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‘Law & Order’ Tackled This Real-Life Crime Before Ryan Murphy Could

The Big Picture

  • Ryan Murphy, known for his true crime depictions, is adding a season to his Monster series depicting the Menendez brothers’ case.
  • The Netflix show will focus more on events before the murders, feature top-tier actors, and explore new evidence from the case, but it is not the first series to explore this famous murder.
  • In 2017,
    Law & Order
    True Crime: The Menendez Murders
    covered the events, but Murphy’s series is expected to delve into graphic violence, disturbing abuse flashbacks, and unique details not covered in previous adaptations.

Ryan Murphy is a master when it comes to depicting true crime events. His first entry into his Monster series was the story of the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. The Netflix show aired in 2022 and earned 13 Emmy nominations. So, it’s no surprise that Murphy would want to add another season to his hit anthology. This upcoming season will be titled Monsters: The Lyle and Erik Menendez Story. Many people are already familiar with the horrifying case of the Menendez brothers from 1989, but not everyone will remember that the case was already dramatized for television audiences in recent years.

In 2017, an 8-episode series called Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders aired on NBC. It starred Edie Falco as Attorney Leslie Abramson. Falco was even nominated for an Emmy as Lead Actress in a Limited Series for her work as the tough-as-nails defense lawyer for the brothers. But the series wasn’t a huge hit with critics (earning an average of 64 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), and it seemed to get lost in the shuffle of all the other Law & Order franchises and spin-offs. Now that Murphy has taken on the same subject, audiences are wondering how the Menendez brothers’ case will be portrayed in the new project.

Law and Order True Crime Poster

Law & Order True Crime

A dramatic series that delves into notorious criminal cases, providing an in-depth look at the complexities of each investigation. Each season focuses on a different case, exploring the legal battles, the emotional toll on all involved, and the societal impact, while highlighting the dedicated legal teams fighting for justice.

Release Date
September 26, 2017

René Balcer

Main Genre


Law & Order

Number of Episodes

René Balcer

‘Law & Order’ Brought the Menedez Brothers’ Case to Life

Even people who aren’t obsessed with true-crime stories probably know at least a little bit about the Menendez brothers’ case. In 1989, two wealthy Beverly Hills residents, Jose and Kitty Menendez, were found brutally murdered in their mansion. Detectives quickly linked the couple’s two sons, Lyle and Erik, to the homicides. The trial that followed transfixed the entire countryresulting in non-stop coverage by the media (who salivated over every salacious detail). Many people could not understand what might have led these privileged boys from a seemingly perfect family to murder their parents in such a violent way. The defense alleged that the two brothers had been verbally, physically, and sexually abused by their parents (particularly by their father). The brothers ended up being convicted and were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1996.

The Law & Order depiction of the case boasted an impressive cast that portrayed all of the real-life figures. Along with Falco, the show also starred Anthony Edwards (as the judge who oversaw the trial), Julianne Nicholson and Harry Hamlin (as other members of the defense team), and Josh Charles (as Lyle and Erik’s psychiatrist). These actors helped draw viewers to the show (despite never bringing in more than 6 million watchers per episode), and it was their performances that helped steer the show away from being too campy. The series also helped to create a more compassionate vibe towards the brothers than the media typically demonstrated at the time of the murders and trial, and in doing so, presented a more well-rounded view of the events that took place.


Release Window, Teaser, and Everything Else We Know About ‘Monsters: The Lyle and Erik Menéndez Story’

Season 2 of Netflix’s murderous docu-drama is in the works!

Ryan Murphy Will Provide an Updated Look at the Case

There are many ways that Murphy can update the Menendez case, and the Law & Order series can offer a jumping-off point for him and his creative team. So far, the series has cast some pretty big-name actors, including Oscar-winner Javier Bardem as Jose and Oscar-nominee Chloe Sevigny as Kitty. With these two actors playing the parents, it seems as though Murphy will spend more time focusing on events that transpired before the murders occurred; this is much different than the​​​​​​​ Law & Order series, which zeroed in more on the actual trial itself. The supporting cast will also include stand-out actors, such as Leslie Grossman as Judalon Smyth (one of the key figures that led to the brothers’ arrests) and​​​​​​​ Nathan Laneas investigative journalist Dominick Dunne. With this caliber of talent, Murphy’s show will likely earn him even more Emmy nominations.

There will also likely be lots of changes from the Law & Order series in terms of tone. The original aired on network television, so there were strict rules about the violence they could show. With Murphy’s series airing on Netflix, all bets are off. There is no limit to the amount of graphic violence, language, or adult content that can be used (and with other Murphy shows like American Horror Story and American Crime Storythere’s plenty of evidence that Murphy isn’t one to shy away from displaying shocking scenes of blood and gore). The series is also probably going to delve more into the boys’ defense of abuse, which could lead to many disturbing and uncomfortable flashback scenes (a departure from the NBC series).

Another significant change is that there have been some updates to the case since the Law & Order series aired in 2017. In 2023, the brothers filed documents requesting a hearing based on newly discovered evidence that showed that their father had abused another boy (which would verify their own claims of abuse). In May 2023, Peacock released a documentary, Menendez + Menudo: Boys Betrayed, featuring this evidence. With this information, Murphy could provide new details that most viewers wouldn’t be aware of already (including specifics like the brothers’ marriages inside prison and the fact that they were reunited in 2018 in the same facility after being apart for decades). There’s a lot of fresh material that the Law & Order series didn’t know about or didn’t have time to delve into. Murphy is not tied to the 42-minute length of the Law & Order episodes and can have more episodes in the entire series to fully explore what makes this case so unique.

More than 30 years later, the Menendez brothers’ case still captures America’s attention. The shocking crime within a privileged family, the element of patricide/matricide, and the allegations of abuse still make for a fascinating story. While the Law & Order franchise capitalized on its talented cast, it wasn’t able to fully dig into the nuances of what made the case so captivating. With Murphy’s talent and pension for knowing what elements will draw viewers in, the new installation of Monsters (airing sometime later in 2024) will likely be Netflix’s next big hit.

Law & Order True Crime is available to stream on Tubi in the US.


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