Described as “pretty bonkers”, “shocking” and “super original” by Sky’s Head of Comedy Lucy Lumsden, new comedy This Is Jinsy premiered at the Media Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival 2011 over the weekend.
Predictably, This Is Jinsy (a show which saw its pilot air on BBC Three last year) is none of the superlatives laden on it, but that doesn’t mean that Sky Atlantic’s first foray into original comedy should ignored – far from it.
The sketch-based sitcom does feature some laughs and the setting is ideal. And for those who have never seen Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, Absolutely, The Mighty Boosh or Flight of the Conchords, then This Is Jinsy may very well be originally shocking bonkers.
But for those who have, there’s something very familiar about the new show. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; a laugh is a laugh and as Miranda Hart pointed out at the same festival, “funny’s funny” regardless of class, age or style.
This Is Jinsy is centred around the small island of Jinsy, which is inhabited by a distinctly odd population and constantly monitored by the ever watchful Arbiter Maven and his assistant Sporall.
Played by the show’s creators, Chris Bran and Justin Chubb, the double-act come across not unlike those loveable droids from the Star Wars saga, See-Threepio and Artoo-Deetoo. The first episode sees the two fighting over a woman, but events are dominated by the appearance of the guest character Mr Slightlyman.
This Dale Winton persona is played by Doctor Who star David Tennant, who camps it up in the most delicious (not to mention grotesque) of fashions evoking Gok Wan at every turn of his tower-block style high heels. The former Time Lord does rather steal every scene he’s in and those familiar with his Russell Brand pastiche in Catherine Tate’s Nan’s Christmas Carol will enjoy the Scotsman once more.
Slightlyman presents the ‘Wedding Lottery’ (with a tagline of “Keeping the island’s breed pool clean”) which is just one of the many surreal television programmes the population is treated to – along with Nose Hurling, the Singing Obituaries and a show that dishes out punishments presented by a femmed-up Harry Hill.
There’s almost a sci-fi, Big Brother (Orwell not Dowling) feel to This Is Jinsy and we can’t help but think that it’s what Sixties cult series The Prisoner would be like as a sketch show. From the heightened reality of the CG work, to the Terry Gilliamish animations, to the Spike Milliganesque wordplay, it all feels decades old (again, not necessarily a negative).
Its closest cousins are most definitely the aforementioned Boosh and Conchords – particularly in the Brechtian presentation of scenes (and by that we mean cheap), though it doesn’t quite come off here as well as it might. There’s certainly a jarring discontinuity between the special effects and the action that isn’t as engaging as the aforementioned imitatees. The allusions between these shows is made all the more apparent through the use of songs, many of which are peppered throughout (they tend to favour jingles and ditties as opposed to full songs, much to their credit).
It’s a shame that BBC Three didn’t stick with the show as This Is Jinsy could have the ability to ape The Mighty Boosh in its success, at some point. Its Sky Atlantic home (not yet known for British comedies) may well turn out to work against it as they don’t seem to know how to market their new acquisition.
It’s a neat show with lots of potential, fun characters and a few laughs – just not “pretty bonkers”, “shocking” or “super original”. My advice to them? Don’t try to sell something as “brand new” when it’s clearly second-hand.
Watch the trailer…