An eccentric, roller-skating poet accused of killing his wife!? John Lithgow stars in Fox's new Trial & Error

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09 March 2017

FOX, 10:00 PM ET, Premieres Tuesday, March 14

By John Russell

It’s a classic fish-out-of-water story: A big-city professional comes to a sleepy small town where he encounters every kind of oddball character you can imagine. NBC’s new sitcom Trial & Error (beginning Tuesday) not only takes a page from comedies like My Cousin Vinny and Doc Hollywood, but also takes the tried and true mockumentary format and applies it to the true-crime genre.

It’s an approach not many shows have taken before, according to star John Lithgow. “I just don’t think anyone’s thought of it yet!”

Lithgow plays Larry Henderson, an eccentric, roller-skating poet accused of murdering his wife — “A heck of a comedy premise!” Lithgow jokes. Nicholas D’Agosto (Gotham, Masters of Sex) is the “Northeastern” lawyer charged with proving Larry’s innocence, with Sherri Shepherd, Jayma Mays and Steven Boyer filling out the cast as the local weirdos.

Inspired by the boom in true-crime documentaries like HBO’s The Jinx and Netflix’s Making a Murderer, and podcasts like Serial, Trial & Error borrows heavily from The Staircase, SundanceTV’s 2004 documentary series about the trial of Michael Peterson, a prominent North Carolina author accused of killing his wife.

“It was only a matter of time before someone did satirize them,” says Lithgow, though he admits he didn’t actually see The Staircase until after he’d finished filming.

When asked to describe his character, Lithgow laughs. “He’s sort of oblivious. He can’t quite distinguish right from wrong. It’s a tricky part to play because I had to do two things: I had to persuade people that I was guilty or that I was innocent, and the whole time I had to be funny.”

The character shares a lot of the quirkiness of Dick Solomon, Lithgow’s character on 3rd Rock From the Sun. “He’s all id and impulse,” Lithgow says. “Extremely serious things and totally trivial things have exactly the same importance to him.”

Of course, Lithgow refuses to answer the big question: Did Larry do it? “I absolutely cannot tell you!”
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