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Series / Trial & Error

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Trial & Error is a single-camera Mockumentary anthology sitcom starring Nicholas D'Agosto, Jayma Mays, Steven Boyer, and Sherri Shepherd. Each season focuses on a sensational trial that occurs in the town of East Peck, South Carolina as the core cast of oddball legal experts try to win the case by whatever means necessary.

    Season 1 

East Peck, South Carolina. A backwater hamlet, and home of oddball, rollercising poetry professor Larry Henderson (John Lithgow) who finds himself the prime suspect in his wife's murder.

Enter New York attorney Josh Segal. What seems like a simple defense job is complicated by one thing: Larry is ridiculously bad at not casting suspicion on himself. Combined with his Good Ol' Boy assistant Dwayne and off-kilter receptionist Anne, Josh finds himself in an uphill battle to keep Larry off of death row.

    Season 2 

In Season 2, subtitled Lady, Killer, Segal and Asssociates are hired to defend Lavinia Peck-Foster (Kristin Chenoweth), who is accused of murdering her husband. Lavinia is charming and well-liked around East Peck, but the defense team's job is made all the more harder because Lavinia's husbands body was found in the trunk of her car.

The series ran for two seasons and ended after NBC let its contract with the production lapse and no other channel expressed any interest in picking it up.

This series provides examples of:

  • Arcadia: East Peck is a parody of the quiet rural town, with the residents swinging wildly between naive friendliness and open hostility depending on the situation. Also, the local banker is so trusting that when he has to leave early, he simply tosses the keys to Dwayne and Anne and asks them to lock up the bank for him. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Bears Are Bad News: "Death by Bear" is still on the books in East Peck and the residents are eager to see one occur.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Josh and Carol Anne are clearly attracted to each other but they are also working the same case from opposite ends and are keen to see the other go down in flames.
  • Bumbling Sidekick: Dwayne, the not-too-bright former cop and Anne, the basket of odd neurological conditions, serve as this for Josh.
  • The Deep South: East Peck is a little behind the times, and a lot bit off their rockers. Among other things:
    • The local dialect is completely undecipherable to outsiders.
    • The town still believes in witchcraft and has had actual witch hunts as recently as the 1990's.
    • Homosexuality is still illegal and the "Buggery Act of 1785" is still in effect, although rarely enforced.
    • "Death by Bear" is still on the books and the town's residents are eager to see one occur.
    • The East Peck Lady Laws of 1952, made as an ill-attempt at fairness, declare that women can't be judged by another woman (hence the change of judges in season two).
  • Couch Gag: The picture at the upper right hand of the title card changes with each episode.
  • Foreshadowing: Each season is front loaded with little hints and clues that get highlighted play a role in the plot as each case wraps up.
  • Kissing Cousins: In Season 1, Carol Anne complains about East Peck's dating pool being very shallow if someone doesn't want to date cousins. Later, in Season 2, Dwayne proudly says that one of East Peck's claims to fame is that the town has the smallest number of surnames per capita in the United States.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Carol Anne plays every possible card to maintain jury sympathy and she won't hesitate to make herself look like a foolish blubbering wreck if it means the jury sides with her over Josh.
  • Master Forger: It's revealed that there's one living in East Peck who has a skill for creating forgeries. His name is Forge "Clooney" (yes, Clooney is his nickname, not Forge) and he works at the local ice cream shop. Joshua goes to him to ask about something from Jessie Ray's trial. He's later found frozen to death inside his own freezer.
  • Mockumentary: The show is staged as a documentary about a murder trial (for Larry in season one, for Lavinia in season two) and cameramen and soundmen are in full view during courtroom scenes.
  • Non-Indicative Name: East Peck is actually directly west of North Peck.
  • Punny Name: Several characters have them.
    • Carol Anne Keane is a play on Carolyne Keene, the pen name for the authors of Nancy Drew.
    • Dwayne Reed is a pun on New York drug store chain Duane Reade.
    • The judge presiding the case in season one is named Horsedich. The joke continues in season two with Judge Alexander Kamiltow.
  • Reckless Gun Usage:
    • Dwayne has a habit of misplacing his gun and pulling the trigger whenever he gets spooked.
    • East Peck fires a cannon at 5am and 5pm everyday to commemorate a Civil War battle that took place near the town (historical records are hazy on whether or not it took place in the morning or the evening). But instead of setting off a powder charge, the town fires actual cannonballs and they're East Peck's third leading cause of death.
  • Rewatch Bonus: There are so many hints and clues peppered within each episode that it helps to go back after each revelation and twist to see just how intricately plotted the cases are.
  • Serious Business: Comas are highly coveted in East Peck and are referred to as "the most noble" of injuries. In fact, the town once had a mayor who spent his entire term in office comatose.
  • String Theory: The "Murder Board" that Josh and his team prepare. Also used for the title sequence.
  • True Crime: The series is a parody of the genre and its recent popularity.
  • Truth in Television: Josh eventually decides to leave his partner-track career at a major New York law firm and sets up an independent practice in East Peck. Legal bloggers who write about the show note that many young lawyers come to find working for major firms in big cities to be unfulfilling and find that they can build satisfying careers and lives in smaller towns.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Each season so far has parodied a famous true crime documentary.
    • The first season spoofs "The Staircase." Many plot elements in the season parallel the details of the documentary; the disturbingly similar circumstances between the deaths of Larry's wives, Larry's walking stick acting as a stand-in for Michael Peterson's missing fireplace poker, the main suspect's bisexuality and claims of an open marriage.
    • The second season parodies The Jinx. Both feature a billionaire as the main suspect, a billionaire with a history of deaths in their families including the suicide of a parent at an early age. The biggest reference is in Episode 6, when Nina confirms Lavinia's guilt by accidentally recording Lavinia drunkenly admitting she got away with murder after she left her microphone on during a trip to the bathroom.

