In 1998’s wild fantasy movie, The Truman Show, told the story about one man who lived every day of his life in front of the camera and didn’t even know it for the amusement of many. Basically, everyone in his life was in on the joke except for Truman Burbank. For Amazon Studio’s upcoming TV series, Jury Duty, the joke will be on the very real Ronald Gladden. It just might be the most elaborate prank hidden camera shows ever.
Hidden camera shows are nothing new of course. Candid Camera (as early as 1948) still features some of the funniest gags out there. All you needed back then was an old lady with a broom willing to slap passersby’s behinds as they walked down the sidewalk and it was comedy gold. CBS has revised the series numerous times and other shows like Ashton Kutcher’s Punk’d, The Jamie Kennedy Experiment and Betty White’s Off Their Rockers have tried to capture the same magic over the years with various rates of success. In those shows, many different gags were shown involving many different “victims”. The new Jury Duty features just one gag and one victim, but takes multiple episodes for it to completely play out.
Jury Duty is a docu-style comedy series to appear on Amazon’s Freevee a free streaming app (formerly IMDbTV). Told somewhat similarly in the style of The Office, Parks and Recreation and even Abbot Elementary, only one person will be pranked. The show exposes the inner workings of an American jury trial through the eyes of one particular juror, Ronald Gladden. What he doesn’t know though is that the entire case is actually fake and everyone around him are actors. Everything that happens inside and outside of the courtroom has been carefully planned. Can they actually pull it off?
“Jury Duty originated with a question: Was it possible to make a sitcom like The Office about a trial, populate it with brilliant comedic performers, and put a real person at the center of the show who doesn’t realize he’s surrounded by actors?” says Todd Schulman, just one of the show’s nine executive producers. “We honestly had no idea but when we pitched it to Freevee we pretended like it was a sure thing. Thank God we pulled it off.”
Co-created by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, who are both known for their work on The Office, is considered to be a genre-bending, multi-camera comedy which consists of eight episodes. The show’s star, is not a star at all. Ronald Gladden is a solar contractor from San Diego, CA and is completely unaware this is not an official jury duty summons. The show’s other big star is James Marsden playing an alternate version of himself.
“What interested me was the challenge of creating a hero’s journey for someone who has no idea the world around him was completely manufactured,” said James Marsden, “and whether or not this high wire act could lead him to unite this family of wonderful weirdos and in the process become an inspiring leader for us all under the process of serving Jury Duty.”
The two will work alongside an ensemble cast of comedic actors including Alan Barinholtz, Susan Berger, Cassandra Blair, David Brown, Kirk Fox, Ross Kimball, Pramode Kumar, Trisha LaFache, Mekki Leeper, Brandon Loeser, Edy Modica, Rashida Olayiwola, Kerry O’Neill, Whitney Rice, Maria Russell, Ishmel Sahid, Ben Seaward, Ron Song, and Evan Williams.
“There are no guarantees but there’s ambition, creativity, pure comedy, and the desire to do something different but with great care. That’s what drew us to this wildly inventive idea from this incredible group of producers,” said Lauren Anderson, head of AVOD Original Content and Unscripted Programming, Amazon Studios. “How does one respond when the most outlandish moments happen in something as seemingly mundane as jury duty? We hope audiences are pleasantly surprised by what they see and delighted by what the show says about humanity.”
Jury Duty premieres with four episodes available on Freevee on April 7. Two new episodes will then be released each Friday until the finale debuts on April 21.
Main image: Freevee
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