Dressed into Oranges
Ima Be That Phatt B*tch
We’re All Criminals
Swimmin’ in Sh*t, Bruh!
It’s a Crazy Beautiful Kinda Love
She Swung at Me, I Swung Back
Set in Sacramento County Jail, Jailbirds is a six-part reality documentary series showing the lives of men and women in prison. Armed with a host of colourful characters and some nice stylistic ticks, Jailbirds is an interesting but oftentimes familiar series, one that depicts much of the same material we’ve seen before but in a different prison setting.
The first episode begins with an introduction to the prison and its inmates, from loud-mouth Deon through to tattooed Monster and newbie Yasmin. After getting acquainted to these individuals, Jailbirds shows prison life up close and personal, with all the drama, fighting and love that comes with it. From intense rivalries and fist fights, through to innovative toilet talking and romantic relationships, Jailbirds gets up close and personal, depicting everyday life with a fly-on-the-wall perspective.
For the most part it works, and works well. The ladies are honest and early on there’s a good use of exposition and block text to show these inmates’ crimes accompanied by their mugshot. This certainly helps establish who the main girls and guys are that we follow through the series and as things get more dramatic, including food problems and the toilets blocking up, it’s certainly interesting to see how these people adapt to these situations.
Stylistically, Jailbirds relies heavily on its eclectic rock soundtrack and slow-motion establishing shots to break up the action. These do work well though, with a mix of face to face interviews and fly-on-the-wall footage doing well to build a realistic picture of what happens in this prison. To be fair, the decision to interview a lot of the workers and guards on duty is a nice touch too, giving the series a balanced perspective as we see some of the people behind the scenes that help keep prison life ticking over.
While the documentary is entertaining and there’s some good material here, it all feels overly familiar, retreading the same ground depicted in many other shows in this category. From Women Behind Bars through to Lockup and World’s Toughest Prisons, these reality shows continue to attract an audience and Jailbirds is no exception. Much like Netflix’s other fellow prison documentary, Girls Incarcerated, Jailbirds is a predictably entertaining but ultimately average show that fails to really reinvent the wheel or show anything overly original we haven’t seen before.