     Season 1: Trial and Error 

  • Amoral Attorney: Prosecutor Carol Anne, who is gunning for a district attorney job and is not above Courtroom Antics to get a conviction.
    • Subverted with Josh, who clearly cares deeply about Larry, and genuinely believes he's innocent.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Josh Segal's character is commonly thought to be Jewish, but this is never explicitly stated. Just that he's "Northeastern", that his father is "Northeastern", his mother is from Arizona but converted to "Northeastern...ism", and loves bagels so much that he has them regularly shipped to East Peck from his favorite New York deli. Josh's reaction to Carol Anne's joke about their potential pregnancy may imply that he is. Then again, she may be commenting on his actual love of bagels.
    Carol Anne: Don't worry. I don't have a bagel in the oven.
    Josh: Offensive, but re-assuring.
  • And the Adventure Continues: As Josh celebrates getting Larry freed, news come out about another murder, and he gets the call to take part on the case.
  • Blind Mistake: Anne is unable to recognize faces, which leads to her making many of these. She's good a recognizing penises, though.
  • Body Horror: Carol Anne eventually develops a stress-induced rash that rapidly spreads from her legs to all over her body, with one eye eventually swelling shut.
    Josh: I literally just saw that rash jump onto your ear. Call a doctor!
  • But Not Too Bi: Larry swings both ways.
    Larry: Sexuality is fluid, and sometimes my fluids go towards men.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Larry's priorities often come across as skewed, often seeming to trivialize big things while blowing minor things out of proportion. Acting on these views often causes more problems. In addition, he often omits damning evidence he should have told Josh about, leaving Josh to find out at the worst possible time.
  • Cloud Cuckoolanders Minder: Josh is constantly at his wit's end trying to keep Larry from digging his hole deeper and deeper.
  • Cluster Bleep-Bomb: When Larry's male lover Alphonse is brought in to testify, he describes a sexual act that produces about 20 seconds of bleeping. Which is then repeated 5 times to the horror of the court.
    Carol-Anne: Would you describe, in graphic detail, what happened on the weekend of February 11th when Mr. Henderson's wife was away on her Audubon Society getaway?
    Alphonse: As I recall, after our workout, we had a smoothie and then we hit the sauna and then *beeeeeeeeeep* to completion.
    Anne: I'm sorry, I missed that. After your smoothie, did you *beeeeeeeeeep* to completion? Or was it Larry that *beeeeeeeeeep* to completion?
    Alphonse: Oh, it was definitely Larry.
    Carol-Anne: So, to be clear, after the smoothie, it was Larry who *beeeeeeeeeep* to completion.
    Alphonse: Correct!
    Carol-Anne: Edna, could you just read back that last part for us, please?
    Edna: *Beeeeeeeeeep* to completion.
    Carol-Anne: No further questions
    Judge Horsedich: Court's gonna take ten minutes to...just...whoo!
  • Convicted by Public Opinion: Exaggerated with Larry, whom even his lawyer's own assistants refer to him as murderer.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: At the very start of the series, Dwayne suggests "Bird" as the cause of death. Turns out it was a bird, an owl, specifically, that accidentally killed Margaret.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Summer openly identifies as bisexual as well, and at the very least Carol Anne isn't above using her wiles to seduce Summer over to the prosecution's side, further adding that the dating pool in East Peck is extremely limited if you consider cousins off-limits. The show also explicitly uses the word 'bisexual', which is surprisingly uncommon.
  • Discriminate and Switch: Jeremiah Davis said the country club didn't used to let "your kind" in. He points to a sign which says "No Lawyers".
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: A minor one, but Josh switches from slicking his hair to a softer side part in an attempt to seem friendlier when it comes time to stand before a jury.
