This Is Jinsy: Comedy gold on fantasy island

Cult sitcom This Is Jinsy has attracted TV's biggest names. Gerard Gilbert visits the surreal show's creators on set

Created by a pair of comedy unknowns from Guernsey and featuring a fantasy island ruled by a man who tucks his jacket into his shorts and speaks a bit like Kenneth Williams (and where talent shows are judged by a dog), This Is Jinsy occupies a gentle green space somewhere between Monty Python and the Mighty Boosh, with Spike Milligan perhaps beaming his approval from beyond the grave. Add to this the fact that it goes out on Sky Atlantic – the subscription channel where even Mad Men struggles to gather enough viewers to fill Old Trafford – and it seems destined to be the very essence of a cult comedy. So why then does This Is Jinsy continue to attract such stellar guests?

In the first series there was David Tennant in snake-skin trousers as the organiser of a wedding lottery and Catherine Tate as the editor of that must-read periodical, "Glove Hygiene Monthly", as well as Harry Hill, KT Tunstall, Simon Callow and Jennifer Saunders.

In the new series, Stephen Fry, Rob Brydon, Sir Derek Jacobi and Dame Eileen Atkins are among those joining in the fun – and on the day that I visit the Wimbledon studios where This Is Jinsy is filmed, Olivia Colman, in a tweed suit and protruding false teeth, is sharing the set with a mechanical parrot. "I got the script through when I was with David Tennant on Broadchurch," she says. "And he said, 'Jinsy? Do it… do it.'"

"We have to keep pinching ourselves anyone wants to do it," says co-creator Justin Chubb. "We tried for Judi Dench and she was on a film, but most people feel quite warmly towards even if they can't do it.

"Jinsy is a combination of Guernsey and Jersey although it's more like the size of Sark," explains Chubb. "It's a Channel Island that has slipped its moorings." Chubb plays the island's incompetent despot, known as an arbiter – a figure not unlike the traditional feudal overlord of Sark, the Seigneur. "We quickly came up with the idea of people overseeing the running of an island and then it seemed logical that you'd have the person least liked or least able to run an island running it. So really it's the worst job, and that character thinks he's the most important and everyone laughing behind his back."

Another characteristic of Jinsy is that technology seems to have taken a wrong turning in around 1965. "There's a bit of futuristic technology but you're not really sure in what era it's set really… Terry Gilliam has always been a massive influence on what we've done."

Jinsy's most iconic piece of technology is the "tessallator", which looks like one of those coin-operated telescopes found at beauty spots, and which delivers electric shocks as punishment, as well as the islanders' entertainment – interludes such as "Singing Obituaries", a weather forecaster who speaks in Stanley Unwin-like gobbledygook and public information films ("'Curtain Disease' is spreading… leading to ruched necks"").

"I loved Gormenghast – the Mervyn Peake books – and we both grew up listening to Python records, watching Python, Spike Milligan… Edward Lear," says Chubb. "And Spike Jones and the City Slickers, they were very Jinsy", adds Chubb's co-star, Chris Brand, referring to the outlandish satirical musical-revue show from 1950s America. Brand plays Arbiter Maven's second-in-command, Operative Sporall. "Sergeant Wilson to his Captain Mainwaring", he says.

The duo were at school together on Guernsey, devising DIY radio programmes and shooting 8mm films with their fathers' cine-cameras and adding noises from BBC sound-effects albums, eventually singing in bands ("We used to tour Guernsey… often"). The frequent melodies on the show are their creations, including Jinsy's national anthem ("Island of silt and sand, twigs and stumps and tilth and hedgerows, fences…" ) although they think an album like the one released by Flight of the Conchords is unlikely. "All our songs are 41 seconds long," says Chubb.

While the interior sets are all filmed here in Wimbledon – the same studios where The Bill was once produced – the team return to Guernsey to pick up exterior footage. "The locals in Guernsey enjoy trying to recognise where things are," says Bran. "And there are a few little in-jokes about island's names and references to things that happened in Guernsey. We also use Guernsey surnames and places names – they have some great names." Names like Roopina Crale, Joon Boolay, Letley Orridge and Edery Molt – seen in that light, Justin Chubb and Chris Bran themselves have a certain Jinsy ring to them.

Leaving the Channel Islands, Bran attended a now defunct but inspiring-sounding media-training centre in Yorkshire, ArttsInternational, where he met This Is Jinsy's future producer James Dean. Dean was working in ITV factual programming by 2008, producing Ladette to a Lady, when he reconnected with Bran, who was now in London and writing sketches with his old Guernsey mucker Chubb. "The original idea for a show was to make a Channel Islands mock news programme," says Dean. "But then we thought that was a bit limiting and the boys came up with the idea of fictional island."

"As soon as we got the island to contain stories and characters we started making a big book full of drawings and maps and concepts," says Chubb, the trio taking a 10-minute demo to Lucy Lumsden, BBC3's head of comedy, who ordered a pilot. When Lumsden was later made Sky's first head of comedy, she commissioned Jinsy for the newly founded Sky Atlantic.

'This Is Jinsy' returns tomorrow at 10pm on Sky Atlantic

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there