James Marsden and Other Actors Dupe a Real Juror in Freevee’s Clever Outing
Jury Duty grabs the creative baton from HBO’s The Rehearsal and Peacock’s festive Paul T. Goldman and runs with it. The new reality series, which just landed on Freevee, cons an innocent civilian into believing he’s partaking in a reality show that will chronicle a courtroom drama. The unsuspecting chap is Ronald, whose doe-eyed yet likable demeanor recalls Greg from Succession. You can’t help but like the guy.
The big twist is that Ronald is the only real “juror” in this courtroom setting. Everybody else is an actor. Enter James Marsden (X-Men, Westworld), playing a charming, self-involved version of himself. Created by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, the brains behind The Office, the show’s title card tells us that the series “explores” the American judicial process as seen through the eyes of a jury. Obviously, that’s a joke, and the running gag throughout its eight episodes. Poor Ronald. He’s in for quite a ride.
Disorder in the Court
Surely, viewers will draw comparisons to Eisenberg and Stupnitsky’s NBC hit The Office here. And no doubt they will recall Nathan Fielder’s romp in The Rehearsal. What works in Jury Duty’s favor is that it never goes way over the top in its prank. There’s a grounded mindfulness in the way the show scams innocent Ronald.
We first meet Ronald in what are, perhaps, some of the best executed scenes of the entire series: the potential juror’s waiting room. And that’s just in the first episode. The others, while clever and often downright hilarious, never really capture the nuance we experience from the get-go. In these opening scenes, Ronald is surrounded by his fellow “jurors,” waiting to get into the courtroom and be selected or rejected. There’s a great mix of strange cats prowling around here—from a flirty gal and an isolated nerd to an old woman and other odd characters. When James Marsden enters the scene, he’s clad in a baseball cap and takes a seat right next to Ronald.
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It’s fun to watch Marsden and Ronald’s interactions. At first, Ronald doesn’t know who the hell Marsden is. And when he finds out, Marsden puffs up, smiles, chats about producers, and makes a point of mentioning the movies he’s been in—Hairspray, X-Men, and others. Early on, when Ronald says he never really cared for Sonic the Hedgehog, in which Marsden lent his voice talent, what a hoot to watch him scramble and apologize to the A-list celebrity. Marsden milks his cheesy 2008 film Sex Drive for what it’s worth. It all lands well. Meanwhile, fake courtroom drama ensues.
Ronald Is Guilty of Being Too Nice
Throughout this escapade, Ronald is one content dude. Nothing really phases him. Sure, he’s a bit pissed that because of Marsden’s celebrity—the paparazzi, the paparazzi!—the entire jury has to be sequestered. Except for Marsden, of course, who, we’re shown, manages to head home with a “jury baliff” supposedly overseeing his every move. Things roll on, and you’re left to wonder if Ronald hasn’t watched any reality TV at all. Surely, the most unsuspecting among us, could have guessed that all that drama unfolding around us was totally made up. Juror hookups? A nutty judge? Questionable legalese? C’mon, Ron!
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Somehow, however, all that doesn’t sink Jury Duty. There’s a refreshing calm to the show, even as all the actors work hard at trying to make it funny. The thing is: Ronald isn’t. Not really. I wonder what it would have been like here had the man actually suspected something was amiss. There are numerous scenes with Ronald and the fake jurors talking to the camera in separate interviews. Had Ronald truly opened his eyes, it could have added a fabulous new layer into the show. How far would the producers and actors go to keep this con up?
As for the actual trial, it revolves around a fashionista whose business has been potentially harmed by a tipsy employee’s public outcries. We never see much of that trial, however. There’s far too much brouhaha occurring behind the scenes. All the while, Ronald keeps up with the antics and the far-fetched characters he’s surrounded by.
Take note, though, of how well these actors play the part. Like The Office, the producers have assembled a diverse, and, you could say, motley crew here. Nobody really has it together. Except for Ronald, that is. Still, I’d recommend taking a seat in this courtroom. It’s not quite the guilty pleasure it could be, but there’s plenty to nosh on and the clever dialogue and outlandish situations tend to keep you thoroughly invested.
Catch Jury Duty on Freevee.