On Tuesday, FX premieres The People v. O.J. Simpson, the 10-episode first season of a new American Crime Story anthology from Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story, Glee) that's less interested in the former football star's guilt or innocence than in what it took to get him acquitted of the murders of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and waiter Ronald Goldman.

(Hint: all the lawyers that money and notoriety could buy.)

On Wednesday and Thursday, ABC presents Madoff, a four-hour recounting of the rise and abrupt fall of Ponzi-schemer Bernard Madoff - Bernie to those who falsely believed him to be their friend - whose portrayal by Richard Dreyfuss makes no excuses for the con artist whose decades-long fraud cost his marks billions. It does humanize his family, which knew sadness even before Madoff's big reveal, and features a strong performance by Peter Scolari as Bernie's brother Peter.

Whether it's murder or financial malfeasance, true crime is having a moment, but what can we take away from it?

The FX series, based on Jeffrey Toobin's 1996 book, The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson, is a frequently fascinating look behind the scenes of a case whose mix of celebrity, race, and money still resonates.

Be prepared, though, to embrace the circus.

Not just the media circus of two decades ago, but the even longer-running one it probably helped spawn. Toobin's book barely touched on Kris Jenner (Selma Blair), the ex-wife of O.J. friend Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) and their now-infamous offspring (in my edition, Khloe is "Khole").

But for a generation who might not remember where they were when O.J. (Cuba Gooding Jr.) took off in the white Bronco with A.C. Cowlings (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) in a bizarre, low-speed police chase played out on national television, the name Kardashian means something altogether different, something it would have been foolish for the producers of The People v. O.J. to ignore, even if they'd wanted to.

"O.J., please. Do not kill yourself in Kimmy's bedroom," may be the campiest line of the series, if not the season, and it's spoken in the very house where the late Robert Kardashian lived and from which Simpson and Cowlings took off in that Bronco.

Courtney B. Vance and American Horror Story trouper Sarah Paulson bring welcome dimension to the defense attorney Johnnie Cochran and lead prosecutor Marcia Clark, both parodied often enough for us to forget them as real people.

Robert Morse (Mad Men) is perfect as the late Dominick Dunne, who covered the trial for Vanity Fair.

But while I appreciate what John Travolta was trying to do with Robert Shapiro, the social butterfly of a lawyer who assembled O.J.'s sometimes nightmarish legal "dream team," his presence here is distracting, as though he's wearing someone else's face.

Which is no harsher than many of the things said of principals in the long-running soap opera they helped populate.

To juxtapose, as I did, Netflix's Making a Murderer, the story of a Wisconsin man named Steven Avery who may or may not have been framed for murder, with the first six episodes of The People v. O.J. Simpson, is to come away discouraged by a legal system in which truth may be incidental.

ABC's mini-series treatment of Madoff, on the other hand, may provide cover for bigger villains who've gone unpunished.

There's something almost quaint about Madoff's scheme, which anyone old enough to have an allowance should be able to grasp. He pretended to invest people's money and put it in the bank instead, making up the inevitable difference out of new investors' deposits.

What his downfall did was give us a person to despise as our economy teetered on the brink. Yet few of the people who lost their homes, jobs, and retirements in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis can hold Madoff personally to blame, much less explain what happened to them, even with some help from Adam McKay's The Big Short.

Madoff gives us a villain, while The People v. O.J. Simpson almost sidelines one.

For all its glitz, FX seems to be reaching for something more, if only to help us understand how the verdict that divided a nation had its roots in divisions that had been there all along.

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Premieres at 10 p.m. Tuesday on FX.

Madoff
8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday on ABC.