I was interested to see how the NBC replacement show, Trial and Error, would play out, once it finally aired. I had high expectations for the show, owing that to the caliber of the cast, more than the premise of the show. To put it in a nutshell, I was not disappointed.
Actually, the good people of NBC gave us, not only the show’s pilot, but the following episode, so that we would be an hour into the series (which seems to be slated for 13 episodes), right off the bat. Further shows will still air on Tuesdays, at an earlier time and at only 30 minutes a pop.
For all of my expectations, I was a little anxious when the show started because it seemed to invoke a number of trial-related clichés. Was this to be a shabby tribute to My Cousin Vinny? It certainly seemed that way. A murder suspect (John Lithgow at his zaniest) in a backward Southern town, being defended by a seemingly clueless New York lawyer. Hmmm… Well, it turns out that these two episodes are a world apart from that excellent film, even if we are rooting for Lithgow’s character (local poet Larry Henderson) to achieve the same happy end as the “two youts.”
Jayma Mays as the ambitious, tight-sphinctered prosecutor seems to be another cliché, but turns out to be anything but. Helpful hint: whatever you thought of Glee’s Emma Pillsbury, this rendition of Ms. Mays in almost exactly 180 degrees apart, even if both characters are somewhat deranged.
Sherri Shepherd and the people who wrote her part deserve special recognition for the top-notch comedy in these episodes. In a landscape where all black women must be portrayed as bright and empowered (whether for good or evil), Ms. Shepherd bravely takes on the role of the ditz and owns it absolutely. Her character has other issues that, as you would imagine, make life yet even more difficult for the aforementioned New York attorney Josh Simon, played admirably and necessarily low-key by Nicholas D’Agosto. He has to be low-key, because almost everyone around him is bat-guano crazy. That said. D’Agosto does have his comedic moments, such as the first time he addresses the judge. Her last name may be subject to different pronunciations and the hapless defense attorney chooses the most completely embarrassing one, thereby getting his case off to a particularly unfortunate start.
Other characters of note are Simon’s somewhat dim assistant Dwayne (Steven Boyer) and the suspect’s daughter from a previous marriage, Summer Henderson (Krysta Rodriguez). Both turn in very entertaining performances. There is a possibility that Summer may turn out to be a romantic interest for Josh, but we are a very long way from that destination, as is the case with any worthwhile romance in any medium of entertainment.
Let me say one other favorable thing about the writing for this show. The setting is small-town South Carolina—a locale that could open itself up to a lot of hateful politically-motivated jokes. The writers somehow manage to portray the place as backward without hating. Any people that adroit (and witty) deserve a great deal more of our attention.
If you missed these first two shows, find a way to catch up. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.
Trial and Error, NBC, March 14, 2017