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On the tube: Making the case for 'The Jury'

Friday, April 04, 2003

By Betsy Kline, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

American television is rife with crime dramas told from the point of view of the police, forensic scientists and legal eagles. "Masterpiece Theatre's" latest series, a contemporary murder mystery seen solely from the perspective of a British jury, is a refreshing, intellectually stimulating four-parter that allows viewers to share the jurors' vacillating doubts and frustrations as each new piece of evidence is introduced.

TV Review


WHEN: 9 p.m. Sundays through April 27 on WQED.

STARRING: Derek Jacobi, Anthony Sher, Rose Davies and Michael Maloney.


Written by Peter Morgan, directed by Pete Travis and filmed in part at London's historic Old Bailey, "The Jury" is a tightly paced six hours that leaves you suspended in doubt. Is Duvinder Singh, a slight 15-year-old Sikh schoolboy, guilty of the savage sword slaying of a white classmate who bullied him?

We meet the 12 jurors as they answer their summons to civic duty, most with an almost reverential awe that might seem odd to Americans. They are plunged immediately into a racially charged case that is the talk of London. Arguing the case are Queen's Counsels George Cording (Derek Jacobi) for the defense and Gerald Lewis (Anthony Sher) for the prosecution. They bring all their grandstanding eloquence and sly winking to bear on the only audience that matters, the jury.

Some of those jurors come with their own baggage, in the form of class, economic and racial differences. They all go home to their own troubles at the end of each mentally and emotionally draining day. And as the trial progresses, two become targets of intimidation by the victim's vengeful brothers.

There's Rose (Helen McCrory), the beautician who brings a change of clothing to court to allow her to slip into a new persona as a means of escaping a stagnant marriage; Johnnie Donne (Gerard Butler), the recovering alcoholic who falls for Rose; Marcia Thomas (Nina Sosanya), the single mother struggling with her strained relationship with her own mother; Peter Segal (Michael Maloney), the insurance man with a meddling father-in-law.

There's also Jeremy Crawford (Nicholas Farrell), the family man ruined by stock-market gambling; Charles Gore (Stuart Bunce), the seminarian having doubts about his calling; and Elsie Beamish (the remarkable Sylvia Syms), the elderly Catholic widow whose loneliness draws her to Charles.

Viewers see so much mirrored in their faces as they struggle to make sense of conflicting evidence and theories. When they are finally sent to the jury room to deliberate, the pent-up tension nearly explodes.

"The Jury" will command your attention until the final scene.

Betsy Kline can be reached at bkline@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1408.

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