Jam (TV series)
Jam is a British experimental black comedy sketch show, created, written, and directed by Chris Morris. It was broadcast on Channel 4 between 23 March and 27 April 2000. It was based on the earlier BBC Radio 1 show, Blue Jam, and consists of an unconnected series of disturbing and surreal 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, and featured unorthodox use of visual effects and sound manipulation.
Cover of the British DVD release
|Created by||Chris Morris|
|Based on||Blue Jam|
|Written by||Chris Morris|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||1|
|No. of episodes||6|
|Running time||Approx. 25 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Talkback Productions|
|Original network||Channel 4|
|Original release||23 March –|
27 April 2000
The sketches themselves would often begin with a simple premise, i.e. two parents showing indifference to the whereabouts of their young child, and then escalate it with ever-more disturbing developments (the parents being phoned to come and identify the child's corpse, but asking if it can instead be taxied to their home, as they don't want to interrupt their evening). The cast, composed of actors Morris had worked with in his early satirical shows, 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.
Morris introduced each episode in the style of a surreal compère, reading free form poetry over a nightmarish montage, often depicting someone as their life spirals out of control (for instance, one montage sees an unkempt man drinking from a bottle in a bag as he walks down the street, before being kidnapped by "dung-breathed men" and forced to wrestle pigs in the Fens).
Jam was co-written by Peter Baynham, with additional material contributed by Jane Bussmann, David Quantick, Graham Linehan, Arthur Mathews and the cast themselves. The show perplexed audiences and critics on its initial broadcast. Some hailed it as breakthrough, daringly original television, while others dismissed it as merely sickening and juvenile.
The show had no opening or closing titles, the latter replaced with its now-defunct web address, www.jamcredits.com. Instead, it would begin with a disturbing monologue by Morris, coupled with a corresponding montage. These would, to some degree or other, follow a character as their nightmares are made real, or their preconceptions are shattered, leaving them in a bleak reality (i.e. a woman walking her dog, only to discover it's just skeletal remains). Morris would then say: "Then welcome", followed by a nonsensical sentence (e.g. "Ooh, astonishing sod ape"), before finally announcing: "Welcome... in Jam". The word "jam" would rarely be said normally; it would either be heavily distorted, spoken in a strange accent, or just screamed repeatedly at the viewer.
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, which was the first time an entertainment show had run without ads on Channel 4. Morris has said that he asked Channel 4 to broadcast it without a break so as to not spoil the atmosphere. Sketches often had a documentary feel to them, the characters acting as if they were being interviewed about recent events.
Jam received a mixed reaction from critics, with views ranging from "the most radical and original television programme broadcast in years" to accusations of it being "adolescent", "sick", and "self-indulgent". The show received a number of complaints and was criticised by the Broadcasting Standards Commission. It is not generally as recognised as Morris's earlier, satirical TV work, and remains a cult show.
Three complaints about Jam were upheld. These concerned the sketches "Coffin Mistake", "Sex for Houses", and "Plumber Baby", as they were deemed insensitive to the bereaved and those with learning difficulties. The sketches in question dealt, respectively, with a man delivering a small homemade coffin to a couple whose child was stillborn, a couple prostituting the husband's mentally disabled sister as part of a property deal, and a bereaved mother who bribes a plumber to "fix" her dead baby in the way he would a boiler.
Five of the show's six episodes were classified "18" by the BBFC for very strong language and sexual content (particularly the "Gush" sketch, which depicts a prosthetic erection and fake semen, in a story about a pornographic film where the male actors die due to excessive ejaculation). Despite its content, the broadcast attracted nowhere near the controversy that the following year's Brass Eye special, "Paedogeddon", about media panic surrounding paedophilia, did.
In a 2008 interview, contributor Graham Linehan admitted he felt out of place during writing, and had mixed feelings about Jam: "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."
The show was featured on Channel 4's 100 Greatest Scary Moments.
Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish parodied Jam in Channel 4's 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.
