'Law & Order' franchise expands to take on true crime

Posted 9/26/17

By Kevin McDonough

Nothing says television in 2017 like efforts to re-create the brilliance of "American Crime Story: The People Versus O.J. Simpson."

And nothing says television circa 1990 than "Law & Order."

So, look for a workmanlike …

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'Law & Order' franchise expands to take on true crime

Posted

By Kevin McDonough

Nothing says television in 2017 like efforts to re-create the brilliance of "American Crime Story: The People Versus O.J. Simpson."

And nothing says television circa 1990 than "Law & Order."

So, look for a workmanlike familiarity to "Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders" (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14). And I mean that in all the nicest ways.

Much like the O.J. saga, the Menendez brothers case is very old news, a tale of homicide covered to death by cable television. And as on the FX series, the real fun here is watching familiar stars playing real-life characters.

Edie Falco is a lot of fun here as Leslie Abramson, a defense attorney who has become a cable television fixture since her stint on this case back in 1994. She has become so well known for her news-talking-head status that some of us may have forgotten her work on this case. Falco breathes new life and fire into a character who has become better known for her signature hair.

Other familiar faces include Josh Charles ("The Good Wife") as Dr. Jerome Oziel, Lyle and Erik's psychiatrist. You'd think he'd have his hands full with these two ungrateful kids, but he's also distracted by a deranged mistress, Judalon Smyth (Heather Graham). Anthony Edwards ("ER") stars as Judge Stanley Weisberg, who oversees the case and gets plenty of chances to bicker with Abramson.

For all the capable and familiar actors on the screen, "Menendez" relies on a lot of slow-motion black-and-white re-enactments as well. Given the cast, these effects seem a little jarring, linking this effort to cable's onslaught of true crime docudramas. Don't go looking for "O.J." and its meditations on media, celebrity, racism and sexism. If that FX series was TV caviar, this is comfort food. And sometimes meat loaf can be deeply satisfying.

• "Menendez" isn't the only flashback to the early Clinton era. MTV invites young people to live in "90's House" (11 p.m., TV-14) where they must live in a pre-digital age.

Period stars including Mario Lopez, Tatyana Ali, Michelle Williams, Joey Fatone, Marques Houston, Tyson Beckford, Salt-N-Pepa, Kid 'n Play, Bill Bellamy, Joey Lawrence, Kel Mitchell and Lori Beth Denberg, will show up to teach them how to use their floppy drives and CD players.

• Also in a '90s vein, "Def Comedy Jam 25" begins streaming on Netflix.

• While the new Comedy Central "Fake News" series "The Opposition With Jordan Klepper" (11:30 p.m., TV-14) tries to offer a "Colbert Report" for the era of Alex Jones and "Infowars," it reminds me of "The Daily Show" in its late 1990s' infancy, when Craig Kilborn and his staff basically used delusional and confused people for comic foils.

TONIGHT'S SEASON PREMIERES

• Gibbs and McGee are still MIA on "NCIS" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

• Down Mexico way on "Lethal Weapon" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

• A tycoon's widow claims self-defense on "Bull" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

• Randall and Beth hash out a major change on "This Is Us" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

• Eviction looms on "The Mick" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

• Lou Diamond Phillips and Tim Meadows guest-star on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (9:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

• Pride is sidelined on "NCIS: New Orleans" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

LATE NIGHT

Ellen Page and Impractical Jokers appear on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS) * Sofia Vergara, David Boreanaz and Ken Burns are booked on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" (11:35 p.m., CBS) * Jimmy Fallon welcomes Kate Winslet, Milo Ventimiglia, G-Eazy and Cardi B on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC) * Channing Tatum, Adam Scott and Diego Luna appear on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS).

© 2017, United Feature Syndicate