Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Jam & Jerusalem

After firstly ignoring Jennifer Saunders' half hour television show - Jam and Jerusalem - because it lacked a laugh track and obvious traces of Saunders-style satire and whimsy (how shallow am I?!), I now find it satisfying.
My initial responses to this show were, surprisingly, in line with what has been the critique, if you can call it that, from Melbourne's Fairfax broadsheet - The Age's - Green Guide. The Green Guide's weekly mixture of review, schedule, new media advertising and information in the form of a lift-out, usually does very nicely for me and Significant Other. Marieke Hardy's colour-pieces are nearly always slanted skewerings of some vapid and valid target in the culture, and Hardy does a wry and arch line in self-deprecation. But we read it mainly for the reviews of free-to-air TV shows and there is often cause to be shat-off with these.
Hardy aside and back to Jam & Jerusalem, it was twice dismissed as sub-standard because Dawn French was both underutilised and there were not enough zinger-funny lines! Another review (not online but in the GG last week) began by rueing the failure of J & J to realise the comedic heights it should, but ends cheering it on because Dawn French's Rosie takes centre stage in the episode under review, and being
the show's major drawcard [reminds us] that this brand of comedy might be a taste worth acquiring
All of which raises the questions: is J & J actually more situation than comedy (as in sit-com), or even more drama than comedy (dramedy)? Why is J & J being reviewed as a failed comedy? How could it not fail if comedy is being measured on the gag-meter?

J & J, successfully I think, celebrates a form of 'village' female community. I live in a sort of village, and I don't think I'm nostalgic for a Sea-Change style community from the perspective of the metropolis (eg BallykissAngel, Hamish McBeth and so on and so forth . . . ). In other words the show affirms community through an ensemble; albeit one led by 'elders' of the Woman's Guild of Clatterford, St Mary. Yes, Dawn French is funny - and as the multiple-personality character of Rosie manages to voice the harsh-truths of a village-idiot-savant. But French's Rosie is part of the ensemble and is not the sole reason for the show's charm.
So, this Village-idiot recommends having a look at J & J. It's gentle portrayal of Guild-life is sorta uplifting. Oh yeah, Jennifer Saunder's upper-middle-class Caroline Martin is a (mild) scream.

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