” Bailey says. “I know when a man is guilty.” The poor ratings are a good sign, says another of the team, Gerald Uelmen. “It shows the country is moving beyond its O.J. obsession. That’s healthy,” says Uelmen, the former dean of Santa Clara University School of Law. He is characteristically philosophical about actor Nicholas Pryor’s portrayal of him, which others criticized as making Uelmen look like a bumbler. “My son really enjoyed it,” he says, laughing. “Let me just say I don’t expect Mr. Pryor will be able to make a career out of playing me.” What Uelmen does object to is the way his client appeared. “O.J. is a man of considerable warmth and charm. The show made him look like a monster,” he says, adding that the scene in which Simpson grabs through the bars, frightening attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr., is “pure fiction.” The team member with blood in his eye following the broadcast is Robert Shapiro. Early on, he was the model of ironic detachment, saying the only accuracy he insisted on was the size of his bald spot on the back of actor Ron Silver’s head. After seeing the show, which he branded “ludicrous,” Shapiro says it is wrong that a “major network would present tabloidism as reality and condone violations of attorney-client privilege.” On that last point, he adds that he hopes the state bar will look into who told what to whom, and how that may have violated professional ethics rules. Which does suggest that the program, however wrong, got something right.

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