  • Hollywood Law: The legal proceedings are played for laughs rather than accuracy.
    • Most notably, both the prosecution and the media constantly refer to Larry as "the murderer" when legally they are only allowed to refer to him as "the suspect" or "the accused."
  • Inconvenient Itch: Carol Anne gets a nasty rash during the closing days of the trial, and scratches herself rather inelegantly during her closing statements.
  • Insistent Terminology: It's not rollerskating it's rollercising.
  • "L" Is for "Dyslexia": Dyslexia is the least of Anne's many neurological disorders. It turns out Margaret was dyslexic as well, a fact discovered when Anne reads one of her notes correctly. This information leads to the unlocking of her phone, and the discovery of how she really died.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Pretty much everything Larry does and says makes him look guilty.
  • Only Sane Man: Josh is the only person who realizes just how screwed up East Peck is since he's never lived there.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Carol Anne goes on the local news as an "anonymous source". Although she's kept in shadows and her voice is altered, there's no getting around her unique silhouette and speech patterns. Also, she can't help but make a self-serving plug while on air.
    Carol Anne: Carol Anne Keane for DA!
  • Polyamory: Larry and Margaret had an open marriage, agreeing that they could have affairs as long as they were open and honest about it.
  • Red Herring: Pretty much every person picked as a suspect. In the end, the real killer turns out to be an owl that flew through the open front door and hit Margaret, sending her through the glass door.
  • Running Gag: Carol Anne is quick to chuck her high heel shoes at anyone who upsets her.
    • Dwayne gets himself tasered a lot.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Larry is found guilty, and as he rises to make a statement, he decides to bolt out of the courtroom instead.
  • Shout-Out: To The Night Of, with Carol Anne Keane's rapidly spreading rash appearing just in time for closing statements directly referencing John Stone's extensive eczema, right down to slathering her legs in lotion, wrapping them plastic wrap, and scratching her rash with a pencil.
  • Skewed Priorities: A Running Gag is that Larry gets more upset about trivial matters than the fact that he's accused of murdering his wife.
    • He puts the 911 call about his wife's death on hold to take a call from the cable company.
    • He becomes more concerned with getting his skate key back from court security than in getting through the trial deposition. Justified in that the key is an inscribed gift from his wife.
    • When he confronts a key suspect (the cable technician who was there when his wife died), it's not about killing his wife, but about not showing up on time to fix the cable.
    • When a witness claims that the person who pushed Margaret would have been the exact same height as Larry, Larry is relieved that he didn't mention his weight.
    • After being sentenced to life in prison, Larry seems more distressed about the fact that the prison is on an island.
  • Taking the Heat: When his daughter Summer becomes a possible suspect, Larry decides to plead guilty to spare her. Unfortunately, it's too late in the trial for him to change his verdict.
  • Taxidermy Is Creepy: Josh shares an office with the local taxidermist, who is quiet and unkempt in appearance. He becomes a suspect when he was spotted near the crime scene shortly after the murder, so Josh and Dwayne investigate his house. Turns out the taxidermist was retrieving a dead owl found in the premises, which turns out to be real cause of Margaret's demise.
  • Truth in Television: All of Anne's odd conditions are actual things.
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Carol Anne loves to gloat, especially if it means getting to rub her superior position in Josh's face

