TV’s true crime trend isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
NBC has officially ordered Dick Wolf’s Law & Order: True Crime — The Menendez Murders to series with Law & Order veteran Rene Balcer set as showrunner, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
Similar to FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson, the eight-episode first season will be a recreation of the trial of Lyle and Erik Menendez. The brothers were convicted of murdering their parents and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1996. The siblings, who were 21 and 18 years old, respectively, at the time of the murders, were tried separately but eventually found guilty in a third trial after no verdicts were rendered in the first two because of hung juries. Like the Simpson trial, the Menendez brothers trial became an early hit for then-burgeoning cable channel CourtTV.
NBC put the project into development shortly after the finale of The People v. O.J. Simpson and similarly, the network’s official pickup comes a day after the FX drama earned 22 Emmy nominations. In addition to ABC, which has scripted true-crime anthology series American Crime, CBS is getting in the true-crime business this fall with an docuseries centered on the unsolved murder of JonBenet Ramsey.
The order brings Wolf’s scripted slate at NBC to an impressive six scripted series, in addition to an upcoming unscripted version of Law & Order called You the Jury. Through his overall deal with the network, which runs through 2020, Wolf also executive produces Law & Order: SVU, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., Chicago Med and the forthcoming Chicago Justice, set to premiere at midseason.
The extension of the Law & Order brand comes a year after talks stalled on a revival of the long-running drama series, which ended in 2010.
For Balcer, Law & Order: True Crime brings him back into the Law & Order fold after serving as one of the show’s original writers and rising to showrunner. He went onto develop and exec produce Law & Order: Criminal Intent and most recently executive produced Law & Order: LA, which was canceled in 2011.
Balcer is currently writing the drama The Council, which hails from NBC Universal International Studios and will air on Canada’s CBC-TV in fall 2017. He is repped by CAA, Brillstein Entertainment Partners and Rohner & Walerstein.
“Rene and I have been working together over the past three decades and he is one of a handful of truly great showrunners with whom I’ve worked,” Wolf said Friday in a statement. “Law & Order won the Emmy for outstanding drama series under his watch.”
Added NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke: “Rene is one of the creative foundations of the Law & Order brand and we couldn’t be in better hands for True Crime with Rene and Dick at the helm.”
Balcer and Wolf will exec produce with Peter Jankowski and Arthur W. Forney. The series hails from Universal Television and Wolf Entertainment.