The Jury (ABC) pilot preview: Archie Panjabi, from Kalinda investigator to Kim juror

TheJury

Created by VJ Boyd (Justified, The Player) & Mark Bianculli .Directed by Neil Burger (Limitless, Divergente, Billions, The Illusionnist). Produced by Carol Mendelsohn (CSI, Melrose Place), Julie Weitz, VJ Boyd and Mark Bianculli. For ABC, Sony Pictures Television, ABC Studios & Carol Menselsohn Productions. 62 pages.

Description: follows a single murder trial a season as seen through the eyes of the individual jurors, exploring the biases and experiences that influence the jurors’ judgment, and how their preconceptions change along the way. Season one is about the vicious murder of Victoria Chase, 17, for which classmate Michael Cleary, 18, is being accused of. Now it’s time for Kim Dempsey, Dan Baliss, and the other 10 jurors to find where the truth lies and decide whether he is guilty or not…

With Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife, The Fall), Jeremy Sisto (Suburgatory, Law & Order, Six Feet Under), Adina Porter (The 100, True Blood), Eve Harlow (The 100, Heroes Reborn), Brandon Jay McLaren (The killing US, Graceland, Falling Skies), Kevin Rankin (Friday Night Lights, Unforgettable, Breaking Bad), JD Pardo (Revolution, The Messengers), Nikki DeLoach (Awkward), Hina Abdullah, Ben Esler (Hell On Wheels), Brian Howe, Jayne Taini (Ray Donovan)…

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Most of you probably already know about the departure of ABC’s president Paul Lee, replaced by fellow number 2 Channing Dungey. He did a great job at the alphabet from 2010 to 2015, building an excellent line-up of family comedies, a slew of solid dramas, the Shondaland’s TGIT brand while pushing for diversity before anyone else, leading to a real trend that is now followed by every other network. What he also did, and that’s where he must be thanked for even though it drove him to ruin, was giving a chance to bold projects like American Crime, The NeighborsGalavant, Agent Carter, The Family, in an attempt to reduce the gap between network television and cable/streaming platforms’ shows. Sadly, numbers were dreadful for most of them and he refused to give up. Now he’s gone but he’s still reponsible for the projects developed for the past few months and this pilot season’s pick-ups. And The Jury is, I’m afraid, exactly the type of ambitious series Paul Lee tried to impose for years with no success. Why would this one work where all the others failed? At least, the incredible popularity of the Serial podcast or the documentary series Making a Murderer make The Jury trendy.

The pilot works a bit like a conceptual episode of soon gone The Good Wife, only told from the jury’s perspective. Except it’s not a one-shot but the whole concept of the show. It even starts like a lot of episodes of The Good Wife with a video took from a phone broadcasted in front of the jurors, one where the not yet dead victim is sadistically aussaulted by a group of cruel teenagers -friends?- in the woods, only to discover in the end of the sequence that she’s consenting, it’s roleplay. But she died a few hours later nonetheless. Glaucous, isn’t it? The prosecutors in the story are not that important. They do their job when we’re in the middle of a courtroom scene -and there are a few- but their speeches are pretty harmless. What the writers are focused on is the 12 jurors we meet along the way. 12 it’s the law but it’s a lot for a TV show. It takes time to learn their first names and understand who they are in a nutshell. They try to avoid caricatures but they don’t always succeed. You have the nerdy IT guy, the southern material belle, the angry old lady, the hipster artist, the middle-class working mom… The goal now is to deepen the characters since, as I understand it, every episode will be centered on one of them through flashbacks from their personal life, explaining how the case reflects upon their own story. It means 12 episodes plus a 13th for the verdict. And it also means quality will vary depending on the interest we have for a character. Some of them don’t seem that interesting actually. The ongoing trial and the new informations we will learn along the way should keep us entertained though. They didn’t choose a spectacular case for nothing.

The structure of the episode is quite complex. We jump all the time from the trial to the delibaration room, where the jury is poised to spend hours, from past to present with some scenes happening during the investigation, while we’re focusing on the juror Kim Dempsey, played by the phenomenal Archie Panjabi, through flashbacks. It means a lot of Archie in the pilot, but less in the subsequent episodes even if she comes out as a leader in the jurors team. You’ve been warned. Kim doesn’t seem that different from Kalinda. She’s a strong woman obsessed with seeking the truth, not there to make friends so she can look like she’s cold sometimes, and a bit provactive. In fact, she was at the center of a sex scandal a few months ago that kind of ruined her career. She is a domestic abuse crusader and everyone saw her having rough sex with her boyfriend in her young years with a video that leaked online. We’re offered a crispy glimpse of it where she begs him to hit her, harder and harder until it makes her leap bleed. She even licks her own blood while moaning. That’s certainly something Kalinda could have done (but not CBS). Told you it was glaucous. It’s not just the murder case. It’s the whole atmosphere. Are people ready for this? But don’t be afraid, the writers also give us some breathing space when the characters are debating, joking around a bit, irritating each others…

I really hope The Jury can find an audience on ABC because it could be really good –AmericanCrime/The Good Wife good- and an important piece of television but from where we stand, I’m not optimistic. Let’s be real: it’s ambitious but complex, well written and suspenseful but dark and gloomy for the most part, and highly serialized, which is not what the new network’s executives are looking for anymore… And since legal dramas always tend to scare the younger demo, The Jury is guilty of being a cable drama that will get cable ratings but on a network where they’re not sufficient. It has to be tried and taken care of properly, but the verdict is still out…

4 comments

  1. Liz says:

    Maybe this can be a summer show instead, if abc new president decides to do away with the mid season filler shows. That is what I am thinking will happen to Agent Carter and Ameican Crime should they be renewed somehow despite how unlikely it would be.

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