Jury Duty: The Answer To The Monotony of Modern Television
Escaping The Boredom of Narcissistic Storytelling
I must have said “I'm bored” to myself a hundred times in the last week while sifting through TV shows. There were several new releases to choose from, but the more I watched, the more I realized how tired I was of what seems to be a recurring trend in storytelling: the fetishization of narcissism.
It's everywhere, and for me, it's getting old fast
As a fan of Rachel Weisz, I eagerly jumped into her new Amazon series "Dead Ringers." The pilot episode is magnificent on many levels, and the series has all the ingredients to be a great psychological thriller.
Although the setup is simple - two identical twin gynecologists, both played by Weisz, Beverly and Elliot Mantle, run a highly successful fertility clinic in New York City, sharing everything from their practice to their lovers and drug addictions - the themes it explores are deeply complex and more timely than ever. The show tackles issues such as identity, (medical) morality, and the complexities of womanhood/motherhood/child birth & fertility.
However, I found myself increasingly uncomfortable and increasingly bored as I watched.
The show portrays a nuanced version of narcissism, but left me feeling dirty and unsettled. Perhaps this what the filmmakers set out to do. But, perhaps it’s also because I'm a twin and I've grown tired of the way we fetishize and sexualize twins in cinema. Which is often by casting a single actor to play both roles and making it somehow "acceptable." (Why don't we cast real twins? Oh, because then we'd be dealing with real incest, obviously.)
And despite its potential, the constant focus on the Mantles' self-absorption and disregard for others ultimately proved too much like a waste of time for me. So I gave up on it… knowing full well that I will eventually have to return to it at least for the finale which apparently involves an epic "twin swap”.
After giving up on “Dead Ringers,” I decided to catch up on “Succession” - I know, I'm one of the few who fell off that boat and have struggled to catch up ever since. But as I watched more episodes, I found myself increasingly frustrated. In my head, I was essentially just watching a bunch of narcissists be narcissists and abuse everyone around them, including each other.
In a world where we already have enough of that in real life, do we really need to celebrate it on our screens? The constant focus on power struggles, manipulation, and greed left me feeling drained and uninspired.
While obviously, the show has its artistic merits - such as strong performances and “sharp” writing (with each season the writers seem to trump themselves in how “witty” and abusive they can get) - but I can’t shake the feeling every time I watch it that ultimately we’re all handing over our time to perversely celebrate ASSHOLES. And I guess… personally, I’m kinda tired of this.
Luckily for me, the weekend rolled around and late on Saturday night while getting ready for bed I convinced my boyfriend to put on Freevee’s new unscripted series “Jury Duty”.
After having completed the series yesterday, I am convinced that "Jury Duty" will stand out as the comedic masterpiece of 2023. The show challenges the prevalent cultural obsession with narcissism and instead portrays the beauty of human connection, acceptance, understanding, and just good ol’ kindness.
The hybrid reality series follows the LA-based everyman Ronald Gladden as he reports for jury duty at the Huntington Park Superior Court, unaware that he is about to be the star of a reality show. (He is under the impression that he is taking part in a documentary about what it’s like to be a juror.)
Unbeknownst to him it is a mock trial, with professional actors (including the brilliant James Marsden) portraying judges, lawyers, and his fellow jurors. As Gladden and his “colleagues” are sequestered in a hotel for three weeks, they are tasked with increasingly bizarre assignments, all under the watchful eyes of the cameras.
The result is nothing short of exceptional. It's everything that I had hoped for and more at the start of the week, and Ronald Gladden unexpectedly emerges as a hero of kindness and empahty.
Catch "Jury Duty" today on Amazon Prime and experience this unique and truly heartwarming comedy.
My current train of thought has led me to consider whether it's time for a shift in our viewing habits.
Instead of consuming content that glorifies narcissism and sensationalism, we can make a conscious effort to seek out shows that prioritize empathy, kindness, and even a touch of normalcy. By doing so, we have the power to cultivate a culture that values these qualities not just on our screens, but in our everyday lives too.
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