Jam (TV series)
|Created by||Chris Morris|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||6|
|Running time||approx. 25 minutes|
|Original channel||Channel 4|
|Original run||March 2000 – April 2000|
Jam is a postmodern British dark comedy series created, written and directed by Chris Morris, and was broadcast on Channel 4 during March and April 2000. It was based on the earlier BBC Radio 1 show, Blue Jam, and consisted of a series of unsettling sketches unfolding over an ambient soundtrack.
Many of the sketches re-used the original radio soundtracks with the actors lip-synching their lines, an unusual technique which added to the programme's unsettling atmosphere.
The cast, which comprised people who Morris had worked with on his earlier TV work such as The Day Today and Brass Eye, included Amelia Bullmore, David Cann, Julia Davis, Kevin Eldon and Mark Heap, as well as occasional appearances from Morris himself. It was written by Chris Morris and Peter Baynham, with additional material contributed by Jane Bussmann, David Quantick, Graham Linehan, Arthur Mathews and the cast.
There were no opening titles to the show. Instead, they would begin with a strange and often disturbing monologue by Morris along with appropriate images. They usually concerned someone finding their paranoid fears being made real or some other bizarre happenings, such as a man waking up to find his body is that of a bizarre maggot creature (with Morris's dispassionate dialogue reading "...and when you wake up, wondering where you are, only to find that the rest of you is wondering where you've gone"), or a man visiting his bank's safe deposit vaults in order to feed a baby he apparently keeps in his lockbox ("when dreadful duty leads you to the place where you have stored it").
Morris would then declare "Then welcome", followed by a nonsensical sentence (e.g. "Ooh, astonishing sod ape") before finally announcing "Welcome... in Jam." The word "Jam" would never be said normally; it would either be heavily distorted, said in a strange fashion or just screamed at the viewer, usually repeatedly.
The series consisted of six twenty-minute episodes, and, unusually for a TV show on a commercial channel, had no advert break in the middle. Some reports claim this was because no company would want their products associated with the show. However, Morris has said that he asked Channel 4 to broadcast it without a break in order not to spoil the atmosphere. When the DVD of the series was released, the website changed and offered a link to a long sound file containing the thumping sound of heavy artillery, which it is suggested is played while watching the programme to simulate surround sound.
Sketches often had a documentary feel to them, with the characters acting as if they were being interviewed about recent events.
The series had a late-night remix version, entitled Jaaaaam. Its audiovisual distortions of the original series introduced the musical remix concept to British television. Due to an apparent mix-up, the fifth Jaaaaam was substituted with episode six. The following week the original Jam version of episode five was screened in the Jaaaaam slot.
The DVD for the series is designed almost as a satire on DVDs themselves, with numerous pointless extras. For instance, each episode has both a normal version and a special version, which is usually the normal one but distorted in such a way as to make it completely intolerable, if not impossible, to watch (respectively: a miniaturised version, a miniaturised moving version, a moving lava lamp version, a fast forwarded version, the first 19 seconds of the episode and a fast forwarded version expanded to the original running time - the last being the only one reasonably capable of being watched without extreme difficulty).
In addition, the items listed under the "Extras" on the disc are much of the time little more than additional copies of sketches, with the occasional deleted scene or shot of an audition or rehearsal. The only exceptions are Adam and Joe's "Goitre" parody of Jam and a link to "Undeleted Scenes" which, when selected, advises the viewer to take the DVD back to the shop they bought it from and complain "loudly and obnoxiously" about the lack of undeleted scenes. The DVD was deleted by suppliers in February 2008 but was re-released in July of the same year.
- Selecting "Play All At Once" from the "Play All" menu reveals a large red dot; pressing the select button on your DVD remote when this is shown, an audition for a deleted scene is shown.
- At the end of episode three, just before the TalkBack productions credit is shown, a dog's face is flashed up on screen for a few seconds, with a red dot. When the dot appears, pressing select will show the trailer for Morris's 2003 short film, My Wrongs 8245–8249 & 117. The film is an adaptation of a story from Blue Jam about a dog that takes over the life of its owner. Numerous brief images depicting scenes similar to those in My Wrongs appear in Jam, suggesting there had been a previous aborted attempt to film this story.
- Selecting "Play All Once" will obviously show all of them in order, though at the end of episode 2 onto episode 3, a backstage look at the filming of the Gush porn film. It is regarded as an outtake due to the laughter at the end.
- At the end of viewing for the "London/Tokyo Jam Exhibition" a rehearsal for a deleted scene is seen with Kevin Eldon. The scene is similar to the little girl balls sketch in episode 6.
Unsurprisingly for such an unconventional series, Jam received mixed reaction from reviewers, with views ranging from "the most radical and original television programme broadcast in years", to accusations of it being "adolescent" and "sick." and "self indulgent (yet) interesting and problematic". Despite its content, the broadcast attracted nowhere near the controversy that the following year's Brass Eye Special did.
The show is considered in some circles as much as a horror as it is a comedy, even coming in at number 26 on Channel 4's 100 Greatest Scary Moments, managing to beat other more famous horrors such as Carrie and The Silence of the Lambs. Despite this success, it is not generally held in as high esteem as Morris' earlier, satirical TV work. In an interview in 2008, Graham Linehan admitted to mixed feelings about contributing to the series: "Jam wouldn’t be my favourite thing of Chris’s, and it was the one where I didn’t really feel like we were contributing a lot. Its mood was so grim that I just found it difficult to join in. I think that Chris was just interested in tying people in moral knots – giving them a moral problem and then just twisting it so they have to do something awful to get out of the first moral problem. Although this is a secondary impulse for him, he’s also interested in pushing buttons that haven’t been pushed in comedy in people; making them laugh in a way that they’re not used to...Personally I just want to make people laugh."
Other comedians' high regard for Morris and his work saw Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish parody Jam on their Channel 4 show The Adam and Joe Show. Entitled "Goitre", the sketch saw the two make a very amateurish attempt at creating unsettling sketches. One such sketch involved a repair man who found a "dead baby" (actually a doll) behind a TV and insisted he would have to "bugger" it in order to fix the television. The sketch later appeared as an extra feature on the Jam DVD.
The show received a number of complaints when it was first broadcast in 2000, which were upheld in relation to three sketches: "Coffin Mistake", "Sex For Houses" and "Plumber Baby" as they were deemed insensitive to the bereaved and those with learning difficulties. The show was classified "18" by the BBFC for very strong language and sexual content (particularly the "Gush" sketch, which depicts a prosthetic erection and fake semen.)
- Hanks, Robert (2000-04-20). "The distorted world of Chris Morris". London: theindependent.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-05-05.
- "Jam". sidereel.com.co.uk. 2000-04-20.
- "Jam". offthetelly.co.uk. 2000-04-27. Archived from the original on 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2008-01-13.
- "100 Greatest Scary Moments". Channel4.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-01-13.