DAVID BIANCULLI

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New Season of 'Trial & Error' is More Hit Than Miss
July 18, 2018  | By David Hinckley
 

There’s a new reason to watch the second season of Trial & Error, one of NBC’s summer sitcoms.

Kristin Chenoweth (top).

Chenoweth is the featured guest star for the season that launches at 9 p.m. ET Thursday, slipping effortlessly into the slot filled in the first season by the equally delightful John Lithgow.

For those who missed Season 1, Trial & Error turns a satiric birdshot gun on multiple television genres, including documentaries, reality shows, legal dramas, and sitcoms themselves.

Like any birdshot gun, it doesn’t always hit its target, but it’s lighthearted and self-aware enough that it never feels too labored. It also isn’t written to the joke which is one of the reasons so many sitcoms today wear out so quickly.

At its best, Trial & Error comes closer to Parks and Rec or The Office, and Chenoweth provides a good center for a cast that already plays its positions well.

Nicholas D’Agosto (left) stars as Josh Segal, a dad-gummed New York lawyer who last season was dispatched to East Peck, South Carolina to defend an eccentric murder suspect played by Lithgow.

Framed as a mockumentary, Trial & Error sent Josh crashing into an unending stream of bizarre small-town locals. More than a few redneck stereotypes surfaced over the course of the season, but they were overshadowed by a general sense of weirdness.

Anne Flatch (Sherri Shepherd), who became Josh’s unfailingly eager local assistant, suffers from multiple one-of-a-kind physical disorders, like jumping 15 feet in the air when she’s startled.

The rest of his team is investigator Dwayne Reed (Steven Boyer), whose name is a joke that only Josh, being from New York, gets. Dwayne used to be the town cop, but he has a habit of doing things like shooting himself in the foot, literally, so now he freelances.

In Deliverance or Justified he could have been seriously menacing. Here he’s a goof.

So naturally Josh has fallen in love with the charms of East Peck, and for Season 2 he’s moved there and set up his own law practice.

Almost immediately, Lavinia Peck-Foster (Chenoweth, left), the social queen of the town that bears her maiden name, gets pulled over by a local policeman who discovers the body of her beloved husband Edgar in the trunk of her expensive car. She hires Josh to defend her.

Don’t that beat all.

As the setup suggests, Chenoweth gets to overact as Lavinia, and that neatly serves her superb comic timing. She’s got a great deadpan with more than a hint of mystery.

Trial & Error bridges its segments a little too often with easy sex jokes, many tied to the name of the town, and some of the characters don’t rise above cartoons.

But it’s fun, and it has an actual storyline, and oh yes, it also has Jayma Mays as Carol Anne Keane, Josh’s legal adversary. Carol has a secret. Watch the first episode, see the secret, and you might find yourself thinking you’ll keep watching.

 
 
 
 
 
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