NBC is taking a different approach tackling the trend of true crime than most other networks: with satire.
The new mockumentary-style series Trial & Error is a fish-out-of-water comedy about a young lawyer (Nicholas D'Agosto) who travels to a small Southern town to defend an an eccentric poetry professor (John Lithgow) accused of murdering his wife. Once there, he sets up shop and spends most of his time attempting to clear his client's name, a task made all the more difficult when his client keeps making himself look guilty.
Created by Jeff Astrof (The New Adventures of Old Christine), who writes and executive-produces the series with Lethal Weapon's Matt Miller, the series is not actually in response to the wave of true crime programs that have enraptured the nation over the last two years. It was inspired by the 2004 true crime miniseries The Staircase, which Astrof watched for the first time approximately five years ago.
"I watched it with my wife and ... I said if this guy was played by Steve Carell this would be the funniest comedy I've ever seen," Astrof told reporters at the Television Critics Association winter previews Wednesday.
Although a version of the series was initially pitched to Warner Bros. a while ago, it wasn't until Astrof teamed up with Miller and the success of shows like HBO's The Jinx that Trial & Error found a home.
"The timing was really great because right at the time, everybody was watching The Jinx and [listening to] Serial, we had handed in our script and that's when Making a Murderer came out. We were just like, 'If we don't do this now someone else is going to do it,'" said Astrof.
"We were completely teed up for a great satire, a great parody," agreed Lithgow. "Nobody's done this yet."
Should the show be renewed for Season 2, Astrof and Miller say the cast, which also includes Sherri Shepherd, Steven Boyer, Jayma Mays and Krysta Rodriguez, would remain the same but the crime at the center of the documentary would be different.
Trial & Error debuts Tuesday, March 7 at 9:30/8:30c on NBC. It will return the following week with back-to-back episodes beginning at 9/8c.