Review: Jury Duty

I abhor reality television. Genuinely, never got into the genre even with the vast plethora of options and shows available. The only ones I was remotely interested in were cooking or travel shows. And, to clarify, not the competition cooking shows but the actual, instructional ones or exploration centered series. I just never got the appeal of obviously constructed drama by people desperately trying to boost their personas to grow an audience for when they get booted or the show simply ends. Don’t even get me started on “celebrity” style shows because that will just be several hundred words cursing and disparaging. So, earlier this month when Jury Duty was getting so much hype and attention, I was confused but uninterested. Surprisingly glad to say I was wrong and now understand the hype.

Jury Duty presents itself as a documentary behind the scenes look at the entire process of serving as a juror in an actual case in a real trial, at first. In reality, it is a mockumentary in which every single person on screen except for one is an actor portraying a fake case and produced by a complete team from top to bottom. So, this show is an odd hybrid of reality and very scripted television as the entirety of the narrative is scripted out but the words and actions of Ronald Gladden (Juror #6), the only non-actor in the series, which lead the path the narrative and events take in the series. It is a fascinating methodology of making a television show, and the final episode of the season (possibly series) gives a glimpse as to how everything was done.

It really is difficult to explain this show. Not because of avoidance of spoilers but because the nature of the series is hard to put into words. On one end you have James Marsden (yes the actual James Marsden) playing a hyperbolic, arrogant, parody of himself, which technically would be possible since the show is set in the LA county area, and everyone is aware that he is James Marsden, including Ronald. On the other end, you have an actor playing an awkward, insecure dude who has been cuckolded by his girlfriend, accidentally breaks up with her, and somehow ends up in a relationship with another juror which involves having James Marsden help him have sex without full intention. Again, this somehow makes sense in the context of the show, but sounds like a drug induced fever dream when written out on a page. And that is not even the weirdest thing to happen on the show, but Ronald, being just a chill dude trying to get through jury duty, believably takes it all in stride.

It is criminal how funny some of these folks act.

The casting is what really makes this show work. Obviously, nothing in this series would really hit without having someone like Ronald Gladden at the forefront. He is the “hero” of the show’s narrative and makes decisions and actions that honestly put him in that role. As well, the supporting cast play their parts expertly straddling the fine line between believability and outright farce. There are times where the limits are nearly pushed past the point of certainty, but the cast managed to keep Gladden in line and on point. There were two other jurors besides Marsden that I recognized, but that is mostly because I probably watch way too much television and film, so Gladden not recognizing anyone else besides the A-list celebrity completely makes sense and helps sell the verisimilitude of the scenario.

Beyond the apparent comedy in the story, the show also manages to demonstrate holes and inequalities in the justice system. One side has a seemingly successful business, a highly paid competent lawyer, and a pool of resources at her disposal to prove her claims. The other side has whatever a civil case version of a public defendant is, no money or resources, and is set to lose the case and a lot of money. Throughout the trial, we see how the side with money has better witnesses, technology, and is just wowing the jury while the other is being mocked and openly laughed at because of how ridiculous its preparation is. If it weren’t for Ronald willing to actually look into the case, the side with money probably would have won. I am not sure how much criticism of the legal system was planned by the production beyond easy jokes and punchlines, but it is interesting how much there is to criticize even in a comedic setting.

So, yeah, would definitely recommend checking out Jury Duty on FreeVee. The entire series is available to watch, and once you are done, you should check out Primo on the same service. Excellent funny double feature with those two.

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