     Season 2: Lady, Killer 

  • All There in the Manual: There is an actual M Towne podcast that provides supplemental information about East Peck and the Lavinia Peck-Foster trial.
  • Artistic License – Law: Judge Kamiltow quite clearly leans in Lavinia's favor when presiding over her trial and supplemental material reveals that Lavinia's father paid for Kamiltow's education. Were this a normal court, Kamiltow should have recused himself, but he doesn't and even pays Lavinia's bail.
  • Blue Blood: Lavinia Peck-Foster is considered to be East Peck royalty (she's descended from the Pecks as in East Peck) and the town is so deferential to her that even the trial judge stands when she says: "All rise."
  • Big Fancy House: The Peck estate is so vast Lavinia suggests that her servant may have gotten lost.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Josh gets Lavinia to admit to a long series of murders, Jesse Ray Beaumont goes free, and Carol Anne eventually gets elected DA. But the father of Carol Anne's baby turns out to be Rutger Hiss, to the disappointment of both Josh and Carol Anne. On the upside, the two are now openly flirting with each other with the possibility that they will pursue an actual romantic relationship.
  • Bowel-Breaking Bricks: When Lavinia demands all the contents of the box found in her hedge maze, Anne drops a gold ingot from under her skirt.
  • Body Horror: Carol Anne's pregnancy causes her feet into humongous slabs that need to be censored for the home audience.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Dwayne naming the goat John Lithgoat when Larry Henderson was played by John Lithgow.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Carol Anne's gigantic meltdown upon realizing that Lavinia's being acquitted in Episode Five.
  • Comically Small Demand: Judge Kamiltow sets Lavinia's bail at $10, who then pays it for her.
  • Continuity Nod: Jeff has a picture of him with Larry and is shown reading Larry's book.
  • Contrasting Sequel Protagonist: Lavinia is beloved and everyone is convinced of her innocence, whereas Larry was ostracized and everyone was eager to see him executed. Plus, Larry was innocent (Although M Towne's mention of his "owl training" even casts some doubt on that), while Lavinia is revealed to be guilty (despite getting acquitted).
  • Courtroom Antics: In the finale, Josh tricks Lavinia into confessing to the killings by bringing out her long lost son Trig (who is actually an impostor), accuse him of the murders, and arrest him, knowing that Lavinia would not stand for it.
  • Denser and Wackier: The East Peck of Season 2 is even more absurd than what was shown in Season 1.
  • Description Cut:
    • Josh says that his team is the most capable in town. Cut to Anne throwing Dwayne inside a suitcase. (In their defense, they were testing out the timeline for the murder.)
    • Josh declaring that his client isn't a criminal is followed by surveillance footage of Lavinia in disguise shoplifting from a convenience store. Complete with a graphic identifying her as "criminal".
  • Do Not Try This at Home: When Dwayne tries to reenact a possible erotic asphyxiation, a graphic on screen reads "DO NOT TRY THIS! [flashing] EVER! THIS MAN IS A MORON!" And then later, "SERIOUSLY! YOU WILL DIE IF YOU DO THIS!"
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Trial & Error: Lady, Killer
  • Fake Shemp: Rutger Hiss makes brief appearances played by a body double wearing a wig and fake beard instead of Kevin Durand.
  • Hide Your Pregnancy: In-Universe, Carol Anne's image consultant suggests she hide her baby bump whenever possible, thus why her campaign poster has her holding a laundry basket.
  • Hostile Show Takeover: Dywane and Anne host the tenth episode of the M Towne podcast, as Nina has left East Peck for a different assignment.
  • Impact Silhouette: Edgar's corpse has the impression of a clock face on his forehead, identifying both the weapon that killed him and the time of death.
  • Ironic Name: Subverted with "Lady, Killer", when it's revealed that Lavinia is, in fact, a killer.
  • Juggling Loaded Guns: A video shows Dwayne playing around with his Glock 17 during a gun safety lecture, bragging that he's the only one in the room authorized to handle such a weapon. He then shoots himself in the foot.
  • Jump Scare: Anne suffers from The Jumping Frenchman of Maine Syndrome, which causes her to jump to incredible heights when startled.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In the tenth M Towne podcast, Dwayne and Anne acknowledge that the podcast's second season only had ten episodes, despite the first season having 13 and receiving much critical acclaim.
