Why ‘Jury Duty’ deserves all that Emmy love

Jurors in a civil trial sit for a documentary interview.
The cast of “Jury Duty.”
(Amazon Freevee)

Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone who was as surprised by “Jury Duty’s” Emmy nominations as its star.

But before we get into it: In case you missed last week’s edition, we want to hear from you! Tell us what you think about Screen Gab: your likes, your dislikes, your wish-you-hads. Please take five minutes to respond to our reader survey so we can better serve you this weekly dispatch on the movies and TV shows everyone’s talking about.

In Screen Gab No. 90, we respond to any raised eyebrows over the Amazon Freevee mockumentary’s unexpected comedy series nomination, which took nominated star James Marsden from “wanting to throw up to pure elation” on Wednesday. Plus, “Run the World’s” Tosin Morohunfola tells us what he’s watching, Times staffers offer viewing recommendations for your weekend and more.



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Actor Justina Machado in a floral print dress photographed in a mirror.
Justina Machado.
(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

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Turn on

Recommendations from the film and TV experts at The Times

An animated image of three newspaper interns standing out side, one holding press badges.
A scene from “My Adventures With Superman.”
(Adult Swim)

Just about everybody has a favorite on-screen Superman, and mine might be the awkward newspaper intern trying to figure out his place in the world introduced in “My Adventures With Superman” (Adult Swim, Max). This coming-of-age version of Superman’s origin story centers on a Clark Kent who’s earnest, clumsy and kind, which is my preference over some of the more dark and gritty takes. But this show’s charm is really in the quickly established dynamic between Clark, his best friend, Jimmy Olsen, and ambitious fellow intern Lois Lane. Both Jimmy and Lois are following their dreams — the former to capture front page-worthy photographic proof of his conspiracy theories, and the latter to break big stories to become a “real” reporter. (Both are endearing, possibly because I work at a newspaper.) They make great counterparts to Clark, who may be a superpowered extraterrestrial but is still trying to figure out who he is and what he’s meant to be. And, without spoiling anything, the show’s depiction of how Clark dons his supersuit for the first time is pure art. —Tracy Brown

Two police detectives case a crime scene on a beach.
Kate Box and Nina Oyama in “Deadloch.”
(Bradley Patrick)

Created by Australian comedy partners Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan, “Deadloch” (Prime Video) is a pitch-perfect long-form parody of a small-town crime serial (“Broadchurch,” “Three Pines,” et al.). The production is dark and moody, the mystery watertight, the characters, in broad terms, much like those you’d find in any such series. But, murder and mutilation aside, most everything that’s done or said is funny — very funny. In the fictional hamlet of Deadloch, on the island state of Tasmania, its populace split among arty gentrifying newcomers and football-loving, working-class old-timers, a naked dead body is discovered on the beach. The case falls to Sgt. Dulcie Collins (Kate Box), conscientious, methodical and sensitive to her community, who will additionally have to deal with a superior officer brought in from the mainland to run the show: Det. Eddie Radcliffe (Madeleine Sami), vulgar, slovenly, reckless, obnoxious and egotistical, with a self-confidence that reliably leads her to bark up the wrong tree. And keep barking. Will they learn to work together to bring a killer to justice? You can guess, but watch and see. —Robert Lloyd


Catch up

Everything you need to know about the film or TV series everyone’s talking about

A man speaking to a judge in a courtroom
Ronald Gladden, the unsuspecting star of “Jury Duty.”
(Amazon Freevee)

Inspired by its surprisingly strong showing in Wednesday’s Emmy nominations, where it earned nods for comedy series, writing and supporting actor James Marsden, I belatedly blitzed through “Jury Duty” (Amazon Freevee) this week and confirmed what critics and fans have been saying about the series since it premiered in April: Rarely has the mundanity of American courts been captured with such madcap affection. From the excuses employed to wriggle out of service (“It’s just not for me”) to the indignities of sequestration (no phone or internet?), the mockumentary turns the resigned sigh that comes with a summons into eight episodes of exaggerated — but not entirely unbelievable — comic bliss. Even the muddy photography and wan institutional lighting add to the verisimilitude.

