True crime craze continues as NBC orders new ‘Law & Order’ series based on Menendez brothers murders

Back to the '90s: Defense attorney Leslie Abramson, seen here listening to Erik Menendez testify, could return to the zeitgeist with a new NBC anthology, just as O.J. Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark did after the FX series "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story."
(Associated Press)

Have contemporary viewers had their fill of tabloid murders from the 1990s? NBC is about to find out.

The network has officially greenlighted “Law & Order: True Crime — The Menendez Murders.” The scripted series will dramatize the case of Lyle and Erik Menendez, brothers who were convicted in 1996 of murdering their wealthy parents. Their conviction followed a protracted and well-publicized legal battle in which the brothers claimed they’d been victims of years of abuse.

The eight-episode season is the first in a planned anthology series that will tackle real-life criminal cases, similar to FX’s “American Crime Story.”

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Rene Balcer has been tapped as writer, executive producer and show runner. He has plenty of experience in the “Law & Order” universe, having risen through the ranks of the original series from writer to show runner, then helping to develop the spinoff “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” which he ran and executive produced for 10 seasons.

“Rene and I have been working together over the past three decades, and he is one of a handful of truly great show runners with whom I’ve worked,” executive producer Dick Wolf said in a statement, noting that Balcer was overseeing “Law & Order” when it won the Emmy for drama series.

The Menendez series is the latest entrant in a true-crime TV craze spurred by the success of FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” which was nominated for 22 Emmys on Thursday, as well as the documentary series “The Jinx” on HBO and “Making a Murderer” on Netflix.

This fall, CBS will air “Case Closed,” a documentary series about the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.

The NBC series also will further expand Wolf’s reach at the network. In addition to the long-running “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” the mega-producer also has “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.” and “Chicago Med.” A fourth Windy City series, “Chicago Justice,” is set to premiere mid-season.

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