In defence of Jam Posted Fri May 19 16:45:49 BST 2000 by Jason Hazeley


(i might regret this, but i figure you guys can handle a little devil's
advocado.)

the review describes it, albeit within inverted commas, as a failure.
inverted commas do cover a sackload of sins, but, to be honest with you, the
argument then proposed lacks flesh.

my main bugbear here is that sotcaa are just *so* good at comic analysis:
most of the site is just bursting with information and well thought-out
opinion. but the jam review swings fairly wide of the mark, as i read it.
anyway, for the sake of inviting some discussion (and not, i must stress, to
pick holes in your work, which i admire greatly), here's my
hundredandtwopennyworth of response. i'll deal with each bit roughly in the
order your review did.

first of all the review talks about the programme's big brother, blue jam,
and complain that it wasn't debated or justified, just fawned over. okay,
this is a good starting point, but it is aiming a missile at the fans just a
trifle too early. it's also difficult to substantiate.

morris has a good batch of fans: largely, as with anyone creative's
following, they're terribly straightforward, occasionally opinionated
people. there is usually a hardcore that believe that their hero can do no
wrong, but these people are in the minority, and anyway, they usually grow
out of it.

i talked to one other morris fan (of the non-obseqious variety, like me)
after the first few blue jams had been tx'd, and he said that he'd given up
listening to the series. he just didn't like it, he averred. it wasn't
funny and it wasn't a parody of a news programme.

this in itself is enough of a good springboard.

i was surprised, because i'd really enjoyed blue jam, and had been refreshed
by its simplicity and quirkiness, but it did occur to me that a great many
morris fans had clung on to (and could quote) his every little
aphorism/aside/platitude/non-sequitur from oth, tdt and brasseye, and that
morris was delivering these people (although he probably wasn't too
exercised by this, and why should he be?) something they really weren't
expecting and really might not like. gone were the stabbing news sigs, the
punchy delivery, the beautifully childish editing and the scams. and these
were the things that the fans had lived for: morris pulling people to
pieces.

it seemed, to my friend the fan, that since he'd stopped being the parodist
and (ugh by christ i hate the phrase) 'media terrorist,' he'd stopped being
funny. to me, this was rubbish. i personally didn't know how much more
parody and terrorism i could take. and, as you rightly point out, the news
virus had started to attract all sorts of other tedious little organisms
(latterly the 11ocs, for example) on its agar dish. i was rather hoping
he'd do a complete about-turn, so i was delighted.

so blue jam didn't just have a stream of rose-tinted approbators.

the review then touches upon what might have disappointed the corpses about
jam. and here you raise some good points: was jam the programme people had
expected? was ambient comedy getting a bit de trop? did the programme lack
surprise? (any of these points could be dwelled upon, by the way, but i'm
in danger of getting verbose: however, you don't say what you expected from
jam, which i'd certainly be interested to know...)

then the review mentions that you can't slag off comedy publicly any more.
(i do hope your tongues were firmly chafing against your cheeks at this
point, because you sodding well *can* slag it off and you guys are
particularly good at it. you can't imagine how delighted i was - and a
friend of mine has cited the same example - when i read your kick in the
balls for that disgustingly schmaltzy, apologetic, pissweak, emotionally
blackmailing last episode of blackadder goes forth.)

but here's where i throw my big spanner at your formidable works.

the gist of the review then continues that morris's cast and crew (and, by
extension, i presume, bosses) are so overawed by him that they let him get
away with whatever he wants without offering any criticism, deliver
half-baked performances because he's looking over their shoulder, or do
things only to impress.

if i were one of morris's colleagues, i'd be personally quite hurt at this.
have you any evidence of morris running his own sort of autocracy (i know
you're connected to talkback, so maybe you know more about this than you've
let on...), except in the sense that he's the producer, director, co-writer,
creator and sometime participant in jam and blue jam? i do find the idea
that the talkback employees all stumble around him trying to keep him happy
- possibly an exaggeration of your argument in my head, i'll admit.

