I'm going into this one blind. I've never heard of a WB show called "Jack and Jill"....have you? I thought this said "Jack and Bobby" at first glance, which was a WB show from 2004 whose main gimmick was that either Jack or Bobby would become the future President. They blew it by revealing the answer in the second episode, and no one cared to watch it afterward.
But the second member of the title isn't "Bobby," it's "Jill." I don't remember any sort of promotion for this show. "Now! From the blockbuster nursery rhyme comes the long-awaited television adaption!" This VHS is most likely the only clean release this show ever got -- a screener, sent to critics in hopes they would review it. And say nice things.
Is this tape rare? Certainly, but don't get too excited. "Rare" and "Valuable" are often confused to mean the same thing. Anything can be rare, but if no one wants to own something that's rare, it isn't valuable. A lot of professional critics are constantly mailed screeners, which succumb to one of three fates: auction site, giveaway to a friend, or trash.
At any given hour of the day, eBay is overflowing with cheap screeners for movies and TV shows. It's also overflowing with expensive screeners from people who don't understand the whole rarity =/ value thing. This day I found somebody trying to sell a VHS screener for the failed, forgotten NBC comedy Miss Match for $25. Not gonna happen.
By contrast, another auction offered a screener tape for the 2001 CBS comedy Baby Bob at $15, which is about right. It's an alternate unaired version of a pilot that was massively reshot when its male lead was recast. But it's Baby Bob.
The good news is that, since TV episodes are often being edited up to their airdate time, many screener tapes and discs contain alternate takes, temp tracks, goof-ups and other rare goodies. The bad news is, very very rarely does a screener show up for purchase that is of a show you care about. Networks tend to produce more press material for the weaker shows in their lineups, out of hope all that money will do something. The worse a show is, the more elaborate its packaging will be. If you're a critic and you get a big box in the mail containing 3 episodes, a satin case, a hat and a T-shirt, a good rule of thumb is to just burn it all now.
It's customary for screeners to contain at least two episodes (normally its first two), and Jack and Jill certainly does. As of manufacturing time for the Jack and Jill screener, this was its main title:
Beautiful, isn't it? Kinda reminds me of this.
It's never a good sign when the very first episode of a TV show opens on a wedding. Odds are about 99.9% that either the bride or the groom is about to experience the most humilating day of their lives. Sure enough, the moment the preacher asks if there's anyone who can hold just cause as to why these two shall not be wed, the maid of honor squeaks out that the groom was with her last night. Derp!
The bride seems to take this news better than most would when a relationship that's reached the high point of seriousness and trust suddenly disintegrates into nothing. She DOES stomp out of the cathedral, she DOES pack up everything and drive all the way to New York City, but she does all this while keeping a remarkably straight face, possibly blemished at some point by one solitary Sexy Tear (or maybe not, it's hard to tell in standard definition).
Then she mentions her name is "Jaclyn." Which would be shortened to....Jack? What? SHE'S the Jack? But that means.....this.....they can't be serious.....this can't be right....
It was right. In the very next scene we are introduced to a male named "Jill." I kid you not.
Actually, even the producers must have thought this was a bit too absurd, because his actual name is David. He just refers to himself as "Jill" and it's never explained why he would. The twist is barely a twist. But what a twist it is! Keep in mind, this is a drama. His character is mostly played straight with sparse jabs at humor, but I could not stop smirking whenever he appeared onscreen, and it was solely because of the "Jill" thing. The whole mood was ruined. You poor show.
Anyway, "Jill" (snicker) has a girlfriend and things are getting serious. She wants him to move in with her, but he might have to think about it. He consults the advice of his wacky bro-dude roommates, Mikey and Barto. Barto is studying to become a surgeon, and paying for his college classes by working part-time as bartender of an Internet cafe. Actually, it's more like a fancy Internet restaurant-slash-bar, and these were the dawning days of the Internet, so the entire room is filled with gigantic tube monitors and "EEEEEEE-KWRRRRRG-PSTSTPSTPSTHH" dial-up noises. Great atmosphere!
Whenever "Jill's" storyline is going on, he has his own voiceover providing narration. Whenever Jack is onscreen, the narrating voice is hers. It's different, but it doesn't add much. Jack is now bunking with her old friend Audrey (Jaime Pressly), one floor below the apartment "Jill" rents. This is how they first meet, but it's hardly cute.