  • Leave No Witnesses: As Josh investigates the murder of Chet, the people who would testify against Lavinia are killed one by one... including beloved East Peck mascot Mickey Moose.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Lavinia is the richest person in town, heiress to the founders and namesake of East Peck. Despite this, she has lost everyone she was close to, most recently her husband, and now lives utterly alone, longing for companionship.
  • Love Triangle: Between Josh, Carol Anne and M Towne host Nina.
  • Luck-Based Search Technique: Anne accidentally triggers a secret door in Lavinia's pool room that leads to the river below, proving that she could've killed Edgar and disposed of the body within the timeframe, putting yet another wrench in Josh's case.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Carol Anne is pregnant, but is isn't known whether the child is Josh's or her ex-boyfriend's. Or one of the other four men she says she was sleeping with at the time. In the end, it turns out not to be Josh.
  • Masturbation Means Sexual Frustration: The DNA tester compulsively masturbates when anxious. When he's called as a witness in the trial, his evidence is dismissed because he's contaminated every crime scene he's been in.
  • Meaningful Name: Trial & Error: Lady, Killer
  • Naked People Are Funny: Jesse Ray has a habit of stripping off all his clothes.
  • New Season, New Name: Season 2 is being called "Trial & Error: Lady, Killer". The punctuation between "Lady" and "Killer" is not for irony.
  • Open Heart Dentistry:
    • Dwayne accidentally shoots his pinky toe off but has Dave the Taxidermist sew it back on after realizing that the missing toe was affecting his balance.
    • Carol Anne's prosecution of Lavinia's murder trial results in her regular doctor refusing to see her so she has to resort to visiting a local veterinarian for her prenatal exams.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Lavinia's man disguise, which is just her in a wig and fake mustache.
  • Person as Verb: The Pecks had some kind of animosity with Dwayne's family, going so far as to popularize using their last name as an euphemism for excrement (e.g., "I just stepped on some Reed").
  • Putting the Pee in Pool: During the investigation, it's revealed that Lavinia's servants have been using her indoor pool to pee in. Josh doesn't learn this until after he'd been in said pool with Lavinia.
  • Retcon: Season two fudges with the timeline a little between cases. Josh and Carol Ann sleep together four months before the season one finale takes place; the finale then establishes their new case. In season two, Carol Ann is seven months pregnant as the trial begins, meaning three months have passed somehow.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: East Peck has the worst school system in the country and the people's atrocious spelling becomes an issue in the second half of the season.
  • Serious Business: Moose Day, where the residents of East Peck eagerly watch to see if Mickey Moose sees his breath or not because that determines if the town gets Saturdays off in November. Everyone has a "Second Friday" calendar just in case Mickey Moose doesn't see his breath.
  • Sequel Hook: The last episode of the season has two: A phone calls for Josh to exonerate three people accused of witchcraft, and Lavinia escapes prison and arrives in Barcelona to find her son.
  • Show Within a Show: M Towne, a true-crime podcast also covering the Lavinia trial.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Dwayne believes that since he's a cop nothing he does is illegal. This includes taking the watch and wallet of the recently deceased Mr. Foster and shooting out the glass on the vending machine to get a snack.
  • Tempting Fate: A flashback to Jesse Ray's murder trial shows Judge Kamiltow announcing that this is his last trial, and he's going to become an opera singer. Unfortunately, that was the trial in which he lost his voice.
  • The Unintelligible: Judge Kamiltow speaks in a barely audible high-pitched mumble. Everyone but Josh seems to understand him just fine.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Carol Anne says that she's not in labor because her voice would lower if she did. When she does go into labor in the middle of interrogating a witness, her voice deepens considerably.
  • Visual Innuendo: At a veterinary clinic, Josh and Carol Anne bicker while yanking a magazine called Furtility away from each other. The magazine's back cover shows two alligators positioned in a way to blatantly hint that they're in the middle of mating.
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": When Dwayne wins a goat in auction, he names it after John Lithgow, who played Larry on season one.
  • Women Drivers: By law, women driving on East Peck have to have someone ahead of her warning the public by waving red flags and yelling "Lady driver!" If you pay attention, this is a key hint that Lavinia is guilty; she doesn't have a flag boy in front of her car on the night of the murder, because why would she want him to know where she was going?