but consider this. morris is the man behind jam and blue jam in a big way.
it's his baby, so he's bound to want to wrest as much creative control as he
can from it. he's no different in this respect from louis theroux or even
noel edmonds (heaven forfend, which it bloody well hasn't, fortifying my
atheism beyond words.) and his stuff is ve


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By Jason Hazeley (contd.) on Fri May 19 16:49:03 BST 2000:

...and his stuff is very definitely his material, so he
is, in all truth, almost certainly the best man for the job of directing or
producing.

in addition, morris invites and regularly uses contributions from a handful
of outside writers - bussman and quantick, linehan and mathews, robert katz,
peter baynham etc. even mark heap and kevin eldon got a writing credit in
one episode of jam. this doesn't point to someone whose ego gets in the
way.

furthermore, and perhaps most pointedly, morris consistently inspires
affection from the people he works with. now, unless he's some kind of
utterly tyrannical cunt (and i can't imagine he'd have gone very far with a
company like talkback had he been so) who barks orders to the lackeys and
insists upon this and that with a terrifying ferocity, he's probably liked
by those who work with him (cf the brass eye designer's website comments)
because he's a nice guy. he's obviously absurdly quick-witted, which is
always appealing, and he's also pointedly proud of his work (even to the
point of 'grade is a cunt,' which may have been ill-judged, but it was at
least heartfelt: and who leaked it to the press?) i have to admit, were i
working for someone whose passion for their projects was manifest, i think
i'd be pleased that i was working within an atmosphere of creative
integrity.

besides, if morris was the subject of such ingratiation, wouldn't he have
had his name all over the show instead of burying the credits on a website?
wouldn't he have appeared in more than four sketches in the show (the intros
aside)? wouldn't he have appeared more in blue jam? and wouldn't he have
transplanted some of his set pieces (rothko etc.) to tv?

then the review gets into details. for me, it's a bit hazy here. it says
that the transfer of blue jam from radio to tv doesn't deliver, but it
doesn't say how or why. then it repeats the 'fans don't debate it' point
and combines it with the 'it was better on radio' line of thought. this
usually translates, as i'm sure you know, into 'i've heard it before.' in
defence of this, i'm delighted that i heard the gags before in blue jam
rather than heard them everywhere before (cf almost everything the 11ocs
did.)

then the review touches on a really interesting point, about which i wish
you guys had said more, because it's a hugely regular theme in television
comedy: style over content.

the gist of the argument here is that the visuals in jam weren't
interesting. i'm not convinced. i think the visuals did about as much as
they could without disappearing up their own arses. for instance, most of
the camerawork in the show is surprisingly ordinary. the moments of visual
creativity were often at the top of sketches (cf the doctor sketch that
starts on a crab shot at ninety degrees to the horizon), and not in the
midst of them. in that respect, they were fairly economical and
interesting. the major visual effects on jam, however, obviously happened
in the editing suite. aside from the possibility that this might not have
been morris's doing (because it almost certainly was), the fx serve the
useful purpose that they adhere closely to and enhance the deliberately
'monged' pace of the show, and help the show's fluid nature. what they
aren't (in my werry humble opinion, sirrah) is either distracting or a
cover-up for a weak script.

the style-over-content thing is a royal pain in the seat for anyone who
really gives a shit about television. your jihad against drop-framing is a
great example: it does look really quite shit when applied to a sitcom like
'beast,' but where it was used in jam, it wasn't really that offensive.
even the notion of drop-framing was dealt with in the series: when kevin
eldon asks amelia bullmore for a payrise, the show starts out with straight
video playback, then shifts into drop-framing, from which it later recovers.
quite a nice twist. and i haven't seen anybody else doing it.

