By Tom Gliatto
April 18, 1994 12:00 PM

Fox (April 75, 8 p.m. ET)


Even if enacted by stick puppets—and Fox’s two-hour dramatization is not much more full-bodied than that—the murders of Kitty and Jose Menendez by their sons Lyle and Erik would make for compelling viewing. The stupidity! The cupidity! The dysfunctionality!

But the chief interest of this, the first of two TV adaptations, is observing a Hollywood production team try to make sense of Erik and Lyle’s convoluted account of their deed and their family history, mostly as revealed in their respective trials. (Mistrials, it turned out, although the state of California is planning a second go at prosecuting the brothers.) We are given, in one scene, the Toupee Incident, in which Erik (David Berón) claimed to not have known that Lyle (Billy Warlock) wore a hairpiece until Kitty (Jill Clayburgh) ripped it off in an angry fit. This scene is as edifyingly weird as you might wish, but it is presented straight, as if this is how it happened. Yet soon after comes testimony by Lyle’s ex-fiancée that she and Erik had joked about the hairpiece months before—and that is dramatized, in turn, as if this is how it really happened.

So: Honor Thy Father and Mother won’t help anyone interpret this crime or these people, living or dead. It evokes no pity, disgust or fear—and there is no acting, as such, going on. Susan Blakely’s part as defense attorney Leslie Abramson is small, and James Farentino looks distractingly like Soupy Sales.

And yet one keeps watching.

CBS’s four-hour version of the story will air next month.