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Law & Order franchise condenses story of Menendez brothers

The infamous Menendez brothers made headlines in 1989 when their wealthy parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez, were found dead in their Beverly Hills mansion.  The incident led detectives to suspect the brothers, Lyle and Erik Menendez, of the murder.

The motive for the killings was said to be the inheritance of millions of dollars upon their parents’ death, but, with time, claims of psychological and physical abuse from both parents surfaced.

The brothers did not make it easy to lessen law enforcement’s suspicions of them.  They purchased Rolex watches, new cars, lavish vacations and a restaurant within months of their parents’ murder.

A whopping $1 million was spent in a span of six months.  The brothers were ultimately arrested in 1990, after Erik confessed to the murders in front of his psychologist, and both brothers were sentenced to life in prison.

The story of the duo did not end when they were officially sentenced. Their trial had fostered much media attention and resulted in documentaries as well as television film adaptations.

Most recently, the Law & Order franchise created an eight-episode television series titled Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, which was picked up by NBC.  During the first two episodes of the series, viewers have already seen the arrest of the brothers.

The first episode opens immediately with the murders of Jose and Kitty, which seems quite sudden. It can be argued that this is how Law & Order structures all of their episodes.

The crime is brought right to the forefront and the rest of the episode is devoted to figuring out all of the pieces. However, Law & Order’s stories are usually only one episode long whereas the story of the Menendez murders is sprawled out into eight episodes.

The episodes themselves are tremendously fast-paced and choppy. The show makes an attempt to fit too much information into one episode. In the second episode alone, six months’ worth of information is condensed into a 42-minute episode, possibly confusing viewers who are unfamiliar with the story.

The dramatization is like no other in episode two. The brothers are seen in a jail at the end of the episode and it just so happens that their cells are directly next to each other.

As the segment comes to a close, the jail cells are dark, with just light casted down on the two brothers. This allows for the audience’s attention to go directly to the brothers and adds on to the suspense leading to the end of the episode.

Lyle hears someone being brought into the nearby cell and, once the guards leave, he whispers his brother’s name. Erik answers his brother in a tone that is very much exaggerated.

Now, do we really know if the brothers were situated next to each other in jail upon their arrest? Of course, Law & Order utilizes a great deal of poetic license, which they hope will lead viewers to keep coming back for more.

It is with great hope that the miniseries will take on a different direction in the coming episodes.  In just two episodes alone, viewers are made aware of the murder and arrest of the brothers, events that took place within two years of each other.

However, the Menendez trial was a fairly long one with the brothers being acquitted and then found guilty over a span of four years, so it could be concluded that the remaining six episodes will be devoted to this lengthy trial.

It is also easy to compare this miniseries to another miniseries that aired in 2016, which concerned O.J. Simpson. The 2016 miniseries, featured on FX, was titled The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.

It received many positive reviews and even won a Critics’ Choice Television Award. This may be due to the fact that it was promoted a great deal more, as it was seen on bus ads and commercials leading up to the actual premiere.

More recognizable actors, such as John Travolta, Sarah Paulson and Cuban Gooding Jr., were also part of the O.J. miniseries’ cast. In comparison, Law & Order: The Menendez Murders did not receive as much public attention.

There is only one recognizable star: Edie Falco, who is known for her roles in The Sopranos, Oz and Nurse Jackie.

It is still too early in the game to decide whether or not the Menendez brothers’ story will leave viewers with the same opinions they took away from O.J.’s story, but it is always hard for a success to be followed.

Overall, the miniseries is very condensed and  is doing its best to portray the brothers’ story in a span of eight episodes. The answer to whether too much time has passed for public interest to be captivated by the story is critical for the network ratings.

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