Reel Thoughts: ‘Jury Duty’ could be the most wholesome show of 2023


Illustration by Shveta Shah

Ronald Gladden stars in Amazon Freevee’s “Jury Duty.”

Nicole Markus, In Focus Editor

When I set out to watch Amazon Freevee’s “Jury Duty,” I expected a simple comedy. Though I wasn’t entirely wrong, the show turned out to be much more: a social experiment filled with wholesome moments and important messages about kindness.

The eight-episode mockumentary follows Ronald Gladden, a contractor cast through Craigslist, as he experiences the American jury duty system. The twist? Everyone in the show — besides Gladden — is an actor, and the trial is fake. 

Before the trial begins, producers tell Gladden he’s been cast in a documentary about the experience of jurors. The crew’s been given “unprecedented access,” which allows them to film the entire trial. The other jurors agree to be filmed, and the civil case begins. 

After juror James Marsden (played by himself) has the jury sequestered by calling paparazzi to try and have himself excused, the rest of the cast orchestrates outlandish situations. Personal favorites include when elderly juror Barbara Goldstein (Susan Berger) eats weed cookies to stay awake; when Marsden helps Noah Price (Mekki Leeper) and Jeannie Abruzzo (Edy Modica)  “soak” to remain sexually pure; and when Todd Gregory (David Brown) shows up to court wearing “chair pants” he engineered using crutches and a butt pad. 

These situations are funny, but Gladden truly makes the series happy and wholesome. One could argue that some characters wouldn’t respond kindly to Gregory, a creepy hotel next-door neighbor who always shows up in Gladden’s room with weird, semi-nonfunctional technology he has created. But Gladden takes the eccentric juror under his wing and shows him the 1998 film “A Bug’s Life” to let him know it’s okay to be different. The show is full of these kind and thoughtful moments by Gladden that reveal his good nature.

Though Gladden never catches on to the show’s gimmick prior to the reveal, he does remark that the strange situations seem like they’re part of a reality show. 

I laughed a lot watching the show, but I also reflected on the patience and kindness I show to others. Put in Gladden’s place, I’m not sure I would’ve reacted well to most of these situations, perhaps choosing to gossip instead. The show reminded me to give others more grace, and go with the flow when it seems like nothing is going right.

The moment when Judge Alan Rosen (Alan Barinholtz) informed Gladden the whole show had been faked felt like the perfect cherry on top. The cast understandably worried about his reaction, especially because they had grown to care for him. But true to form, Gladden was kind — even laughing when he understood the prank. 

Rosen awarded Gladden $100,000 for his role in the show, calling him a hero. I agree. We should all be more like Gladden. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @nicolejmarkus

Related Stories: 

Reel Thoughts: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ season five depicts the power of forgiveness and long-held grudges

Reel Thoughts: ‘Love is Blind’ season three indicates love is, in fact, not blind

Reel Thoughts: ‘House of the Dragon’ differentiates from ‘Game of Thrones’ but keeps its special feel