Tuesday, September 26, 2017

New 'Law & Order' Spin-Off Doesn't Disappoint

Review of "Law & Order: The Menendez Murders"
Bailey Noble as Jamie Pisarcik, Miles Gaston Villanueva as Lyle Menendez, 
Gus Halper as Eric Menendez. (Justin Lubin/NBC)

 TV SERIES REVIEW 

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story opened the door to new sub-genre of television. Too long to be considered a mini-series, it was dubbed a “limited series,” with the plan to continue making more of these limited series based on other big cases and using a new cast for each season, much like Fargo and American Horror Story.

The show did well with both critics and audiences alike. The show had great casting, writing and showed the story from multiple points of view. There were many layers to it. The show won two of the five Golden Globe nomination and it also won nine of the 13 Emmy Awards that it was nominated for.

Tonight, we see the beginning of a new series inspired by it using the Law & Order banner: Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders. This NBC show has the familiar look and feel of Law & Order but is also distinctly different. NBC has been touting that the series stars Edie Falco, but she is only a part of a much larger cast in the eight-episode crime drama. However, unlike American Crime Story, Falco is really the only “big name” to appear in it, not that it matters much.

For a quick refresher, this drama is based on the investigation and trial of Kyle and Erik Menendez whose parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez, were murdered in the Beverly Hills home. When their trial was partially television, audiences were hooked; much like they were during the O.J. Simpson trials.

This series aims to break the story down by giving attention to the main player’s individual lives, different perspectives and other details not shown on the evening news. NBC says the show will detail “the day-to-day battles of the trial and unveiling the shocking truth of what really went down when the cameras stopped rolling.”

This show is good theater. In an early scene where the story is first brought to TV screens, Leslie Abramson (Falco) simply states, “Those boys did it” and walks away. Learning how she came to the conclusion so early in the game will be fun to figure out. The two men playing the Menendez brothers (Miles Gaston Villanueva as Lyle and Gus Helper as Erik) are impressive as well. While Lyle remains stoic always aware of how he will be perceived by others, Erik easily falls apart with panic attacks and an over abundance of emotion. Sam Jaeger and Cliff Chamberlain are also very good as the two detectives (Les Zoeller and Tom Linehan) working the case.

Even though we already know how this is all going to play out, the show is still very interesting. It may be too early to tell judging only from the pilot episode, but unlike American Crime Story, this Law & Order series appears to only be showing the story from one side. I’m really interested in seeing how the brother’s team of lawyers build their strategy for the case and wonder if they themselves thought that the men were guilty or not.

Also starring in the series are Carlos Gomez, Lolita Davidovich, Baily Noble, Josh Charles, Heather Graham, Anthony Edwards, Elizabeth Reaser, Chris Bauer and Constance Marie.

Law & Order True Crime: The Menenez Murders airs Tuesdays at 10:00 p.m. on NBC.

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