NBC's 'Trial & Error' Will Feature Different Case Each Season

TRIAL & ERROR - Pilot - Publicity-H 2017
Tyler Golden/NBC



NBC's forthcoming comedy Trial & Error is an anthology of sorts.

The show, launching March 7 on NBC, is a serialized comedy following a young big-city lawyer (Nicholas D'Agosto) and his oddball defense team during a high-profile murder trial in a small Southern town. John Lithgow stars as the hapless killer, Larry Henderson, who is accused of killing his wife and is at the center of the subsequent trial.

To hear producers tell it, the idea for the murder spoof started five years ago after the success of documentary The Staircase. The show was a passion project for exec producer Jeff Astrof, who first pitched the idea as The Staircase but as a scripted comedy with a comedian like Steve Carell at its center.

Producer Warner Bros. Television, Astrof said, was skeptical and only agreed to the idea of the producer connected with a drama writer who had experience doing comedy. In came Chuck's Matt Miller (who also runs Fox's Lethal Weapon reboot), and the series quickly cast Lithgow, who is currently earning awards praise for his role as Winston Churchill in Netflix's royal drama The Crown.

The timing of the series comes as broadcast, cable, premium networks and streaming services have found success with true crime themed programming like The Jinx, Making a Murderer and American Crime Story: People v. O.J. Simpson, with several others in the works focusing on famous cases, including the Menendez brothers and Chandra Levy.

"I went back to the well five times," Astrof told reporters Wednesday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour of his long-running pitch for what became Trial & Error. "Everyone was watching The Jinx and [listening to] Serial. I handed in the script, and Making a Murderer came out and said, 'If we don't do this show now, someone else is going to do it.'"

As for the structure of the show, Astrof said that in success, the show will run for seven seasons, with each season focusing on a different "killer." Producers, speaking with THR post-panel, confirmed that the trial surrounding Lithgow's character would conclude in season one with the actor potentially back in season two, though if convicted, that would answer that question. To be clear, season two will continue to be set in the same town and will focus on the town's same band of misfits. The new case will be set up at the end of season one.

"Every year is a different crime," he said. "The main characters in the town will stay the same. This year was inspired by The Staircase, maybe [if we get a second season] we'll be inspired by The Jinx or Making a Murderer. Thankfully people have killed a lot of people!"

In terms of season one, the plan is to start with Larry's arrest with the season finale to bring his story to a close and feature the verdict of his murder trial as well as a look at where all the characters are at the end of the season. "As long as people are interested in this genre … we hope this continues at least seven years," Astrof said.

Producers also made it a point to bring in a filmmaker who has experience doing similarly themed fare: Jeffrey Blitz, whose credits include NBC's The Office.

For Lithgow's part, the actor noted that his characters on Trial & Error and The Crown couldn't be more different, while his Larry on the NBC show has more in common with 3rd Rock From the Sun's Dick Solomon. "They're both driven by their id," he said, noting that the show's insurance company would not allow him to roller-skate as his character does on the show.

Sherri Shepherd, Steven Boyer, Jayma Mays and Krysta Rodriguez co-star.