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TELEVISION & RADIO / TUNED IN

'Jury's' trials and tribulations obscure the story's social issues

April 05, 2003|Mark Sachs | Times Staff Writer

Nothing says adventure, romance and intrigue quite like jury duty, or at least that's the hopeful attitude of a dozen down-on-their-luck Londoners who seem delighted to find themselves on a high-profile murder case in PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre" miniseries "The Jury."

The six-hour drama, starring Derek Jacobi and Antony Sher as bewigged barristers on opposite sides of the aisle, begins Sunday at 9 on KCET and KVCR, followed by another two-hour block on April 13, a 60-minute episode on April 20, and the hourlong finale April 27.

The case involves the grisly slaying-by-sword of a teenage boy, allegedly by a Sikh schoolmate who had been viciously bullied by the victim for years. The racial implications of a born-and-bred Brit being cut down by an immigrant is a scenario that has polarized the community into rabid factions that go to war each day in front of the historic Old Bailey courthouse, forcing the jurors to run a gantlet through the shouting, placard-wielding scrum.

But the panel members are so beaten down by their private travails that they hardly seem to mind. Among them are a struggling single mom (Nina Sonsanya) angrily at odds with her mother; a lonely beautician (Helen McCrory) stuck in a loveless marriage; a handsome recovering alcoholic fresh out of rehab (Gerard Butler); a would-be priest (Stuart Bunce); and a meek salesman (Michael Maloney) living in dread of his overbearing father-in-law.

Director Pete Travis and writer Peter Morgan paint the principals with such broad strokes that it's difficult to find an emotional connection early on, and the mugging by the prosecutor (Sher) and defense attorney (Jacobi) only plays into this.

Even as the characters come to life, the plot's dramatic thrust is blunted by moldy courtroom dramatics, and the murky denouement leaves almost everyone hanging.

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