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Also, you've got to give Saunders credit for assembling a fine ensemble of older woman -- a demographic that is widely ignored by contemporary TV.
This is not a laugh a minute and I do not think that was the intention. The characters are excellently written and are subtle. Unlike Absolutely Fabulous where the viewer learned that (s)he was dealing with an old tart and an aging hippy and their 'hilarious antics' after 10 minutes of the first episode (or indeed after the two minutes of the sketch from French and Saunders from which Ab Fab sprang) the characters in Jam and Jerusalem are more complex and will need at least one more series to come into their own, in much the same way that the characters of 'dinnerladies' took time to develop.
People who want slap-stick, American, literal comedy should steer well clear of Jam and Jerusalem. Fans of French and Saunders and comedy that requires some thought on the part of the viewer will love it.
I think it's not so much instant comedy as a comic look at the lives of a cross-section of women in a small community, who each have their problems. It feels as if it written from experience.
It is affectionate and not driven by sensational story lines. Most of the characters are ones that you recognise - and they are all concerned with looking out for each other, even if sometimes their help is misdirected.
It is more mature than Absolutely Fabulous, and nearly as enjoyable.
Sue Johnston is a real professional and totally believable as a widow without being cloy.
And Kate...well done for playing such a wimpy do-gooder full of good intentions but without a real life of your own.
Jennifer Saunder's stiff upper lip is a perfect antidote for Rosie's loopy behaviour, which I thought was ridiculous at first, but now I've got used to it and it is nice to see how she is protected by the other Guild members.
The vicar is a bit cardboardy and OTT as a character, but that is my only criticism and he became more believable when apologizing to Rosie.
The episode with the Doctor unable to examine his old headmistress was priceless.
This is a wonderful show that needs to be allowed to mature as the characters develop, but I love them all already.
It is a sweet, charming, funny slice of life in a West Country village filled with eccentric, idiosyncratic folks. There is no one there I don't like and many I would love to know.
It has so far been a complete delight, filled with Jennifer's trademark wit, a delicious cast, beautiful locations and wonderful music. No laugh tracks, no dumbed-down humor here. It has an almost Robert Altman-like quality with overlapping dialogue and wonderful set pieces (episode five has several, my favorite being the pony trials). U.S. viewers might not get some of the references but for those of us who grew up in large towns and now live big cities, it is a temptation to chuck it all and move in with these people.
British TV is noteworthy for not padding episodes with exposition and back story which is a refreshing change. You'll pick everything up, trust me.
While Jennifer plays a small role as perpetually nettled Caroline Martin, it is Sue Johnston's show. I loved her work in "Waking the Dead" and am delighted that she gets to show off her comic side. The rest of the cast is really solid, particularly Sally Phillips as Tash, (you haven't lived until you've seen her UK Valley-girl/hippie/stoner routine), and Dawn French's Rosie takes turns making me laugh and breaking my heart. Pauline McLynn plays Sue's best mate and has totally won me over.
The only weak spot might be Joanna Lumley's Delilah Stagg. It's pretty clear that Delilah is a somewhat re-worked version of the aged Patsy Stone from "Ab Fab." She seems to turn up, do a bit of business each episode and disappear. Not sure where Jennifer's going with Delilah, but who knows maybe that's the point.
Really first class TV. Can't wait for Series 2. Get busy ladies.
(Each episode runs a full 30 minutes.)
That can only be accomplished when a whole cast is up to the task. I can't wait for the next season!
However, it improved and from week 3 I was very happy with it. Although, I watched them in a block over four nights, having taped them with Sky plus. The acting is consistently good and the scripts have little gems all the way through - e.g. Rosie's holy potato and the vicars blessing of the stones.
There is a refreshing lack of typical sitcom situations and characters. Whilst to some it may be quaint, there is a subtle edge to the whole thing which gives moments of sadness and joy.
I know this is at odds with prior posts, but, having sat through the whole series I feel that it does not deserve to suffer for the couple of episodes that it took to establish the characters and the situation.
