tek's rating: ½

Trial & Error, on NBC
A.V. Club; IMDb; NBC; Sitcoms Online; TV Tango; TV Tropes; Wikia; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Google Play; iTunes; Vudu; YouTube

Caution: potential spoilers.

Season One
The show is done in a mockumentary style, with the various participants in a murder trial being followed around by cameras wherever they go. This includes a young lawyer from New York named Josh Segal, who goes to the fictitious small town of East Peck, South Carolina, to do prep work for the trial, at which his boss is supposed to be the defense attorney. However, it's not long before his boss (and the entire firm Josh works for) decides they want nothing to do with the case. So Josh decides to stay and handle the defense himself. He'll be representing a poetry professor named Larry Henderson (John Lithgow), who is accused of having murdered his wife, Margaret. Things are not going to be easy for Josh, because Larry, while a very nice guy, is also very eccentric, and often says or does things that make him seem guilty, though Larry himself seems oblivious to this. Meanwhile, Josh's team includes a local investigator (and former cop) named Dwayne Reed, and a research assistant named Anne Flatch (Sherri Shepherd). They both seem very enthusiastic, but they each have their own quirks. Dwayne isn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, and he seems to think Larry is guilty (which doesn't stop him from trying to help Josh as much as he can). And Anne... has a plethora of rare, bizarre medical conditions, such as a complete inability to recognize faces. Oh, and their "office" is in a taxidermy shop.

The prosecuting attorney is Carol Anne Keane (Jayma Mays), who is certain Larry is guilty. But more importantly, she's highly motivated to win the case, in order to advance her political career. (She's running for District Attorney.) However, she has a strange relationship with Josh, which consists of sort of trash talking him, trying to psych him out, while also flirting with him. This, naturally, makes Josh uncomfortable (and confused), though it also seems like, under different circumstances, he'd be interested in her romantically (or at least sexually). On the other hand, when he first meets Larry's adopted daughter, Summer, it seemed, briefly, as if he might have a potential romantic interest in her. But that got nipped in the bud pretty quickly. Anyway, Summer does whatever she can to help Josh and his team prepare their defense of her father. Meanwhile, Larry's defense is initially paid for by Margaret's brother, the wealthy Jeremiah Davis, and his wife, Josie (Cristine Rose, familiar to me from Heroes). But before long, Jeremiah decides Larry is guilty of killing his sister, so he switches to funding the prosecution.

And... I'm not sure what else to tell you. The show has lots of surprising twists and turns, and I really don't want to spoil any of them. It's all very quirky and hilarious, and it just keeps getting weirder and weirder as the series progresses. I will say that I thought the finale was very satisfying, and perfectly in keeping with the absurd tone of the whole series. And it neatly sets up the possibility of a second season, without making one feel necessary. I also want to mention that there are numerous other characters in the show, some of them important recurring characters, and some of them one-shot roles. A few of the actors were familiar to me, including Julie Hagerty in a recurring role as a pet psychic (or something like that). Also French Stewart played a sort of trial consultant (or something) in one episode, and somehow I forgot to realize that he and Lithgow had previously starred together on 3rd Rock from the Sun, until it was mentioned in A.V. Club's review of the final two episodes. Also in the final episode, Andie MacDowell makes a brief but pivotal appearance, the nature of which I don't want to spoil. And... of course it's possible other viewers would recognize some actors I didn't (including some from the main cast). Anyway, I guess that's all I have to say. But it's just a really fun show.

Season Two: Lady, Killer
This season, Josh and his team are representing an extremely wealthy and popular woman named Lavinia Peck-Foster (Kristin Chenoweth), who is accused of murdering her husband, Edgar. And the trial is being covered by a podcast called M-Towne: Where Murder Happens, hosted by a woman named Nina Rudolph, who becomes a possible love interest for Josh. And Carol Anne is very pregnant, though she doesn't know who the father is... but it could be Josh. And Anne has more bizarre medical conditions. And Dwayne is back on the police force, though he still works as Josh's investigator. (Also, his family has a longstanding feud with the Pecks.) And Carol Anne is still running for D.A.; her chief competitor is a prosecutor named Atticus Ditto, Jr. (Jaleel White).

Um... half way through the season, Lavinia is cleared of the murder charge. But immediately thereafter, Josh discovers that she's actually guilty. Since she can't be retried for that crime, he decides to try to prove that she had killed her brother, Chet, nine years ago. And so he takes on the man who had been convicted of the crime, Jesse Ray Beaumont, as his new client, for the remainder of the season. Beyond that, I don't want to spoil anything, except to say that Carol Anne gives birth in the season finale, and we learn who the father is, and she wins the race for District Attorney. But the outcome of the case, and the ultimate fate of Lavinia, I won't reveal. But, as always, the show is brilliant and hilarious and utterly ridiculous. (I started thinking the show's writers are so good at absurdity and nonsense that they could probably write actual dreams, in real life, if dreams were things that needed writers.)

quirky index
summer series