Hit or Sh**: NBC’s LAW & ORDER TRUE CRIME: THE MENENDEZ MURDERS
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
They say it takes two to tango . . . or to orchestrate the vengeful slaying of one’s parents, in the case of Lyle and Erik Menendez. It’s too bad it only took one catastrophically bland episode of LAW & ORDER TRUE CRIME: THE MENENDEZ MURDERS to ward off any intrigue into the newest addition to the seemingly endless catalogue of Law & Order installments. THE MENENDEZ MURDERS is proof that the industry is all about trends; however, the first episode feels more like a melodramatic soap opera than a sophisticated retelling of an infamous murder trial that shook the nation. With the critical acclaim garnered from Ryan Murphy’s THE PEOPLE V. O.J. SIMPSON: AMERICAN CRIME STORY, it was no shock that crime connoisseur Dick Wolf would jump at the chance to capitalize on the growing popularity of the true crime genre. Trudging through the first episode I couldn’t help but reimagine the show under Murphy and wished he had gotten his hands on it first.
The first scene says it all. A black and white dramatization of the moment Lyle and Erik went from Rich Kids of Beverly Hills to coldhearted killers, the forced drama of the scene screams: PLEASE TAKE US SERIOUSLY! THIS SHOW WILL EXCITE AND ENTICE YOU! To me, it felt more NCIS than anything. Sure, I may enjoyably binge-watch the show in a procrastination fit, but this show isn’t winning any Emmys no matter how bad it wants it. From then on the show is a mess of flashbacks and present exchanges between the characters meant to plant a reasonable doubt into the viewer’s mind. The thing is, we know who did it. Even if you hadn’t done your research on the Menendez case prior to viewing, it’s obvious the boys are guilty and so the predictability of it all makes the show unbearably dull and lackluster.
We did naht kill them, we did naht!
The highlight of the show is Edie Falco’s portrayal as zealous defense attorney Leslie Abramson. However, her screentime in the premiere totals less than five minutes. It is clear Falco is playing in the spirit of Sarah Paulson’s Emmy-winning performance of Marcia Clark, but she puts her own twist on it so it’s less of a copycat portrayal. Again, it’s hard to give a definitive read on the character, as her appearance is so limited. However, I see potential in Falco’s performance and don’t doubt as the season progresses she will come into her own and take charge in the courtroom as the boys’ defendant (surprising, considering her own conspiracy on the case is that the boys are guilty). The rest of the cast gives incredibly dry performances, which they can’t be blamed for, as the on-the-nose dialogue half resembles Tommy Wiseau’s THE ROOM. I’m still cringing at Constance Marie’s simultaneously forced and lazy attempt to maintain her “Cuban” accent.
Battle of the Perms: Marcia Clark v. Leslie Abramson
To put it simply, LAW & ORDER TRUE CRIME has the look and feel of a Hallmark movie. With its over-the-top acting and cringe-worthy dialogue, the show falls short of the high benchmark set by THE PEOPLE V. O.J. SIMPSON. Not to say it didn’t have potential: it’s a story of a dysfunctional family and the bitter resentment of two sons turned deadly. Everything about the story should work—we all really wanted it to work. But the harsh reality is that NBC simply does not have the same edge as other networks *cough* FX *cough* when telling these types of stories—stories that are just not meant to be played safe. I would much rather sit through a ‘90s VHS-stylized documentary on the Cloo Network about Erik and Lyle’s fall from grace than suffer through the remainder of the season. All we can hope for is a speedy return of AMERICAN CRIME STORY in 2018. I just wish LAW & ORDER TRUE CRIME could’ve held me off until then. Maybe next time, Dick.
LAW & ORDER TRUE CRIME: THE MENENDEZ MURDERS airs on NBC on Tuesdays