There is a point in Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders where the Eddie Falco-portrayed Leslie Abramson assures Gus Halper’s Erik Menendez that, as his defense lawyer, she won’t let him be rolled over by the cops and prosecutors for the killing of his parents. Unfortunately, with too many distracting wigs, monologues and a lack of drama, NBC’s latest outcropping of Dick Wolf’s empire that premieres September 26 does try to roll you, and that’s a real TV crime.
A clear attempt to capture some of the lightning in a bottle from FX’s 2016 Emmy-sweeping The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, the eight-episode Menendez Murders centers on the sordid tale of brothers Lyle and Erik Menendez. Citing sexual abuse and more as a defense, the duo finally was found guilty in 1996 of the first-degree murder of their wealthy parents after two separate juries and a 20-week, media-frenzied retrial. NBC’s ripped-from-the-recent-history-books telling shines a bright light on Abramson’s passionate and controversial efforts to keep the brothers put of prison.
With Wolf’s history, big talents like the Nurse Jackie and Sopranos alum Falco, plus Heather Graham and The Good Wife’s Josh Charles, you’d think that Wolf and showrunner René Balcer would have laid out more bait to hook you in. Instead, from what I’ve seen, it’s lurchingly incremental in process and setup, with an investigative side and a courtroom side as Law & Order has traditionally done over the years. The staging leaves the players and the pieces in The Menendez Murders coming together awkwardly and plays out more like a surprisingly staid old-school movie of the week.
Click on my Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders video review to see more of my investigation into the first installment of this anthology series. Will you be watching?
This review was originally posted on September 22.