By Andrew Sanford | TV | May 12, 2023 |
By Andrew Sanford | TV | May 12, 2023 |
This article will contain light spoilers for the Amazon Freevee television show Jury Duty. If you have not watched the hidden camera show where every participant in a jury trial is an actor except for one member, watch it. It is incredible, funny, and one of the most genuinely sweet things I have ever watched on television.
I did not plan to watch Jury Duty. I had seen ads and heard positive talk here at Pajiba and abroad. Still, the idea of a hidden camera show about a jury felt like it would be mean or, as the children say, too “cringe.” I’m not averse to uncomfortable comedy, but I’m more selective with it these days. I’ll also be honest in saying that I assumed the show would be low quality since it is on Freevee.
However, a friend of mine was persistent in getting me to watch the show. He is a friend who recommends things to me so often that I wonder if he remembers that I have two kids, a “burgeoning” career, and several part-time jobs. That said, he was particularly insistent regarding Jury Duty. There was one part in particular that he said he wanted to tell me so badly but didn’t want to spoil.
Finally, I found a free half hour, and instead of sleeping or staring at the wall until calmness overtook me, I popped on Jury Duty. It was, as promised, pretty damn funny. As a young bespectacled child who obsessed over the X-Man known as Cyclops, James Marsden will always have a reserved place in my heart. Seeing him bust out his comedic chops as a heightened version of himself (similar to his stellar run on 30 Rock) on this unreal jury was a delight. It was also wonderful getting to know a new set of actors and improvisers get a chance to shine.
I kept waiting for something incredibly uncomfortable to happen. While there certainly was discomfort, someone was always standing in the way of it. That someone was the subject of the show and the only non-actor, Ronald Gladden. The project manager from San Diego was placed in situation after situation that would send most people running for the hills or sinking into their seats. Ronald not only faced these issues head-on, he often did so with a cool head and an open heart.
The issues presented to Gladden covered a wide range. One juror thought their girlfriend was cheating on them. When given the opportunity to spy on her social media accounts, Ronald tries to convince him to take the high road. He even chides the other jurors for pressuring the cuckold. James Marsden fakes an enormous bowel movement that requires a plumber and gets Ronald to take the blame. Ronald gets several opportunities to rat out his fellow jurors and doesn’t. He’s just a nice guy, and that still couldn’t prepare me for one particular moment.
One of the fake jurors is a character named Todd. Todd is “weird.” He knows a lot about the human anatomy, can’t handle the feeling of water on his skin, and barely blinks. His big eyes and strange delivery are cultivated to make him the kind of person that most people would avoid. Not only does Ronald not cast Todd aside but he also tries to encourage him!
In a particularly absurd segment of the trial, Todd comes to court in what he describes as “chair pants.” He has fashioned two crutches below his butt so he can sit without needing a chair. It’s one of several strange devices he’s created to assist him in his everyday life. The chair pants come about because there aren’t enough chairs in the deliberation room. Todd is ridiculed for the pants. Seeing this happen, Ronald decides to do something that is legitimately heartwarming.
Ronald invites Todd to his hotel room and shows him the movie A Bug’s Life. As Ronald sees it, Todd is like the lead character from the animated Disney film. He’s creating these inventions because he’s passionate about technology and wants to introduce it into people’s lives. Ronald specifically points out to Todd that people like him are often misunderstood even though he’s just trying to help in his own way. This was the moment my friend wanted me to see and I can understand why.
While brief, it is indicative of who Ronald is and what makes him such an alluring subject for this show. He’s a good dude! He’s sweet, kind, and patient. He took a movie like A Bug’s Life, an animated kid’s movie, and used it to show someone they aren’t alone in the world. I would have never thought of A Bug’s Life as anything more than a movie I was slightly too old for when it came out. Now, it is a piece of art that was used to form a human connection between two people (albeit in a staged setting).
Jury Duty could have been a throwaway gag with some uncomfortable moments. Instead, it is proof that there are people out there who will be “good” when given the chance. It’s not that he decides to be good in the face of some heightened moment or obstacle. What makes Ronald unique is that “good” seems to be his default setting. While I doubt an experiment like this could be duplicated, I have hope, thanks to Ronald Gladden.