The phrase “ITV drama” would usually be enough to frighten me off to a dvd. But given how much I’ve been raving about Downton Abbey it seemed small minded of me to assume that it was the exception rather than the rule. The trailers for The Jury looked pretty good and it had the interesting (although no longer particularly unique) hook of airing its full five episodes on five consecutive evenings, so at very worst it wasn’t going to be much of a commitment.
As it turned out I let the whole series stack up on the Sky+ and then watched them straight through in one afternoon while off sick with a cold. Unfortunately this wasn’t really due to it being a gripping mystery that I was unwilling to stop, but more that in my Lemsip induced befuddlement it was like watching a very disturbing train crash unfurl.
It started off pretty well, managing to sidestep most of the pitfalls many other dramas fall into. The first thing that hit me was that it felt very real – everyone felt like a real person, with real problems, making real choices in a real London. Everything and everyone just felt like they belonged in the real world. The concept was also interesting, located in the sort of middle ground of the legal process – not entirely the public side of the victims and accused, but not completely behind the scenes with the lawyers, judges and police. This is the world of the jury, twelve random people interrupting their lives with very little idea of what they’re doing.
Unfortunately, things rapidly started falling apart for both the jury and the viewer. Over the space of just five episodes it degenerated from being stylish and interesting to being ridiculous and dumb. I’m going to get spoilery here because I doubt anyone who hasn’t already seen it will bother looking it up, but if you’re concerned jump to the last paragraph.
It’s not just that the characters made idiotic choices, it was the way that there seemed to be absolutely no come-back for said poor decisions. It was presented as bordering on a comedy of errors, a number of mistakes that the characters had to dance around so they didn’t get found out. But the scale of these mistakes was so downplayed I actually started shouting at the screen. The ‘boo-boos’ included perjury, a teacher getting pregnant by a pupil, jury tampering, planting of evidence and a jury member communicating with the accused because she fell in love with him (or with his religion). And all these crimes are committed on a triple murder trial. These aren’t minor hiccups, the little mistakes that we make in life – at least three of the jury should have been sent to jail!
My issue with The Jury wasn’t that it was badly put together – the direction, dialogue and actors were all perfectly fine. I particularly like Julie Walters utterly overdoing it while on the stand as her character played a role, the element of performance that the barristers had to put on was very interesting. The problem was that it started out full of realism and turned into stupid trash. Maybe I was reading too much into it, but I came away from this feeling that the writers had managed to take what could have otherwise been a solid piece of television and by pushing it too far, made something utterly irresponsible.
The Jury is available on ITV Player for a few more weeks.