So to sum up, it is well worth watching in my opinion and I am really looking forward to the second series.
- Its not a comedy - Its Bad Acting - Not Storyline - Makes as much sense as my cat does - The characters are out of character - BADLY ADVITISED
Yeah - The list goes on
This IS NOT what French and saunders are used to doing, they should stick to making great comedy's like Ab Fab, Vicar of Dibly. Not this Rubbish.
Kill this series before it gives the great British comedy a bad name. Seriously, my dog is a better source of comedy when it is asleep!
However, unlike Corner Gas, French & Saunders can't escape their broader comedy roots and have added Rosie, an over-the-top buffoon who knocks the whole show out of proportion. Rosie needs to have a tragic accident with a piece of farm machinery to make this a proper drama series.
If you like soap operas when the tension builds over whether the picnic will be a success, or you like the drama of wondering how long before a widow takes a belt to her horrible adult children, this is the show for you. If you were expecting the usual French & Saunders tomfoolery, give this series a miss.
I was hoping to watch one episode a day and draw out the enjoyment of it but, after the first episode, I just had to keep going and now, with it all watched, I wish I could watch the second season but it doesn't seem to show up on BBC America anytime soon. So, I guess I will have to wait.
One reviewer said it would be compared to "Golden Girls" but I can't imagine that. I see it more as a more contemporary, more female, less comedic version of "Last of the Summer Wine". I love the look at village life and suspect that it is not too far off in regards to realism. The characterization is wonderful, the story line is comfortable and warm and real and I just enjoyed every minute of it. In fact, I will probably watch it again -- something I don't tend to do often.
1. People expected a new AbFab, and luckily, J&J isn't (because AbFab is great as it is)!
2. The characters are warm and not just stereotypes (like the ones in AbFab); and the funny bits are sometimes very subtle (not the sledgehammer kind of slapstick one finds in AbFab), and...
3. ... there are (luckily) no artificial/audience laughs to tell people when something's funny. (I mean this!)
4. Over the whole series hangs a curtain of melancholy. It's all about old age, death, illness, broken hopes, and all these matters hit the viewer directly, without a cushion of slapstick and silly punch lines in between. My favorite characters (French and Lumley) are the best examples: Ultimately funny, but one cannot get rid of the feeling that they are in fact pathetically tragic.
Actually, Mirrorball was similar in that it removed the wealth and consequently the care-freeness from an AbFab-like constellation of people, resulting in a much more tragic and bitter show. I don't know whether this was the reason they never made more than one episode, but I wouldn't be surprised if this was the reason.
So, anyone who likes a subtle and - in parts - sad comedy which deals with more or less real life situations, and which is played by extremely good actors which are up to the task: give J&J a try! The only thing I really don't like is the music. Can't stand folk...
Out of the large high-profile cast, Dawn French steals the show with a wonderful portrayal as the schizophrenic-suffering, sweet cheese factory employee Rosie Bales, while Joanna Lumley is completely unrecognisable in her role as eccentric church organist Delilah Stagg. I don't know why the BBC pulled the plug on this after just three series, it is a charming and gentle comedy that really brightens up your mood.
Some have complained that there are too many characters but I disagree. Each character develops at a nice leisurely pace as the series progresses so that by the end of the Christmas Panto we feel that we know these women quite well--and like them. I hope that this is the first of as many series as the characters can sustain and can hardly wait until Series 2.
The show will probably be award-winning and be commissioned for several more series, but as far as I am concerned the only award it deserves is for taking a great cast that has appeared in many of the most successful comedies of recent years (Father Ted, One Foot In The Grave, Peep Show) and making such a total mess. I can only really blame the writers, Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French who forgot how to write decent comedy over a decade ago, but are continually given the resources to fill our screens with more drivel. The BBC has to be applauded for not bowing to pressure from other channels and filling our screens with mindless reality TV, but the cast of Jam and Jerusalem means that it was probably much more expensive based on the wage bill and the location shooting - and is in my opinion a waste of the licence fee payers money when it is probably aimed at a section of the US market who think British people behave in this way.
