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What if somebody turned "The Jinx" or "Making a Murderer" into a comedy?

It would be the true-crime docu-spoof "Trial & Error," which is definitely funny. Sometimes hilarious. And really, really weird.

This is, after all, a comedy that revolves around a death.

"I loved the whole idea," said John Lithgow, who stars as the alleged murderer.

Executive producers Jeff Astrof and Matt Miller have turned a documentary murder mystery into something akin to "Parks and Recreation."

Honestly, I had very low expectations for "Trial & Error," and I was pleasantly surprised. I've seen the first six episodes, and I can't wait to see more.

In "Trial & Error," the wife of decidedly odd poetry professor Larry Henderson (Lithgow) either fell or was pushed through a glass door.

When he called 911 to report his wife's death, he tried to put them on hold to take another call.

"I need to grab that," he said. "It's the cable company. I've been waiting for them all day. There's blood everywhere. I just really need to take this."

It doesn't help that he roller-skated through the blood before the police got there.

Enter Josh Segal (Nicholas D'Agosta), a fresh-faced young lawyer from New York who travels to the tiny town of East Peck, S.C., where the crime-or-was-it-an-accident took place. He's a fish out of water, and the locals keep referring to him as a "Northeasterner," when what they mean is he's Jewish.

He's up against prosecutor Carol Ann Mays, who's "tough as nails and sexually aggressive, pushing for the death penalty," said Jayma Mays, who plays her.

It's Josh's first big case, and he's forced to share office space with a taxidermist. His team includes investigator Dwayne (Steven Boyd), a well-intentioned but moronic redneck; and assistant Anne (Sherri Shepherd), whose ailments include "face-blindness," fainting, involuntary laughing, dyslexia and alien hand syndrome.

It's silly and sometimes slapstick, but it works.

And what makes it work is that Lithgow is so good as the alleged murderer.

"I loved the challenge of playing a part who, at any given moment, could completely, plausibly have committed or not committed this crime," Lithgow said. "He's completely driven by his id. It's completely unedited. He has no sense of priority or proportion. The tiniest things have absolutely as much importance to him as the crime of murder, and you see it in the very first moment of the series in that 911 call."

Larry is, as Boyer put it, "simultaneously hilarious and terrifying." But mostly hilarious.

"There were moments when you were so wonderful and jovial and loving." Sheppard said to Lithgow, "and then you would break out into these monologues that scared the hell out of me."

"People who commit murder are people who can turn on a dime," said Lithgow. "And I turn on a dime many, many times in 13 episodes."

We will find out in the 13th episode if Larry did it. And if there's a second season of "Trial & Error," it will center on a completely different murder in East Peck.

This season was actually inspired by the 2005 docuseries "The Staircase," about a man accused of killing his wife, of course.

In future seasons, "We may be inspired by 'The Jinx' or 'Making a Murderer,' " Astrof said. "Thankfully, a lot of people have killed a lot of people. So there's a lot of choices."

Twitter: @ScottDPierce —


"Trial & Error" premieres with back-to-back episodes on Tuesday at 9 and 9:30 p.m. on NBC/Ch. 5.