The Weekend’s Television: Jam & Jerusalem, Sun, BBC1

Revelations, Sun, Channel 4

Society worth preserving

Sometimes the best moments on television are the ones that blindside you, coming from an angle you don’t expect.

There was a nice example in Jam & Jerusalem last night, a little moment of extraordinarily intense feeling staging an ambush on an audience that was probably meandering along perfectly happily, expecting to be called on for nothing more than a gentle chuckle or a half smile of recognition. It brought tears to my eyes, in fact, which was partly just sympathetic vibration, since everybody on screen was dabbing at theirs, but was also something to do with how true the scene was to the little society that Jennifer Saunders has created in Clatterford. Maybe the scheduling helped too – this series of the rural sitcom having been written in 30-minute segments but transmitted in three hour-long episodes, a slot that makes it easier to think of it as a wry kind of drama rather than a sitcom.

Anyway, the scene in question involved Caroline, the character Saunders plays herself, a brisk horsey type from the big house, who only occasionally pops up to drop celebrity names or be peremptory with one of the other characters. After a misunderstanding, Caroline had found herself hosting a dinner party at which both Rosie, her cleaning lady, and the misanthropic vicar were going to be present, and though it stretched credulity a little that someone so brusque wouldn’t have untangled the misunderstanding with scant regard to bruised feelings, the scene that followed made you forget the quibble. Caroline’s son Chris had just been posted to Afghanistan – the prompt for sympathetic murmurs from everyone present, which she brushed off with a county sturdiness: “It’s his job you see... that’s our way of thinking. He loves it and it’s bloody good for him.” But then, after she’d let slip that he’d been sending video messages that she hadn’t yet watched, Sal insisted on pulling out the laptop and playing one of them.

In between shots of an awkward young man in camouflage gear, the camera cut to Caroline’s face – rigidly inexpressive. When it was finished she said something dismissive: “I am amazed they allow them to have their hair that long! But I suppose since Prince

Harry anything goes.” And then, walking away from the table her face crumpled and she wept, a beautifully heartfelt bit of acting from Saunders. Inadequately suppressed emotion is always more moving than the splurging, showy kind, and what Caroline did next, brusquely apologising for her silliness and trying to stem the tears by talking to the dog, turned the screw even tighter. I haven’t seen anything recently – and that includes Peter Bowker’s fine Iraq drama Occupation – which so touchingly captured the strain of home-front bravery.

It was a moment of considerable finesse, too, to get the whole thing through the points and back on to the comedy track, something achieved by having Rosie blunder through some suggestions about what might be in Chris’s “In the event of my death” letter, which make it increasingly clear that she’s actually surreptitiously read it. But none of this would have worked without the low-key precision with which the writing pins down its various types. “It’s in John’s study, on top of the Grundig, next to the Amstrad,” said Caroline at one point, giving directions as to how to find something, and the brand names precisely targeted a certain kind of household – well-off but careful – in which things are used until they’re unrepairable. Anyone nervous with a sitcom bold enough to admit real and painful feelings will have been reassured by the more straightforward comedy of the Clatterford Ladies Guild fashion show, which included the commentary line “fully expandable for those bloated days” – not often heard in Milan or Paris.

Anthony Thomas’s film for the Revelations series, How Do You Know God Exists?, was very mysterious, since in no imaginable universe was less than 50 minutes of broadcast time going to allow for a sensible discussion of the questions he was asking about faith and ethics and the problem of evil. Again and again, you wanted a supplementary to the first necessarily bland and generalised answer, not necessarily because the faithful would have been pinned into a corner, but because we might have got into some of the theological complexities of the matter. “Religions are very good at binding people together in communities,” said the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Yes, Chief Rabbi, but why are they so good at getting those communities to kill other ones whose faith is marginally different? “Condoms don’t lack their advocates,” said Archbishop Vincent Nichols, sidestepping a question about the deadly effect of Catholic teaching on contraception in the developing world. Yes indeed, Archbishop, but why exactly does the Church do everything it can to neutralise their efforts? These are thoughtful men who wrestle daily with intractable dilemmas. It would have been nice if they’d had time to do it on screen.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition