I follow Peter Serafinowicz and Robert Popper—the splendid minds behind Look Around You—with as close to religious zeal as Twitter will allow. Any time they put up a link, you can bet your bumcivillian I’ll check it out. My blind faith in their genius led me to find out about This Is Jinsy, arguably the greatest show I have never seen. The show hasn’t aired yet—not even on BBC3, let alone in the United States—but I am already a fan. The trailer full of spoons and explosions and strange references to Where the Wild Things Are thoroughly sold me on it. And then there’s the Onion Song, a masterpiece of vague acoustic folk.
Here’s what I know: on the island of Jinsy, seagulls can talk and people live under the constant observation of Arbiter Maven and Operative Sporall. A liquid called Pelch is milked from the udders of a tree, and it’s not only illegal to ferment at home, it’s also explosive. There are eggs with comb-overs. The show’s website is well worth a look if you enjoy genuine goofiness, but as for what exactly Jinsy is, what it’s about and where it came from, there’s not a whole lot of info available. So I contacted Chris Carey of the Welded Tandem Picture Company (and one of the show’s producers) to find out more. I asked him a bunch of questions. Will this be a series or a one-time event? Chris Bran and Justin Chubb have mainly been music video directors. How did they become writing and producing partners? How did the Welded Tandem Picture Company come together? How would you describe the show?
Chris Carey replies:
A Welded Tandem is an odd object; two tandems joined impractically together makes for an unpredictable, unstable, and essentially rather daft mode of transport. And such is the case of The Welded Tandem Picture Company—a company formed on the one side by two producers (me and James Dean) and the other by two comic writers, performers and directors (Chris Bran and Justin Chubb). By rights we shouldn’t have a cat in hell’s chance of succeeding. And of course there are no guarantees. But surely anyone who’s given the world ‘Onions’, ‘Spoons’ and ‘Types of Wood‘ should at least deserve a hearing?
We started the company in auspicious circumstances just as the world tipped into global recession in the fall of 2008. So, our timing showed savvy business sense right from the off. The organization of the company can equally be described as a strategic masterstroke—Chris and Justin went to school together on Guernesy (a small Island between England and France) and have been making funny things together ever since. Chris met James Dean at a film college several years ago. I met James working together on a TV series a few years ago. James introduced me to Chris and Justin a couple of years ago and we decided that Jinsy was clearly the greatest comedy idea any of us had ever seen and thought it would be rather fun to make it ourselves. So we set up a company together and that’s what we’ve done. Brilliant, calculated, considered stuff.
Simply put we just couldn’t bear the idea of doing this any other way than totally independently. Many of the established production houses offered to develop this, and tempting though it was it just didn’t seem right to do it any other way than stubbornly, uncompromisingly on our own. Fortunately, The BBC liked the look of Jinsy—even though it’s a bit odd and that Chris and Justin are total unknowns, so, understandably it scares them a bit—and they’ve been pretty supportive. They paid for a few scripts, then funded the pilot, then some new online sketches and are now going to broadcast the show sometime in early March. Then they’ll decide on whether they’ve got the stomach to give us a series or not.
Credit to them for giving it a go—it’s no small thing when a band of morons like us pitch up and demand that not only must they commission a totally new company with zero track record, they also have to let two complete unknowns write, perform and direct (oh, and edit and do all the Visual FX compositing and compose all the music too: Never let it be said that Chris and Justin are perfectionists!). The BBC did let us do that, and hopefully with a little push and enough positive response when the pilot goes out, they’ll let us make the series.
We need to show that there are people out there who might like a bit of Jinsy. We need people to come to the Facebook fanpage and watch the trailers, leave messages, comments. In a week or two there’ll be half a dozen 2- to 3-minute sketches up there that give people a glimpse into Island life. In risk-averse, financially strapped times (bankers aside, obviously) things almost have to prove themselves a success before they’re launched: a bonkers logic of which Arbiter Maven himself would be proud. So it’s all about getting the message out there and trying to introduce people to Chris and Justin’s remarkable work.
It’s nerve wracking times at Tandem Towers. The problem with being a teeny, tiny little independent is you’re not exactly capable of exacting any leverage on a giant like the BBC. I always liken it to being in a dinghy, next to an oil tanker—quite hard to be heard, and equally quite hard to avoid being unintentionally killed if you get too close.
Chris Bran has made many music videos in his time for lots of high profile artists. He spent a lot of time working with Radiohead, and we’re really chuffed that they all love Jinsy too. I suppose it’s fair to say that Welded Tandem are a bit inspired by Radiohead’s independent spirit. We see ourselves almost more like a band than a production company, if that makes any sense. Justin has written many plays and is a sensationally gifted illustrator and composer.
In addition, it’ll come as little surprise that Chris and Justin’s comedy heroes are Spike Milligan and Laurel & Hardy and they both adore Oliver Postgate too. Jinsy falls in the tradition of British silly surreal humour. From Milligan, through Python to the more recent League of Gentlemen and Boosh… This is Jinsy continues to demonstrate that when it comes to daft loons, the British can mix it up with the best of them.
When Jason Henninger isn’t reading, writing, juggling, cooking or raising evil genii, he works for Living Buddhism magazine in Santa Monica, CA.