|1||"Jam 1: chemotherapy wig"|
|Robert Kilroy Silk loses his mind, a man picks up his car from the garage only to find it is only four feet long, a suicidal man jumps off a first-floor balcony forty times rather than once off the top of the building, and an agency provides thick people for jobs that thick people are particularly good at.|
|2||"Jam 2: astonishing sod ape"|
|A woman calls a plumber to fix her dead baby, porn stars are afflicted by a deadly disease called "the gush", a man is buried alive because he doesn't want to die in his old age, and Mr Ventham goes to a therapist to find out what he should do on Saturday evening.|
|3||"Jam 3: oooohmhuhhhh"|
|A couple calls a repairman to deal with the lizards coming out of their television, a woman farts on her secretary's head rather than give one of her employees a pay raise, Mr Ventham can't find his wallet, and a man tries to hold up a shop with a gun in his stomach.|
|4||"Jam 4: arrested for copying dogs"|
|A doctor takes up phone sex to raise money for a young girl with cancer, Mr. Ventham's chin is a bit hot, a six-year-old girl helps a man get rid of a dead body, and a couple whose baby was miscarried is given the gift of a small coffin by their neighbour.|
|5||"Jam 5: fussfussfussfussfussfussfuss"|
|A woman's unorthodox method of acupuncture tends to leave her patients dead, a man tries to hold up a shop but forgets the axe he was going to use, a doctor blinds himself to get out of explaining an unusual prescription, and a very uninterested couple deal with the disappearance of their son.|
|6||"Jam 6: born dead through your own arse"|
|A woman tricks a man into "raping" her, two parents believe their daughter is really a 45-year-old man trapped in a little girl's body, a couple have an extremely bizarre sexual encounter, and a doctor insists there is nothing wrong with wetting yourself.|
Jam was released to DVD in April, 2003. The DVD is designed as a satire of DVDs themselves, with numerous pointless extras. For instance, each episode has both a "normal version" and a "special version". Other "versions" include a miniaturised version, a miniaturised moving version, a lava lamp version, a fast-forwarded version, the first 19 seconds of the episode only, and a fast-forwarded version expanded to the original running time. This last is 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.
When attempting to change the audio settings to surround sound, the DVD provides the viewer a link to a MP3 file (no longer hosted) on the show's official site and advises that it should be played from behind the viewer while watching the show; the file was a mono recording of wind, thumps and distant artillery.
- Selecting "Play All At Once" from the "Play All" menu reveals a large red dot; by pressing the select button on your DVD remote when this is shown, you can see an audition for a deleted scene.
- 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 minder. Numerous brief images depicting scenes similar to those in My Wrongs appear throughout Jam, suggesting that there had been a previous, aborted attempt to film this story as a sketch.
- Selecting "Play All Once" will, obviously, show the episodes in order, but at the end of episode two, just before episode three, a backstage look at the filming of the "Gush" porn film is shown. It is regarded as an outtake due to the laughter at the end.
- At the end of "London/Tokyo Jam Exhibition", a rehearsal for a deleted scene starring Kevin Eldon is shown. The scene is similar to the "45-year-old little girl" sketch in episode six. It is an adaptation of the "Optician" sketch from episode two of Blue Jam.
- "EVEN AFTER 16 YEARS, CHRIS MORRIS' 'JAM' IS STILL THE SICKEST, DARKEST, BLEAKEST TV COMEDY EVER MADE 'Jam' | Dangerous Minds ®". Dangerous Minds. 31 August 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
Jam often had the actors who’d done the original radio work lip-synch those same bits for the camera, giving the show an organically disturbing element that was difficult to pinpoint.
- "The distorted world of Chris Morris 'Jam' | The Independent ®". The Independent. 19 April 2000. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
in his latest project, Jam, he has created the most radical and original television programme broadcast in years
- "Disgusting Bliss: the Brass Eye of Chris Morris by Lucian Randall: review 'Jam' | The Independent ®". The Independent. 15 April 2010. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
But Morris is not a crowd-pleaser. He enjoys pushing his audience further and further, willing them to draw the line between what is acceptable and what is not. If there is nothing here you object to, he seems to be saying, you should be very worried.
- Hanley, Ken W. (11 August 2015). "Crossing Over: Christopher Morris' 'Jam' | Fangoria ®". Fangoria. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
Nevertheless, for those whose sensibilities lie in the blackest of pitch black comedy, there's few sketch shows that are as horror-friendly as Jam
- Breach, Poppy (13 April 2000). "C4 Excludes Ads from Macabre Jam". Marketing Mag.
- Hanks, Robert (20 April 2000). "The Distorted World of Chris Morris – People, News – The Independent". The Independent. Archived from the original on 17 May 2008. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- "My top ten Channel 4 programmes 'Jam' | doctorvee ®". doctorvee. 8 November 2007. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
A remixed version of Chris Morris’s Jam was perfectly suited to the late-night vibe.
- Jones, Ian (27 April 2000). "Off the Telly: Reviews/2000/Jam". Off the Telly. Archived from the original on 11 February 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- "BBC News - ENTERTAINMENT - Channel 4 comedy 'unacceptable'". BBC. 4 October 2000.
- "Search for Releases | British Board of Film Classification". BBFC. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- Anderson, Martin (1 April 2008). "The Den of Geek Interview: Graham Linehan | Den of Geek". Den of Geek. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- "100 Greatest Scary Moments: Channel 4 Film". Channel 4. Archived from the original on 28 October 2003. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
- "Jam: The Complete Series [DVD] : Amazon.co.uk: Christopher Morris, Amelia Bullmore, David Cann, Julia Davis, Kevin Eldon, Mark Heap, Roz McCutcheon: DVD & Blu-Ray". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 11 July 2016.