And yet, thanks to foreman Ronald Gladden, you may emerge from “Jury Duty” with your belief in your peers restored. That’s because the former solar contractor from San Diego, on whom “responsibilities and duties tend to land,” epitomizes the kind, thoughtful, engaged juror we’d all hope to face in court if it came to that — even when surrounded by the shenanigans of a troupe of actors tasked with making him believe the fake civil trial he’s participating in is real. Practically a field guide to Southern California weirdos, including an extraordinarily awkward transhumanist (David Brown), a real-life Rachel Sennott character (Edy Modica), a gruff bailiff (Rashida Olayiwola) and a narcissistic actor (Marsden, as himself), the outrageously funny cast manages to find compelling stories in ridiculous characters, and showcase Gladden’s deep well of bemused empathy in the process. “Here’s the deal: We all fell in love with you,” as one actor confesses in the final episode, when the ruse is revealed.

Here’s the deal: So did I. —Matt Brennan

Guest spot

A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching

A man in an orange paisley shirt standing on a balcony.
Tosin Morohunfola in “Run the World.”
(Cara Howe/Starz)

Tosin Morohunfola has plenty of TV credits under his belt, from “Julia” to “The Chi,” but his biggest role to date has come with “Run the World,” Starz’s comedy about four Black women navigating work, friendship and romance in New York City. Playing Ola, a high-spirited Nigerian American doctor who’s engaged to one of the leads, has not only allowed Morohunfola to tap into his own Nigerian roots — it’s also placed him at the center of a cheating subplot that gave him the space to play “heartbroken.” With the series’ second season coming to a close this week, Morohunfola stopped by Screen Gab to discuss his work as a director, what he’s watching and more. —Matt Brennan

What have you watched recently that you are recommending to everyone you know?

I can’t stop talking about “Everything Everywhere All at Once” [Showtime]. It was just so daring and personal and convention-breaking all at once (pun intended). I saw it four times. Also, it’s been a little while now, but “King Richard” [Max] really sticks out in my mind as a powerful, Black family film. I took my whole family and we all felt like the questions of when to gamble on your own talent was a really delightfully complicated one for us all to wrestle with.

What’s your go-to “comfort watch,” the movie or TV show you go back to again and again?

I know it’s been a while since it came out, but lately I’ve been re-watching “The Harder They Fall” [Netflix]. That movie is simply revolutionary to me. A Black western full of phenomenal actors, who each get to stand out, as well as true historical characters that we never get to see and need their story told. What’s not to love!? Also, I gotta give an honorable mention to “Black Panther” for doing the same thing, in terms of elevating how we — as Black people — see ourselves. How the diaspora is so multilayered, and how Afro-futurism is such a cool bonding dream and possibility.


“Run the World” is the latest in a long line of TV series about a group of female friends navigating adulthood — including “Living Single,” from your executive producer and showrunner Yvette Lee Bowser. What do you love about this format? Any particular examples you enjoy?

I just love that “Run the World” centers four Black women. It’s that simple. In a world where Black women are often sidelined or minimized, this story actually puts them front and center. All the comedy and drama that comes from that centering is genuine and refreshing. I absolutely loved “Living Single” [Hulu, Max] growing up too — [I] so identified with Erika Alexander’s sense of humor and comedic timing. It’s such a crazy honor to now be working with her after being inspired by her. More recently, I loved “Insecure” [Max] and the beautiful, nuanced exploration of friendship that was depicted between Issa and Molly.

In addition to your acting work, you’re also a filmmaker, currently developing an indie project called “The Pulpit.” Which film/filmmaker would you say is the greatest influence on you, and why?

I am hugely influenced by my dear friend and current producing partner, Kevin Willmott. My first film ever was a zero-budget space race comedy called “Destination Planet Negro” (directed by Willmott) that we shot shortly after I graduated from the University of Kansas, where he taught. I learned so much from that year-long, guerrilla-style filmmaking process and it really showed me what’s possible and how to make something out of nothing. I was the lead character so it taught me leadership on set too. Most importantly, I observed Kevin’s ease and expertise in storytelling. We immediately had a kinship and he really has been looking out for me ever since. After he won his [adapted screenplay] Oscar for “BlacKkKlansman” [Fubo, DirecTV] he put me in his next film, “The 24th,” and now we’re producing my first feature together: “The Pulpit.”

Even going further back, Kevin is an activist-storyteller, and his films always have strong, thought-provoking social commentary. I admire that, and I seek to emulate that kind of edu-tainment in my work.

What’s next

We are discontinuing the weekly roundup of TV highlights that formerly appeared in this space, BUT we have no plans to stop helping you decide what to watch, whenever you want to watch it. Nor will we overlook public television, the broadcast networks or basic cable in our suggestions, or stop providing what tune-in information we can. We’ll simply be redoubling our effort to identify titles we think you’ll enjoy and explain why; check in with actors, writers and directors from notable films and TV shows; and break down the pop culture everyone’s talking about. —Matt Brennan