but jam did more than that: it used cctv, it used stop-frame effects, it ran
the picture and sound out of sync, it even submitted itself to the first
ever (i think) tv remix. jaaaaam looked, by turns, mildly irritating (the
visuals were sometimes too much) and quite sublime (cf the 'synchronised
cocks' remix).

style-over-content becomes a real problem when production supremos pile
thousands and thousands of pounds into filming a shite script with
staggeringly, unjustifiably lush set design and filming and costuming etc.
french and saunders are by far and away the most poignant example of this:
the last few (few?) series of their stuff has been absolutely bursting with
delicious-looking parodies that just aren't aren't aren't funny. of course,
producers will always want things to look engaging and attractive and
clever, but they don't often sink to f&s depths, where the programme becomes
a sort of millennium dome - 'we know how to build this huge and engaging
thing, now what the fuck shall we fill it with?' etc.

then the review deals with 'dark is easy.' to be hon


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By Jason Hazeley (Last bit) on Fri May 19 16:51:41 BST 2000:

then the review deals with 'dark is easy.' to be honest, this is the most
unjustified claim in the whole piece, but, as i've averred before, this
isn't me picking your argument to pieces, it's me responding to it with a
healthy dash of devil's whatsit.

is dark easy? i don't know how easy dark is, to be honest, and wouldn't
like to guess. of course, as the review says, it's possible to make
something look dark by plastering it in effects etc, but jam doesn't really
do this. the darkness in jam and blue jam is, i think, quite easily
defined. anyway, since you haven't asked for it, here's my theory about
morris's dark side.

brasseye, from what little morris has said about it, almost destroyed him,
and left him smartinglike some open sore with no thirsty biblical dog in
sight. after the hassles with channel four, the hassles with lawyers and
the hassles with michael grade (which were a shame, to be sentimental for a
moment, since grade did much to kick british tv into a better shape and
fiercely defended morris until the eleventh hour), morris was no way about
to launch into another parody prog, or anything like it. and he must have
been fairly miserable, because he wanted brass eye to allow him to 'step out
of the inverted commas of the news format,' which it didn't really do with
any degree of success. it must have occurred to him that to step out of the
inverted commas that had been the parameters of everything he'd worked on
since oth, he'd need to get a whole new set of parameters together - which
is presumably where the idea of slowing the jokes down came from. and he's
a huge music lover, so it made sense for him to set it to some kind of
soundtrack. initially, he was going to use exclusively ambient music, to
give the show its fluidity and feel, but he soon found that he could get
away with plenty more tunes, which gave blue jam a little more spice and
colour.

the idea of slowing the joke down - or, by extension, stretching it to its
absolute limits (cf 'i feel... i feel... like... i feel... huh... i feel
like... a dog... on a motorway') probably isn't particularly new. lee and
herring did it to great effect with 'the boy who cried wolf.' but the idea
of slowing the whole show to this pace was new, and it gave the show its
feel.

however, i'd guess that the biggest influence on the dark feel of the show
was the material.

morris's humour appeals to all sorts because it is so three-dimensional and
surprising that you really don't know what he's going to do next. he's also
obviously a brilliant editor and is breathtakingly verbal. but the blue jam and jam material
lacks much of this surprise and verbal dexterity, which seems to have
aggrieved morris fans as much as his dismissal of the news parody. but this
was deliberate, and admirably dangerous: he could have flopped appallingly
on radio one. since the series was recommissioned twice, and he more or
less overlooked the archbishop fiasco, we can assume that both he and the
bbc were very happy with it.

on the other hand, the material itself is absolutely consistent with
morris's previous work. morris's major fascinations have always been:

quote:

(1) things medical (presumably thanks to his parents being doctors) like
prenatal beauty therapy, the wide face problem, backstreet dentists,
slemell's disease, stomach velocity, virginia bottomley's organ sharing
scheme, the organ precursor cell experiment giant testicle, a stomach full
of shoulders, good and bad aids, symptomless coma, acupuncture, 'she's not
just a little girl,' all the doctor sketches etc;

