A rummage on Youtube has turned up the following televisual delight written by Jennifer Saunders, one half of the devastatingly funny comedy team French & Saunders. Ab Fab fans will know her as the indomitable Edwina Monsoon.
Jam and Jerusalem is a reference to the Women’s Institute, a women’s group in Britain originally designed to revitalize the countryside and encourage women to grow food during World War I. Since then, it has evolved into the country’s largest volunteer organization.
The WI is often caricatured as a lame gathering of old ladies who are in to quilting, jam-making and patriotism. Meetings are often opened with Hubert Parry’s hymn Jerusalem, hence the jam & Jerusalem epithet.
Saunders is an extraordinarily astute observer of human behaviour and what sets this depiction of country life apart is the tone. Her send-ups are sharply-drawn but never mean and the tender moments are all the more meaningful for steering well clear of the soft-focus Hallmark treatment. A generous but understated helping of the absurd top things off.
Saunders plays Caroline Martin and comedy partner, Dawn French, is Rosie Bales but it is the ensemble cast that makes the show as strong as it is.
The series was cancelled by the BBC last year, so there are only 16 episodes in total. Good news is they’re all on Youtube. Here’s the first one to whet your appetite: