ronald gladden (left) and james marsden (right) in jury duty

Courtesy of Freevee

The internet is obsessed with a reality show about jury duty

Videos featuring #jurydutyonfreevee have been viewed more than 192.9 million times.


Michelle Jaworski


Posted on Apr 27, 2023   Updated on Apr 28, 2023, 6:38 am CDT

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Inspired by reality shows like Joe Schmo (and comparable to may be comparable to The Rehearsal and Paul T. Goldman), Jury Duty is one of the surprise hits of the spring. And in just weeks since its premiere, it’s become a major, earnest TikTok sensation.

Premiering April 7 on Freevee (Amazon’s free, ad-supported streaming service), Jury Duty purports to take you inside a Los Angeles courtroom to watch the judicial process unfold. But, as the title cards for each episode reveal, it’s not quite that simple. For one, it’s not a real trial. And the only person not in on it is Ronald Gladden, a 29-year-old solar panel contractor whoanswered a Craigslist ad to appear in a docuseries about jury duty.

Ronald is completely unaware that everyone around him—the judge and bailiff, everyone involved in the lawsuit, and every other juror attached to the case including James Marsden playing a narcissistic version of himself—is an actor. And for 17 days, the jurors are isolated—they’re sequestered after Marsden hires fake paparazzi to get himself out of jury duty, which fails—and in each other’s orbit without any access to the outside world.

For the actors, that means that they have to be “on” constantly, and because Ronald doesn’t know, it’s not like they can get a redo if someone breaks. Ronald definitely questions the nature of his reality several times through the ordeal; during a group confessional in episode 6, he says, “This literally feels like reality TV.”

You might wonder what Ronald did to deserve to be at the center of this absurdist judicial farce, and it’s sometimes bizarre seeing him witness some of the wilder moments. But it’s never designed to be malicious; he’s still friends with the show’s cast today. And it’s Ronald’s earnest interactions—including showing oddball Todd A Bug’s Life because he thought Todd might relate to it to covering for Marsden in a highly embarrassing situation—are what endeared him to TikTok.

Videos featuring #jurydutyonfreevee have been viewed more than 192.9 million times, while #ronaldgladden has gotten more than 20.6 million views; naturally, there are Ronald Gladden fancams.

It’s impossible not to ask yourself, “How did they pull that off?!” when watching Jury Duty, and much of the season finale takes Ronald (and us) behind the scenes about how it technically pulled it off. But even the people who made the show are surprised at how they did it. 

Why it matters

With earlier hits like Schitt’s Creek and Ted Lasso, we already knew that people loved earnest TV. But thanks to TikTok, there’s also a well-deserved spotlight on Freevee, a streamer that some viewers might not know about but has plenty to offer.

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*First Published: Apr 27, 2023, 6:00 am CDT