“12 jurors. 11 actors,” reads the tagline for the Amazon Prime Video’s ad-supported streaming service Freevee’s show Jury Duty. And it’s precisely that. The reality mockumentary series follows a high-stakes civil trial at the Huntington Park Superior Courthouse in Los Angeles County but there’s a twist. It’s all phony including the case. Everyone serving on the jury is an actor barring the protagonist Ronald Gladden. It’s akin to the prank shows of the 2000s such as Punk’d and Nathan For You.
Gladden, the affable, slightly goofy 29-year-old solar-panel contractor, is led to believe that the case involving a rich store owner suing her employee for defecating and urinating on their custom-made shirts is all real. He is under the impression that the cameras and crew are all there to make a documentary about the American justice system. Gladden’s fellow jurors are played by relatively lesser-known actors except actor James Marsden, who amps it up by playing an egotistical version of himself. The cast also includes great comedic actors like Kirk Fox, Lisa Gilroy and Mekki Leeper.
Across the show’s eight episodes, creators Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky expertly weave a narrative to establish the workplace comedy genre’s archetypal quirky family out of the community of individuals who just happen to be at the same location. You see traces of inspiration from Eisenberg and Stupnitsky’s stint as writers on The Office.
The humour stems from Gladden’s honest reactions to his fellow jurors’ outlandish claims which see an exponential rise as the show goes on. From fake plastic turds in the toilet to running lines with Marsden for one of his upcoming auditions, the jokes are always situational and never aimed at Gladden’s lack of awareness about the situation he’s in.
The Truman Show-esque series is a delightful watch with hearty laughs. Absurdist humour, the absolutely unhinged portrayals by the actors and the show’s inherent charm make it stand out. The last episode ties everything up incredibly well, but we’re not here to dish out spoilers. All we’ll say is, it’s a satisfying verdict and you need to check it out for yourself.
Feature Image Courtesy: Amazon Freevee