First "Jill" attempts to help bring her boxes into her apartment, but trips and spills the contents everywhere. In response, Jack blurts out "I DON'T WANT TO BE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU!" which is how anyone responds to a stranger causing an accident. "Well....good...because....I don't know you yet," David stammers out, obviously attracted. They yammer like this for about a minute before "Jill" leaves. And yet this isn't the most ham-fisted approach to human dating in the pilot...that part's coming up.
Jack tries all day to land a job in NYC but comes up short. Her final attempt is at a local television station, and you know she's going to get this one because the set is a lot nicer. Here she collides with Elisa Cronkite ("No relation, but don't tell them") whom she gets along with immediately, adding to the roster of instant-rice human bondsmanships on this show. "Wow, it's like girlfriends at first sight," Jack remarks. Then she thinks to the audience, "If you're a girl you know what I mean." I'm a boy so I guess I don't.
Here's what Jack doesn't realize....she just applied for an unpaid internship. She gets it, but there'll be no cash coming in. But that's okay for now....she'll survive on savings; it's New York City; the cost of living is really low, right?
There's something else....Elisa is the serious girlfriend of "Jill." Holy improbable concidence!
"Jill" never confirmed whether or not he wants to move in with Elisa. That girl he met for one minute is giving him second thoughts, but he doesn't know if he wants to break up with Elisa either. So he tells Bardo and Mikey of his brilliant plan: he simply won't answer Elisa. If he avoids her for the rest of the week, she might take the hint and stop bothering him, leaving "Jill" open to try out the new redhead. It's foolproof! And despicably cowardly!
Inside the Internet Bar, Jack runs into "Jill" again. They pretend to be awkward around each other once more, and it turns out they're heading in the same direction, so they decide to walk that way together. On the way, they duck inside FAO Schwartz and initiate a montage. Here's the meet-cute we were robbed of earlier, only to make up for lost time, the antics are taken up to 11.
During the after-montage laughing-while-walking-down-a-street shot, Jack steps in front of "Jill" and says, "You understand why we can only be friends, right? It's too soon....I can't get into a new relationship right now." Which I totally get, especially since this is the pilot episode of a WT/WT. They wouldn't start kissing NOW.
That's as far as they get, though. You can imagine how thrilled Jack is when she discovers her new love interest is actually the boyfriend of her co-worker. Due to his cowardice, "Jill" never officially called things off between him and Elisa, so when he goes looking for her at the station, uh, suddenly Jack is there too. Jack just suffered one infidelity and she's not in the mood to go through another, especially when she's made into the other woman. Consider them through! And she's KEEPING the beanie!
Following this relevation, the characters spend a lot of time sitting on benches while looking depressed. Any scene that goes wordless will be suddenly punctuated with indie music, as was the WB tradition, but this show attempts something new on top of that: an acapella group appears on the street every so often, doo-wopping a classic hit with lyrics that relate somewhat to the current situation. Who are they and where did they come from? Outer space? Maybe, who knows, the show didn't last long enough to tell.
Jack walks into the apartment where Audrey is doing her crazy painful stretch exercises. Yes, Pressly can really bend like that. There was an Earl episode where she folded her legs above her head into a locked position and walked around suspended by her hands.
As if she wasn't feeling pitiful enough, Audrey starts dumping on her too. "If we're such good friends, how come I never heard from you until you needed a place to live? I'm a person, not a couch."
you kidding? I was intimidated by you! When I
went off to college my biggest decision was whether or
not to join the glee club, and here you were in the city
living out your dreams! You're in an off-Broadway play
for crying out loud. You're right; I had no right to
demand anything from you. I was in awe of you."
You can sort of understand. I mean, doing things? It was way too intimidating for Jack.
Back on the side of "Jill," he's made a decision. He now feels he broke things off with Elisa prematurely and he should give her another shot. So he simply walks into her apartment and has the following verbatim conversation:
Infidelity forgiven! The entire cast meets at the Internet Bar to laugh and group-pose for the final shot.
SECOND EPISODE: The label said it was a "rough cut," and it indeed is. Not so rough that we get timecodes and washed-out footage, but in this version the sound hadn't been mixed properly yet.....so almost none of the musical cues that plagued the pilot are heard here. We only get natural sound effects with no enhancements. When people are walking along the street the sounds of the traffic are nearly as loud as their dialogue, and in one scene "Jill" is wearing a jacket which crinkles loudly against his microphone.