(2) animals (the zoology background?), eg global dolphin consciousness, sit
in a pen and save a hen, bombdogs, horses on the underground, boneless apes,
fox hunting and humanity, peter baynham and the tortoise, karla the elephant
and all of brass eye ep1, the model and the elephant monologue, the bloke
who wants to shag his dog before the vet puts it down, the woman dragging
the dead dog around the park and just about every hoax phone call he's ever
made etc;

(3) parenthood (what with him being a parent and all that) - see the
gynasium womb implant (again), kiddies' outing, peter baynham stealing a
baby from oxford street, sock quiz, sophie vhaaalbje (or however it's
spelt), git surfing, drumlake school, the girl whose parents fake their own
funerals in case she becomes a junkie, baby fights, ted from primary three,
barryıs present of a coffin to his neighbours who have had a miscarriage,
the preterm clinic, itıs about ryan, the couple who donıt believe theyıre
pregnant etc;

and (4) broadcasting (because it's clearly the only job he's ever done), eg
the stylistic content of absolutely everything heıd done until blue jam,
including peter oıhanraha-hanrahan, monsignor treeb lopez, alan partridge,
rosie may, and all the various parodies and stitch-ups heıs done.

blue jam and jam basically removed the fourth element from the equation, and
left the material to find its own


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By a0d on Sun May 21 12:50:06 BST 2000:

hurrah for jam!!!


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By Joel on Mon May 22 17:04:46 BST 2000:

On the other hand, good though Jam was, is Chris M doing anything other than preaching to the converted? If your show is trailed as "shocking" and "dark", then everyone is warned and anyone who might be shocked simply switches over and watches Carol Vorderman's Animal Shelves. Remember how the delay before the broadcast of Brass Eye effectively neutered its shock value? - everyone knew it was going to be grisly well in advance. With the audience cosily ready to be shocked the only possible amusement comes from neat writing / performance - hence how nice the "man who married himself" sketch was compared to the "it was only rape" sketch. No joke and all shock (when we have all already steeled ourselves) makes Chris a dull boy.

I still videoed them all though...


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By Jason Hazeley (A bit more...) on Mon May 22 18:42:08 BST 2000:

blue jam and jam basically removed the fourth element from the equation, and
left the material to find its own way through his usual themes. not that
huge a departure, really, but when you take scripts about animals, medicine
and parenthood and put them through a slow-it-down filter, you're hardly
going to end up with something happy, clappy and sunny, are you?
furthermore, most of morrisıs material has as its starting point some kind
of crisis. before blue jam and jam, it was usually something objective,
unbelievable and, often, hugely overinflated, like the prime minister
punching up the queen, war ad nauseam, johnnie walker being found dead, the
arrival of cake, karlaıs trunk getting stuffed up her guts, michael
heseltineıs death and any number of scams, off which crises (morris has
correctly reasoned) itıs easier to spring a campaign of sorts and get people
voxpopping all over the place. in blue jam and jam, the crises affect the
characters involved, rather than to the general public, the listener or the
interviewee. thus people lose their children, get their car crushed,
accidentally kill someone, find a lump on their breast, discover theyıre
sexually attracted to each other, canıt stop ejaculating, whatever.
add this internalising-of-crisis to the lack of the broadcast/parody element
of morrisıs humour and you get blue jam. or jam. and itıs impossible to be
anything other than dark. that said, it canıt have been easy to arrive at
that mix. and, for me, both jam and blue jam got the atmosphere right. of
course, this isnıt an apologia for morris, so i canıt claim either to be
without fault, but apart from the occasional stutter (like the lonely woman
who ruins kilburn ­ really quite dull), it all worked with consummate ease.
the removal of the ad break in jam is a curious point to pick up on for you
guys. iıd have thought you were delighted that it went out without adverts.
i was. although, like you, i think the show was too short. just like the
review says, the end of the show came all too soon. one wonders why it was
only a channel four half hour, in fact: itıs not as if morris had a dearth
of material (after three series of blue jam). presumably this was
budgetary, although, again, this would surprise me: jam must have come in at
a fraction of the cost of brass eye and the day today.
the intros are a more interesting argument. i didnıt think, as the sotcaa
review states, that they looked like Œclick ting stamps,ı although the
review was talking about the intro to ep1, which was the weakest. but as
for the vanning to the fens and the sextet of morrises on scooters in the
car park and mark heap having only the body of a slug, they were both
visually arresting and fantastically disturbing, which really kicked off the
show well. how else would the corpses have envisaged those pieces being
filmed? iıd be interested to know.
lastly, i canıt really agree with you that morris misjudged the media. the
media, on the whole, absolutely loved the series, with (occasionally) a bit
of undue gushing of the type the sotcaa review attributes to morris actors
and colleagues. and, obviously, it goes without saying that the daily mail
shouldnıt have liked it and the fact that they did is a sceaming fucking
disgrace, but hey, even morris canıt have everything. i canıt work out what
you mean by misjudgment of the media, because i didnıt detect any at all.
the only part of the media campaign that bothered me was the low-key-ness of
the publicity, which was almost too quiet, as sotcaaıs review asserted.
however, i think the Œscene missingı parts of the review tapes (and a friend
of mine has one, and reviewed it favourably for a national newspaper)
covered Œthe day kilroy lost his mind,ı in case of eleventh hour lawsuits.
you must be bored by now, surely?
anyway, food for thought and all that. and itıs the first time iıve strung
more than two thoughts together in a row since the late nineties.

