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Throughout its many iterations, the Law & Order franchise has taken a lot of inspiration from the real life crimes peppering society, but always within the fictional context of the respective dramas. Things will be a little different for the upcoming spinoff Law & Order: True Crime, which will bring dramatized flair to real world cases; the Menendez brothers' trial is tapped for Season 1. Creator Dick Wolf is not being cryptic about what drove him to get this concept into development.
You want me to completely candid? [The People v. O.J. Simpson] was like, 'Oh, this is a good idea'. (Laughs.) Because we did a version of Menendez, of the boys in 1992, like in the third season of Law & Order, so it's something that has really interested me since it happened.
Sometimes a million things have to fall into place before an idea can be truly formed, and sometimes it's not that complicated. Dick Wolf had taken an interest in the Menendez brothers a couple of decades ago, and though he probably could have used his clout to get something focused on that case off the ground over the years, it took someone else doing it first to inspire him to act on it. Hard to blame him, since there were no real reasons to think that People v O.J. Simpson would be such a success not only with critics but with audiences.
Dick Wolf doesn't bring up other recent entries into the true crime genre, such as Making a Murderer and The Jinx, but perhaps that's because those were largely unscripted efforts with real interviews and courtroom footage. Still, the water cooler talk about both of those series had to have been on his radar when he was mulling over this idea. We can probably expect him to go with an unsolved mystery for the next season, so that the buzz can keep going when viewers decide to bring their own investigative skills to it.
Wolf also told THR just what gets his interest piqued when it comes to Lyle and Eric Menendez.
The whole concept of what drove them to do it is the most... Are they telling the truth? Were they molested? What was the level? How long did it go on? How oppressive was it? What did the mother know? I mean, come on.
Admittedly, that's what interests me about the case as well, the sheer lack of specific details surrounding the family's past. Perhaps sadly, there are many cases with intriguing-though-off-putting details like this out there that could keep Law & Order: True Crime going for years to come. Wolf also said that there are other cases he and his producers have in mind for future seasons, should this initial attempt become a ratings draw. Of course, he just has to make sure that nobody else is snatching those ideas up, as just about every network is seeking out true crime cases for programming.
No plans are set for when Law & Order: True Crime will hit NBC, though Wolf says writer Rene Balcer will begin writing the project once his duties on his Canadian drama The Council are completed. The goal is to try and get it on NBC in the second quarter of 2017, but it's still up in the air.