You may call me Michael Record, LLB (Hons) & GCILEx because, believe it or not, I actually have a degree in law (filthy stinking riches have yet to materialise), so perhaps there is an underlying reason why I’ve always loved court room drama. A Few Good Men is one of my favourite films. I don’t care about the crime part of Law and Order; but when the show gets to the court room process I am perched on the edge of my seat shouting, ‘Objection! Defendant is talking bull-crap!’. So when I stumbled upon Mock Justice, a tongue in cheek parody where John Grisham meets Saved By The Bell, there really wasn’t much of a decision necessary before the play button was clicked.
The series was produced in conjunction with the Motion Picture Institute of Michigan (who allowed use of equipment for a highly discounted price) and the Winston Churchill High School’s Creative and Performing Arts programme (who provided the location) – the latter being set up to help students gain experience in film production. Mock Justice successfully raised a mere $1,851 through Kickstarter (only $1,500 was asked for), with creators Kristofer Wellman and James Madejski also contributing around $1,500.00 of their own funds. Considering there was only a budget of $3,000.00 the level of professionalism here is nothing short of astonishing. Yes, it is all filmed in a high school but that lends itself to a geographical closeness of locations (‘court room’, interview room / custodial closet, canteen, corridors and recess area). Yes, the cast are all virtually all high school age but regardless of the perceived amateurishness associated with an abundance of youth they all turn in fantastically comic performances, made all the more funny for the juxtaposition between adult legal showdowns and teenage participants.
Lead character Jeff Meyers is a washed-up mock attorney. Having previously never lost a case he became arrogant and over-confident. That confidence was shattered when the jury’s decision in Primrose -v- Parsons (the case of the stolen pie) went against him and Jeff is reduced to writing book reports for lazy students and suffering for his hubris. When drop-out Brett is forced to undergo mock justice to gain extra credit he finds himself lumbered with the almost un-winnable position of playing the defendant in Primrose -v- Parsons. He turns to Jeff, who, after fighting his own self-doubt, finds himself once again baking in the pressure cooker of the case that destroyed his mock career last year. Brett, Jeff’s now client, just wants to drop old TVs off the local bridge; Trudy, Jeff’s assistant, wants Jeff to return to his former glory and stop drinking (he’s taken to keeping a bottle of apple juice in his desk); and as for Olivia, the pretty prosecution mock attorney: she’s not above using some dirty tactics to ensure a win for her client, but what is she hiding?
Mock Justice works so well because it’s played virtually straight. Each character’s performance is on the level that everything is deadly important, despite the occasional reluctant admission of the fact that it’s only ‘mock’ law. Nick Downs as Jeff is particularly engaging to watch. He thunders down the corridors like he’s in an episode of Law and Order mixed up with some Raymond Chandler hard-boiled private detective character; he can’t afford to lose again in a case about dastardly mulberry pie thievery. Dan Crosby as Brett is the comedy foil of the series in that he starts off thinking the whole process is stupid but quickly becomes sucked into the intricacy of searching for discrepancies in the affidavits (or ‘affi-whatevers’ as he calls them). Everyone, from the uptight Trudy and manipulative Olivia through to the baby-faced Mock Judge, has amazing comic timing; meaning that the sheer ludicrousness of the situations, coupled with the po-faced seriousness of the music, equals more than enough to bang home a galloping gavel of laughs.
If Mock Justice was an exercise in ‘how to make a web series’ then I submit to the members of the jury that the evidence of success is conclusive. The direction switches nicely from single camera and fixed settings to overly dramatic slow-mos or tension-inducing extreme close-ups, and the whole package comes together in such a expertly crafted way that the end result really is a credit to all concerned. Writer / directors Madejski and Wellman have worked on short films before in terms of writing, directing and producing, and both have interned on existing TV shows including the long running David Letterman Show. I think, based on the exhibit they have placed before the judge here, they will have long successful careers worth following. Indeed, Mock Justice won several awards at the L.A. Web Series Festival Awards: that of best lead actor, best supporting actor, and best series / concept.
I highly recommend you watch Mock Justice from start to finish if you enjoy a cleverly written, professionally filmed, and hilariously performed parody comedy that delivers genuine snorting laughs. If it please the court, Mock Justice moves for a re-trial.
Mock Justice can be watched on YouTube or through the Mock Justice website. The creators have recently launched a really funny news pastiche show called Apt 8 News. Also there is Facebook and Twitter.