Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders

(NBC, Tuesdays 10/9 Central)

Sep 26, 2017 Web Exclusive
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Word on the street is that the '90s are back but in television it is the '80s that rule supreme. Yet another show whose timeframe is the last year of that decade, the year that the real-life Menendez Brothers' butchering of their parents crime took place. The behemoth Law & Order franchise kicks off the latest in its series, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders with this unforgettable occurrence presenting a visual that has the retro, soft focus aesthetic style of its time period but the crispness of current day programs stopping it from becoming too tiresome. Really, The Menendez Murders looks like an '80s nighttime soap with the same irresistible trashy watchability. The word "preppie" pops to mind more than once, as does "morbid" which is the underlying feel of The Menendez Murders.

The eight-episode serialized show opens with the chilling murders, shown from the point of view of the murderers. Detective Les Zoeller, played by Parenthood's Sam Jaeger, arrives at the brutal crime scene, stoic. Next moment, the brothers, calm and collected Lyle (Miles Gaston Villanueva) and weepy and distraught Erik (Gus Helper) are being questioned at the police station. Cut to the ever fabulous Edie Falco (The Sopranos, Nurse Jackie) and her tight gold perm, who plays the brothers' attorney-to-be, Leslie Abramson, delivering a very convincing closing argument in court that gets her parent-murdering client acquitted. Elsewhere, the extended Menendez family arrives for the funeral and memorial services, acting generous and caring toward the brothers. All scenes are interspersed by déjà vu-triggered flashbacks that portray the Menendez father as extremely harsh and abusive and the mother as helpless and hysterical.

The Menendez Murders being based on a true story, we know how the story unfolds and how it ends, but seeing the minute details illustrated in this drama are riveting, like the sickest of reality shows. The brothers using their approved father's company card to go bling shopping is unnerving. Lyle's cold and detached manner in all his actions is disturbing. Erik's cherubic face, constantly wet from crying and his endless resultant sniffles are irritating. The Good Wife's Josh Charlessporting an ill-fitting rugplays Erik's therapist, a calculating and immoral individual whose smarminess, particularly toward his unhinged patient, Judalon Smyth (the permanently sexualized Heather Graham) makes the skin crawl. The deeply troubled Erik, Lyle's scheming, and Leslie's bleeding heart toward criminal young men prove to be the most interesting in a strong cast of characters, all of whom add a lot to the story.

When these murders took place in real life, they shook the world with horror and disbelief. Those feelings are reignited with the deliciously morbid quality of The Menendez Murders, literally like a slow motion retroactive murder you can't take your eyes off. (www.nbc.com/law-and-order-true-crime-menendez)

Author rating: 8/10

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