It makes me feel sorry for the talented comedy writers out there who are rejected by the BBC, when they prefer to go with overrated writers who are living on well-past glories. This will probably be wrongly labelled as black comedy or comedy drama as the BBC does with all series like this (e.g. the execrable Nighty Night) when they have gone to a lot of trouble to create characters and scenarios then spectacularly failed to write any decent jokes, thinking that weirdness in itself is always funny. Wrong.
Comparisons I have seen with the sublime League of Gentlemen (one of the only real black comedies produced in the UK in recent years) are completely unfounded as that was hilarious for the first two series (and even the third was far better than this), and this had barely a recognisable joke or amusing scenario in the whole first episode that I could see. Admittedly it was only the first episode and another recent BBC comedy "Not Going Out" had a similarly poor start, but the latter had the advantage of at least having likable characters and a handful of decent gags that made me give that another go and that turned out to be very good. This had no such redeeming features that made me want to torture myself a second time.
Addendum: I have seen bits of other episodes in later weeks and if anything Jam and Jerusalem became even worse in my opinion. Even though it has now been labelled as a drama (good TV should not have to be labelled), I can't find any more merit in it than before.
I'm a big F&S fan, but even I was disappointed by the first episode of J&J. Nonetheless I kept watching, and I wound up being entranced. Jen Saunders is a wonderful writer, the characters really grow on you and the more you see the more you'll want to see. It may be especially difficult for American viewers to comprehend English country life, but the series is totally charming and is very very funny in a quiet kind of way. The cast is excellent, especially Dawn French and Sue Johnston. It's very well worth the investment -- enjoy!!
First off I want to know who put it in the comedy genre. It's not, it has funny parts that only Jennifer Saunders could write, but this is a light drama about a group of women who belong to a church social group.
I think the other problem people have with this is they think Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders who are both cast in it will be the main characters. They aren't. Sue Johnston who plays as Sal Vine is the main character. Her hardships with her family and this group of women from the church social group are what this revolves around. Once you get that into your head, it's a lot easier to deal with.
I have to note the funny stuff. Because when they come they're really funny, you just have to watch for them.
Delilah - Joanna Lumley reigns comedic queen in this show. Her character seems about a hundred years old and everything she does from riding a bike to driving a car is hilarious.
Rosie - Dawn French plays a woman with duel personalities. There's Rosie and there's Margaret. Rosie's happy, Margaret is not. She's also a little on the mentally challenged side. The sweet thing is watching the women of this group care for her.
Tippi - Pauline McLynn (who I've never heard of) is Sal's best friend. She's the receptionist at the local town Surgery (doctor's office for us Yanks) and she knows people by their medical problems more than their names which is really funny if you don't want others knowing your private 'personal' business.
Yasmeen - Salima Saxton (who I've never heard of either) is a serious woman, as she works as a nurse for her husband's doctoring practice you come to find that she has a weak stomach for anything remotely... um... bodily secreted. She's always ready to wretch.
Oddly enough Jennifer really doesn't play a funny bit. Her character Caroline is a minor player in the group. Her IRL daughter Freya is her daughter in the show. She was in two episodes, but she really only needed to be in one.
I have to admit, Jennifer did an excellent job in penning this show. Nicely done.
The portrait of British countryside life is doubtless strong and faithful, but I guess I'm too much of a city boy. Fans of "Last of the Summer Wine" (though it had stronger character development) or "The Vicar of Dibley" (if you thought the humor in the latter is too intrusive) will doubtless take to this series like ducks to water, but others be warned: this has nothing of the warm character development of "All Creatures Great and Small" or the sophisticated humor of "Yes Minister" or "Hot Lead" (but also blessedly none of the camp of "Are You Being Served").
It is what it is, but I enjoyed my actual time in the British countryside with real people more than my few hours with this strangely insulting show.