Thursday, April 13, 2000 by

A few episodes in and more definite opinions start coalescing.

It is difficult to adopt a posture of disliking Chris Morris and it is profoundly easy to acquiesce. His reputation as a maverick in media circles is unmatched by any other current exponent. A combination of savvy and a determination not to be distracted from his objectives has allowed Morris to become our own personal, recognised “individual”. He holds aloft our own banner of creative freedom, he carries our battering ram to knock asunder the doors of acceptability. We need simply watch, and as long as we are applauding loud enough then we can be said to be something of the maverick that he is.

Stripped away, this episode of jam neither revealed a programme at the vanguard of progressive television, nor an insubstantial exercise in packaging. The truth lies somewhere between. The regular Doctor sketch abandoned smart Python-esque surrealism, in favour of a positively Smith & Jones concept (that of the doctor continually interrupting his examination of a patient to perform the function of a telephone sex line operator). Aside from the level of obscenity (and further proof that Morris’ favourite slang for the male appendage is most definitely “cock”), this was essentially pedestrian stuff. Such was the lack of inventiveness that I expected the sketch to conclude with the arrival of some orderly to take the “doctor” away revealing to the bemused onlooker that this particular GP was bogus and instead a patient suffering from delusions of being a doctor.

Other sketches provided moments of genuine bemusement and amusement (particularly the visiting-the-office-with-a-hot-chin), however the prevailing tone of this series has most definitely been discomfiture. Morris acutely understands our relationship with different broadcasting formats, employing obvious hand held, “home-movie” footage when ultra realism is required, and distorted sound when disorientation is the desired effect. Considerable thought has obviously been invested into the “look and feel” of jam, and it is really in presentation and packaging that this programme most betrays the idiosyncrasies of its creator. jam is pointedly posturing and contentious (no end credits, shorter then advertised running time), and although these contrivances are sometimes pleasant subversions of the medium, they ultimately serve little purpose (with the reduced running time in particular – by implicitly suggesting the programme has been subject to some form of censorship – only serving to induce more apocryphal Morris stories).

So in the end, like most personal work, jam is an extension of its creator. It shares Morris’ amusing and rather sweet fixation with obscenities; his precious, protected and managed self-image; and his sharp ability to marry conventional comedic material to stylised and modern readings. If you like and respect the cult of Chris Morris then jam will please you. If you are in any way suspicious of his motives, talent or genuine ability to innovate then you will find much here to support your viewpoint. Either way, this is undeniably different, although perhaps not different enough.


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