by the way, your reviewer probably wasnıt expecting too
much, as he/she wrote. one of the appealing things about morris is that you
do expect something exceptional. and you canıt say the same for many other
people in comedy.


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By Mike Scott Corpse on Mon May 22 18:43:44 BST 2000:

Jason sent me this message as an e-mail, and its messy presentation on this forum is entirely my fault.


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By a0d on Mon May 22 21:12:42 BST 2000:

excuse me, but may i ask what the hell you are talking about??


Or are you just 'talking about jam' and infact not writing anything thats worth reading... whatsoever!!!


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By Anonymous on Mon May 22 21:28:14 BST 2000:

What a welcome addition aOd is to this forum.





Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By Anonymous on Mon May 22 23:03:09 BST 2000:

No, he's a tit.

he doesnt seem to understand 'humour' or 'discussion'.

or, in fact, any of 40,000 other words in the average human vocabulary.


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By a0d on Tue May 23 01:55:01 BST 2000:

I understand the sinister aspects, yes.


Whats discussion for, if not blood??


And that Jason Hazeley 'cock water' seemed a little, diluted.


I can say 'cock water', cant I??


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By Anonymous on Tue May 23 07:06:56 BST 2000:

You are an idiot.

Jason's contributions are the best thing that has ever appeared on this forum. They could even save it. More, please.


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By jason hazeley on Tue May 23 11:34:14 BST 2000:

a0d - what's wrong? i read the review of 'jam' on this site and decided to respond. no big deal.

j xxx

ps. memo to self: add flavouring to cock water. as fucking if.


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By Anonymous on Tue May 23 22:25:40 BST 2000:

what's wrong with a0d?

he's 12 years old and was dropped on his head as a baby. dont worry about trying to please someone who getys a kick out of spamming users and calling people 'cunts' for no reason, because they just arent worth it.

similarly, dont give credence to anonymous people.

(irony)


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By enD0 on Sat May 27 02:53:57 BST 2000:

but a0d was merely stating that this is un interesting to him, and nothing written about Jam can be as good as watching the real thing.

