×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Trial & Error’ Season 2 Starring Kristin Chenoweth

In its first season, the NBC sitcom criminally (pun intended) skated under the radar despite featuring John Lithgow as an earnest accused murderer in a sharp parody of the “The Staircase” true crime documentary. Hopefully, its very solid second season – featuring Kristin Chenoweth as an eccentric heiress in a sharp parody of “The Jinx” – will get more people to realize what they were missing.

East Peck, South Carolina, the fictional town at the heart of “Trial & Error,” feels like a bizarro world Pawnee, Indiana with a heavy drawl. Its citizens are fiercely loyal to the strange idiosyncrasies of their beloved town, and woe betide the stranger who tries to suggest they might know better. “Trial & Error” initially highlighted East Peck’s oddities by bringing in Josh Segal (Nicholas D’Agosto), an optimistic rookie lawyer sent from New York to cover a murder case whose “Northeastern” roots earned him widespread skepticism. His wide-eyed bewilderment at his surroundings could have easily turned into one-sided mockery of Southern quirks, but not only did D’Agosto make Josh a genuinely kindhearted straight man, but the show made the “Peckers” he encountered wonderfully strange in their own ways. In season 2, “Trial & Error” has Josh fully embrace the challenge of becoming a Pecker himself, and in turn, doubles down on the town’s quirks to prove the power of its singularly absurd voice.

Take the “Lady Laws,” a newly revealed archaic set of East Peck bylaws that, among other things, requires women drivers to make their way through traffic with the help of a man warning everyone else that there’s a “LADY DRIVER!” on the road. Or take Anne (Sherri Shepherd), the pluckiest and unluckiest citizen of East Peck, South Carolina. As she tells the camera with a pleasantly blasé expression in every episode, her many afflictions include face blindness, laughing uncontrollably at inappropriate times, and passing out when she sees something beautiful. As her conditions pile up with every passing episode, “Trial & Error” rarely lets an opportunity to indulge them go by, even if it’s just by letting Shepherd loose in the background of an otherwise unrelated shot. In the season 2 premiere, Anne reveals a new condition that comes so out of nowhere that spoiling it would be spoiling half the fun, but Shepherd is more than up to the challenge of selling it. Anne’s conditions make for a running joke as bizarre as it is hilarious – not to mention perfectly emblematic of “Trial & Error” at its smartest, weirdest best.

Season 2 reunites season 1’s mismatched defense team of Anne, Josh, and well-meaning blockhead Duane Reede (Steven Boyer). They’re more confident after winning a seemingly impossible case, but constant complications from new suspect Lavinia Peck-Foster (Chenoweth) and the return of their ferocious opposing counsel Carol Anne Keane (Jayma Mays) make it clear that their work is once again cut out for them.

Of the five episodes screened for critics, the premiere is the strongest by a wide margin – which isn’t to say that the season slides downhill so much as that premiere is fantastic. It’s hard not to miss Lithgow, but Chenoweth’s Lavinia is a melodramatic treat. The show lets Chenoweth unleash every ounce of her theatrical flair, highlighting Lavinia’s need to be adored with ostentatious flourishes and sporadic bursts into song. She might not seem like an obvious choice for a gender-flipped Robert Durst, but she quickly proves to be an excellent one.

Taking on “The Jinx,” however, does mean that this season has a bit of a trickier structure to nail. After all, the most fascinating aspects of the Durst case happened far outside the confines of a courtroom, which made for some of “Trial & Error’s” most fun material in season 1. It will be fascinating to see where “Trial & Error” goes in the back half of the season – especially since the show also brings in the new wrinkle of an intrepid podcast host (Amanda Payton) tracking the case in the hopes of scoring a “Serial”-esque scoop.

So, yes, there are approximately a million comedies on TV, and yes, true crime is a well-trod category. But even when it’s unclear where “Trial & Error” might be heading, its determination to stay as sharp and strange as its Peckers makes it worth a detour.

Comedy series, 30 mins. 5 episodes out of 10 watched for review.

Cast: Kristin Chenoweth, Nicholas D’Agosto, Sherri Shepherd, Jayma Mays, Steven Boyer, Amanda Peyton.

Crew: Executive producers Jeff Astrof, Matt Miller, Jeffrey Blitz.

TV Review: 'Trial & Error' Season 2 Starring Kristin Chenoweth

More TV

  • The Rook

    'The Rook,' Shondaland, Ted Sarandos Among Programming for SeriesFest 2019 (EXCLUSIVE)

    The fifth edition of SeriesFest will deliver panels and programming designed to celebrate individual talent as well as companies who are “taking creative risks and leveraging advances in technology to reimagine storytelling.” On the linup is Starz’s upcoming supernatural thriller “The Rook,” a panel with the creatives behind Shondaland, a look at LGBTQ representation on [...]

  • BBC Orders Spoof Talk Show Fronted

    Spoof Talk Show Fronted by an Animated Vladimir Putin Coming to the BBC

    The BBC will air a spoof talk-show fronted by an animated Vladimir Putin. The U.K. pubcaster has ordered two pilot episodes of “Tonight With Vladimir Putin,” a semi-scripted talk show hosted by a CGI representation of the Russian leader. The first guest will be Alistair Campbell, a former high-ranking political spin doctor in the U.K. [...]

  • Upcoming Fantasy Shows Like 'Game of

    10 Upcoming Shows to Watch if You're Mourning 'Game of Thrones'

    Millions of people’s Sunday night routines are ruined now that “Game of Thrones” is over, and there are holes in their hearts as big as the hole in The Wall that are aching for a new fantasy series to fill them. Several prequel series are on their way, but as there’s no word on just [...]

  • Game of Thrones Composer Ramin Djawadi

    'Game of Thrones' Composer Ramin Djawadi: 'I'm Still in Denial'

    Since the first season, Ramin Djawadi has composed the music for “Game of Thrones” and created the epic tunes, including the iconic theme song, heard over the series’ most memorable moments. With the series finished, he talked with Zane Lowe on Apple Music’s Beats 1 about his experience on the show and an upcoming 20-city [...]

  • TUPAC SHAKUR black panther collection

    ‘Defiant Ones’ Director to Helm Docuseries on Tupac, Who Assaulted Him in 1993

    Director Allen Hughes, who helmed the award-winning HBO documentary “The Defiant Ones,” has closed a deal with Tupac Shakur’s estate for a five-part docuseries for which he will have full access to all of the late rapper’s released and unreleased recordings, writings and poetry, according to an announcement from his rep. The announcement says the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content