ABC (Tues., Oct. 3, 10 p.m. ET)
The season’s only outstanding show, this drama tracks the case of a beautiful blond teenager who is found strangled, bound and naked in a drug-filled Hollywood penthouse. The gleaming cynosure is Daniel Benzali as a top L.A. lawyer. With his cold eyes and his shaved head, Benzali has screen voltage reminiscent of Yul Brynner’s.
Among the early suspects are Stanley Tucci as a secretive philanthropist and Jason Gedrick as an arrogant, debauched movie star. The strong cast also includes John Fleck as Benzali’s administrative assistant.
The real-life parallels to the O.J. trial are obvious. As Benzali’s wife (Patricia Clarkson) gripes, “A case like this with all the theatrics and media hoopla…it’s not about getting to the truth. It’s show business.” This fascinating criminal pageant is a natural synthesis of creator Steven Bochco’s previous hits L.A. Law and NYPD Blue. Stylish and well-acted, this is the rare show in which commercials hit with a jolt, awakening you from the program’s potent spell.
The series is told in the novelistic style, with episodes as numbered chapters. This approach demands an unusual commitment from viewers. Miss a week, and you could lose the thread of the unfolding mystery. That’s a big gamble, especially when the competition is ER. (In another week Murder One will assume its regular time slot: Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET) But with a compelling show like Murder One, it’s a risk worth taking.