And justifications are equally as uninteresting to him as critification wrongs... and also...


fact is the only thing other people have worth offering from jam, in the a0d's eyes are inspirations.


self oppinions of what Jam scetches are 'good' and what arn't, is what you seem to feel wothy to 'give'


a0d would like to ask why you thought the greacing kilburn (was it?) scetch was poor, as that was to only notable thing rememberd on the matter.


please enlighten...


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By jason something on Tue May 30 00:01:43 BST 2000:

i thought the kilburn sketch was weak, devoid of punchlines and ideas, unlike most of 'jam.' that's about it. it stood out for me as a weak sketch - do you disagree, a0d?

j xxx


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By Anonymous on Tue May 30 00:47:33 BST 2000:

...no, hang on.

That was sarcasm, right?


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By hazeley on Tue May 30 08:48:27 BST 2000:

i can't remember. was it?

j xxx


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By Anonymous on Tue May 30 21:00:55 BST 2000:

If you were asking a0d for a logical answer, i really hope it was sarcasm.


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By jason hazeley on Wed May 31 10:43:47 BST 2000:

i'm losing track of whether i'm being sarcastic or not. life's like that sometimes.

and i watched the 'greasing kilburn' again last night, and i'm wrong, it isn't devoid of punchlines and ideas, it's just (for me) one of the least successful sketches of the series. julia davis, terrific though she is, has an oddly too-slow approach to some of the jam material. but perhaps cm wanted it that way.

who am i to say?

j xxx


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By Neil on Sat Jun 3 21:28:09 BST 2000:

Cheap and occult point, but the last stupid message reads just like one of the letters of Jack the Ripper.

If these are still being read: thank you, Jason, for your comments on JAM - good to read such lucid and passionate opinion here ; and thank you, aOd - you make sensible people feel a lot better about themselves, you ignorant turd.


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By Neil on Sat Jun 3 21:40:20 BST 2000:

Yes, Kilburn sketch very weak - has the ring of Peter Baynham just happily throwing some rubbish into the stew. Welsh bumrape fantasists didn't work here, either - Eldon's stupid grin a reprise too far of his BrassEye gurning (although JAM is the best thing he's done by far). Must stop discussing 'my least favourite sketches'...

Wonder where CM will go from here. I can see how he came to find OTH, TDT and BE too 'ingratiating', but the mindset of BLUE JAM has itself ossified now. As far as this goes, SOTCAA's call for a more traditional approach (or a new spin on old forms) would seem right. Is Morris's problem a new one, do you think? A literary talent and a popular (if only for his 'stunts') comic trying to satisfy all his interests at once? Jacks of all trades end up resented, more often than not. Even by SOTCAA...


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By Justin on Sun Jun 4 08:47:00 BST 2000:

Thought it was brilliantly original, amusing (rather than hilarious) in places, acting superb. But...I haven't watched any of the videos since they were transmitted. Nor do I have any plans to. Does this mean I didn't like it that much, or simply that I'm not in the mood?

Also, I miss the musical interludes from Blue Jam, which really gave the show something of an added dimension, especially if you were half asleep. Hearing whole tracks by Lennon, Morcheeba, Velvets and loads of others (happy to find that someone else besides myself bought Baby Fox's album - they play about four tracks from that in the first series).

Also, I miss Morris's monologues - Clive The Suicide Journalist was my favourite one, although it lost something in transition when it was reborn as Richard Geefe's Time To Go.

That said, it was good enough (hardly incisive criticism)...but I haven't really made my mind up as to how funny Jam actually was (which, when all is said and done, is the point of the show. Or is anti-comedy Morris's agenda now? Perhaps.


Subject: Re: In defence of Jam [ Previous Message ]
Posted By ribbit on Fri Jun 16 12:56:08 BST 2000:

I was always wary of a TV version of Blue Jam, as I have always felt that BJ was an intensely personal experience. Radio can communicate that effect, but it's very hard for TV to do the same. I found Jam disappointing and rather dull, going for easy effects rather than approaching the series with some imagination. Chris Morris is capable of better.


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