So "Jill" now lives with his girlfriend, for this episode anyway. This leaves a vacancy at his old apartment, which Mikey is eyeing. Barto isn't completely comfortable with the idea but values his friendship too much to say no. While this is being established, Mikey is playing a video game. TV shows getting details wrong about games is nothing new, but this time, I've gotta say, I love what happened: Mikey is playing StarFox on the N64. The ORIGINAL StarFox.
It's just a goof, but technically, this was actually possible back then if you bought an unlicensed adapter from a Chinese company. Most people never knew this -- but Mikey apparently did. And he's playing it the way you would have if you owned the adapter; with the crosspad. I'm just going to assume he owns one!
Meanwhile on the Jack side of things, guess who's back: the fiance. If you were Jack, would you ever even look at him again, let alone speak to him? Let me rephrase that....if you were a stupid television character with no self-respect, and you had to make horrible decisions no logical human being would make to move the plot along, would you let him invite you to dinner? The answer is "yes."
Jack and Jill cross paths a total of twice in this episode, and for some unexplained reason they hate each other now, so they do nothing but bicker both times they meet. Sexual tension or not, "Jill" reacts like anyone would to Jack giving this guy another chance, mere days after heartbreak (at the altar). Jack responds by admitting she had planned to brush him off, but she just didn't have the courage.....and that she'll definitely do it later!
When it's later, she still doesn't do it. Her ex explains that he was drunk, he was nervous about the wedding, and he felt he would never be able to fulfill her expectations.....and hey, while wallowing in self-doubt, no sense in letting that hot chick over there go to waste.
Maybe Jack buys this because she was just in a similar situation. Her internship could become a paid position, but the job is up for grabs between her and an overachieving kissup. She was convinced she could never measure up against him, so much so that she bolted from a written editing test out of nervousness. Now she definitely never will, and to make her circle of failure complete, she might as well let this cheating moron's tongue back inside her mouth.
Jack is flustered and needs a friend to vent to. She heads to Elisa's, where we've already established "Jill" is living. Once he sees her there, they immediately get into another shouting match about Fiance, and the spiked interest "Jill" is displaying in Jack's love life does not go unnoticed by Elisa. When Jack leaves, Elisa questions "Jill" if he really wanted to move in with her or not. "Jill" says sure, of course, but the suspicious look on her face doesn't vanish. Nor is the irony lost on her that he's enraged about a cheating man when he just did the same thing last week.
Later on Jack and Fiance decide to go to the Internet bar, and they run into "Jill" and Elisa a third time (okay, I got my math a bit wrong). Jack announces that she's given up all sense of respect and is moving back to Boston with Fiance. That makes "Jill" furious and they argue again. That makes Elisa furious and THEY argue again.
"Look, if you're so interested in the affairs of other girls, it's clear you're not interested in ME. I think we should break this off," Elisa tells him.
This doesn't mean Elisa or her actress are out of the series. Remember that she still runs into Jack at work, and at this point, they've developed an honest friendship. Jack comes to the TV station the next day with a cardboard box, expecting to clear out her things -- but it turns out she passed the test and got the job. She's flummoxed as to how it could have happened, until Elisa gives her a wink.
But why would she need the job if she's going back home anyway? Uh, she changed her mind again, after a conversation with Audrey. The conversation wasn't about anything relating to the relationship, she was just helping Jack pack her stuff, but it's implied it made her change her mind...somehow. But why complain; this stupid story is over, and now maybe Jack can work her way back up to being a respectable character. That's the hope anyway....this is the last episode on the tape.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Despite a few attempts to make Jack and Jill feel different and original (including one really misguided and embarrassing one), it's just garden-variety soapy dramedy sludge. The show deserved its fate.
Or rather, the fate you'd assume took place. Ready for a shock? It wasn't immediately cancelled. It stayed on the air into 2001. It lasted TWO seasons. Two seasons, 32 episodes, and you never knew it was there. There are over twice as many episodes of Jack and Jill as there are of Firefly.
And truth is, when it comes to effeminate monikers, I prefer a man called Jayne to a man called Jill.