Mr. TV: Jury Duty

I have to be honest: Last week was not exactly the best five days for me, as I anxiously awaited word on whether I had to serve on jury duty. The prospect of sitting in a crowded, dirty room twiddling my thumbs with hundreds of other people waiting for my name to be called, gave me a little tsuris (aggravation). To distract myself, I got to thinking about TV, and all the characters who spent time in courtrooms.

Unlike Liz Lemon on 30 Rock, who dressed as Princess Leia from Star Wars to get out of the monotonous task, I didn’t think coming as Luke Skywalker would help my case. It seems the more meshugah (crazy) you act, the greater your chances are of being excused. That said, being 6’4”, I wondered how much it would cost to rent a Chewbacca getup. Anyway, in my worst nightmare I would end up like Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show, who held a room of jurors hostage because she was just not convinced that guest star Jack Nicholson was guilty of stealing a TV set from a local store. That’s right…a very young Nicholson was on The Andy Griffith Show.

Aunt Bee was not the only TV legend delaying jury duty proceedings. All in the Family “Dingbat” Edith Bunker was also the lone holdout in a high-profile murder case, which caused domestic chaos for unhappy hubby Archie. And my all-time favorite, Lucille Ball, disagreed with the other jurors, incurring the wrath of a young Joan Rivers on an episode of Here’s Lucy. Word of advice to anyone thinking of crossing Rivers: don’t. You’ll end up a subject in her stand-up act.

As I dutifully called in every night to find out if my number was up, I recalled the episode of NBC’s Crossing Jordan when Jill Hennessy’s Jordan believed the accused was innocent and ended up convincing the rest of the jury by finding forensic evidence to back her claim.

And I seem to recollect goody-two-shoes Monica (Roma Downey) on Touched by an Angel asking God for help when she was summoned to be a juror on a murder case where the innocent defendant could get the death penalty. Don’t worry, this was Touched by an Angel. It came in for a soft landing.

On a lighter note, remember when Dick Loudon was in a rush to finish jury duty in time to go to a basketball game on Newhart? Or when Hal tried to figure out what case loudmouth wife Lois was on in Malcolm in the Middle? Barney Miller featured a recluse who had not left his apartment since World War II and who was arrested for refusing to serve jury duty. And there was the episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show in which the exotic dancer defendant of the case hubby Rob was on caused jealous wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) to secretly attend the trial. Ohhhhhhh Rob!!!

Angela Lansbury as motherly Jessica Fletcher on Murder, She Wrote, who always had her nose into someone else’s death, found her experience on jury duty a bit more complicated when she realized that the guilty party was actually working in the courtroom. I have to wonder, was I the only one convinced that Fletcher was the ongoing murderer on that show?
No matter where she went, a dead body always managed to conveniently pop up. And Murder, She Wrote was on the air for 12 years. That’s a lot of bodies.

More recently, obsessive-compulsive Adrian Monk had his hands full on USA’s veteran detective drama Monk. Not only did he have to convince the jury the defendant was innocent, but he also had to solve the mystery of a corpse outside the jury room’s window.