The most interesting scene in Tuesday night's episode of Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Brothers had absolutely nothing to do with the Menendez Brothers.
I'm talking about the opening moments, in which Leslie Abramson (Edie Falco) is called to prison in the middle of the night to check on the welfare of Roberto Lopez, a client she's representing. He was injured, but it looks like he's stable and out of danger.
Her husband Tim (Chris Bauer), who's nicely chosen to accompany her on this midnight excursion, breathes a sigh of relief: "Good, let's get back to bed." But Leslie is committed. She asks to see the man she's promised to defend, to make sure he's actually okay.
That's when things get tricky. Tim, who, granted, is missing out on some sleep, gets upset. They're meeting the adoption lawyer in five hours — can't this wait?
When Leslie responds that she needs to do this, he hits her with this whopper: "Is this how it's going to be with the new kid? You're going to be the absentee mom, like you were with Laine?"
Laine, if you're wondering, is Abramson's daughter with her first husband, whom she divorced in 1969. Presumably, Tim feels that Leslie's career had gotten in the way of her parenting the first time around.
Oh yes, like clockwork, we get to the part where a woman's ambition and desire for a successful career is somehow turned against her. It's all the more disappointing that this comes from Tim, who, from the little we've seen of him, looks to be a supportive partner. As a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, he should more than understand that some jobs don't keep 9-5 hours. Abramson cares about her clients — that's part of what makes her such a good defense attorney. The implication that giving that kind of attention to her professional life automatically means a detrimental personal life is an idea that women have been fighting for decades.
Men get a pat on the back for making it home to feed the kids dinner. It's expected for a professional woman to do the same. And if she doesn't, well then, she's an unfit mother. (I'm sticking with my resolution not to compare Abramson to Marcia Clark, but will pause to point out that she, as the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson case, faced similar accusations from her ex-husband.)
I would love to think that this, like Erik Menendez' penchant for polo short sets, is something that can be relegated into the abyss of the 90s. But sadly, what made this scene so frustrating is that it is the one thing in this show that doesn't feel dated. Women are still fighting to prove that their careers matter as much as men's do, and the infamous work/life balance concept remains elusive.
Perhaps we can all take some inspiration from Abramson herself. She doesn't back down. She doesn't apologize. Rather, she calmly confronts her husband's biases, hands him her purse, thanks him, and turns away to do her job, leaving him there to grumble.