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'Jury Duty': Nathan Fielder has sons
White people news, vol 2: "All these bitches is my sons."
I went into my Jury Duty viewing with legit excitement this weekend. Settled on the documentary-style comedy series when I couldn't find anywhere to watch Saint Omer for cheap. I had already seen a few snippets and commentary from TikTok that convinced me to finally binge. Even with a very strong edible, my laughs were few.
Shameful considering the series takes influence from my all-time favorite comedies Nathan For You/The Rehearsal and The Office. If you hadn't ventured into the world of Nathan Fielder before your Jury Duty watch, you probably finished the show thinking it's cool and innovative. If you’re a connoisseur of Nathan Fielder’s work like me, I doubt you were extremely impressed.
I have always loved documentaries, even the most scripted kinds like reality tv. I'm fascinated by stories not my own. My biggest issue since watching Jury Duty is I couldn’t figure out which show it was trying to make. Even with the general praise from critics, the show is not ambitious or weirder than its contemporaries. Arguably, it’s a long form Punk'd episode with a proper writers room.
While Nathan Fielder’s creations keep you amused, it also encourages audience reflection on deeper interpersonal and social concepts. The shock value coming from seeing unknowing participants in absurd, but real situations. Jury Duty simply lacks both. All of the chaos and comedy is scripted and controlled, rather than organic moments of insanity, stripping away any resemblance of an actual documentary.
I get it. Producers interfering to manipulate story outcomes is commonplace in reality tv, but the usual goal is always to create more organic chaos.
By relying on 1 unknowing participant, Jury Duty put a lot of weight around one character who was kind of boring. The most chaotic and watch-worthy moments do not come from Ronald’s authentic reactions to absurdity, but scripted lines read by paid actors who are aware the whole thing is fake. Contrasted to Fielder's Nathan for You, where real participants are as weird as their scripted environment.
What makes documentaries and reality tv so riveting is the realness and voyeurism aspect for the audience. Jury Duty falls short, and would be much better as a fully scripted series. Ronald’s ambiguity of the experiment and the show didn’t add much which was the whole point of the mockumentary. To conclude, check out Nathan Fielder first before giving this a watch.
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