- Hamish Hart
Jury Duty (Season 1) Review
IT'S safe to say people never enjoy receiving a letter that you've been called upon for jury duty. Essentially being trapped with a group of 11 other jurors is never a good feeling, especially when you a person's life is in your hands. But sometimes being called upon can be a life-changing experience for those sitting on the jury bench - and you may not even realise it.
Ronald Gladden has been called for jury duty where he is aware the trial is being filmed for documentary purposes, but what Gladden doesn't realise is that the trial is entirely fake. Every juror, every scenario, every person within the trial is an actor, all carefully implemented to fool Ronald into believing the absurd scenarios laid before him.
This series could have died on premiere due to the juror's absurdity never stepping off the gas, but the writers clearly anticipated this, opting to balance the interactions between themselves and Ronald in a manner which felt natural and, somehow, believable. A good example of this is with the inclusion of James Marsden, a highly recognisable figure who stood out like a sore thumb, so the writers decided to have Marsden play himself ramped up to 11. The Hollywood alumni constantly acts like a selfish, egotistical person who tries to escape from jury duty by way of his celebrity status, and while Ronald immediately suspects something in the beginning, Marsden's ego slowly builds and makes Ronald believe he's simply acting like "the real him". The two share the most screentime together, particularly during episode five which see the two bond over Marsden's movie auditions while making fun of fellow juror Noah (Mekki Leeper) who is also a standout in the series.
But not everybody is a narcissistic prick which comes as a welcome surprise to Ronald. While he believes many of the jurors are weird and abnormal, being sequestered with them gives him time to bond with his newfound friends, making Ron realise that while these people may have emotional problems and eccentric personalities, they are simply human much like him. The chemistry between Ron and his jurors is what carries Jury Duty as by the end of the series, even after realising that all of them were actors, he still remains friends with nearly every single juror, most notably Vanessa (Cassandra Blair) and Inez (Maria Russell), two characters who served as canvases for Ron to paint his growing frustrations on.
Perhaps the best episode which showcases the growing relationships built between the jurors is episode four "Field Trip". In this episode, all the jurors get to go out on the town and learn more about each other. Ron gets the opportunity to aid Noah with his girlfriend troubles, build a new friendship with Lonnie (Ishmel Sahid), and even get drunk with people he would've never hung out with prior. While a simple formula, the plot builds on the idea of how compassionate and friendly someone can be to what are essentially strangers, and Ron pulls this off to perfection as he learns benevolence can go a long way to being a good person.
While the series does slightly drag in the penultimate episodes, Jury Duty stands as one of the funniest social experiments in recent memory. Every actor and actress, no matter how small their parts, played into their roles wonderfully to create an authentic experience for the viewer and most importantly Ronald. Watching his transition from a man wanting nothing to do with jury duty to someone who actively helps his fellow jurors, even going so far as to throw a surprise birthday party for one of them, proves the importance of social interaction - even the most forced - and how kindness can be found in the most impartial of places.