Trinidad and Tobago


The Jack and Jerry Show

May 09, 2001

PRIME-TIME television ratings fluctuated radically last week, as local stations premiered the Jack and Jerry Show.

Shot entirely on location at Emerald Plaza, the planned series features Jerry Narace as the morally anchored Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation chairman, cast against Jack Warner, the character wearing the black business suit.

The Jack and Jerry Show loaded its debut with a rack of fireworks, igniting a few even before the first commercial break. The otherwise simplistic plot contains several elements common to blockbuster movies.

There is sexual innuendo, political intrigue, a battle with City Hall, big guns on both sides and the hit-bound soundtrack of loud money talking. In short, everything but a car-chase was written into the pilot.

Jack, the rags-to-riches owner of the $30 million plaza, is of a contrary political persuasion to Jerry, whose rank gives him legal authority to have the Plaza torn down, if Jack does not secure necessary approvals.

Formerly the Scarlet Ibis Hotel, the building lived up to at least the first word of its name in that incarnation, hosting mostly nocturnal pimpernel types bent on sordid sexual adventures, who took advantage of low hourly rates.

There was no attempt to shut down the facility at that time. After all, the decrepit brothel had its approvals and apparently, what transpired there represented neither moral nor aesthetic contradictions to the Corporation’s noble perspectives. Consequently, viewers were left to surmise a political motive for Jerry’s targeting of Jack at this time.

Jerry rushes to defend his integrity, saying it was not only Emerald Plaza under scrutiny, but even larger structures erected by different interests, like the sprawling Grand Bazaar, a mall opened five years ago in the same jurisdiction.

Interestingly, in the Grand Bazaar sub-plot, building code irregularities were highlighted well before it opened to the public. Details appeared on the front page of the inaugural edition of The Independent (May, 1996). To date, no footage containing demolition dialogue has been aired.

The screenplay is a little misleading in this regard, since in the book from whence it came, Jerry wrote to Jack well before renovations were completed and subsequently discussed possible outcomes if corporation requirements were not met. Although most of the action is therefore captured in black and white, by the time the Jack and Jerry show is offered on video or DVD, it will likely be seen only in terms of colour.

Jack, normally highly vocal and visible, is this time cast in a softer role, subtly admitting a lapse, but seeing it in a larger light of enhancing the economics and psyche of the ‘hood. The national football team will be Emerald’s first guests, offering added value through community interface by soccer stars.

In the opening sequence at the glitzy plaza, there were a number of nice shots. Jack let on that funding the renovation brought to $200 million, his overall investment in the Tunapuna/Piarco region. It was perhaps the night’s best shot, tastefully done and from a resourceful angle.

Add to that a cameo appearance by highly acclaimed actor Basdeo Panday, who fuels the intrigue but avoids direct comment. Hear Panday’s lines: "Tonight, I recognise that in simply being present at this event, I run the risk of being accused of siding with and abetting my dear friend Jack, in violating the ruling of the Regional Corporation."

Having fully engaged the very risk, Panday continued: "To avoid any such risk, instead of praising Jack as is my desire, I have chosen to criticise him." The criticism, delivered in velvet voice, described Jack’s excessive honesty as his only identifiable flaw.

But clever language, no matter the level from which it comes, does not a building permit make. In fact, if the show wishes to sidestep any backlash from the moral majority, Jack has to do the right thing. And to borrow a tested line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth: "If it were done, then when ‘tis done, ‘twere well it were done quickly."

Where the main plot weakens, though, is in its predictability. Viewers can expect flashback sequences featuring part-time actor John Humphrey, who only recently admitted that some 80 percent of all buildings standing today were constructed or altered without proper approvals.

A vignette highlighting the extent of lawlessness could be had from another recent experience, when the power-company cut off illegally supplied homes at Beetham Estate and twisted residents protested vigourously, claiming "victimisation."

Indeed, just panning out from Emerald Plaza, brings into the lens a number of illegal structures lining the Eastern Main Road, where fruit stalls and even general stores abound, the majority of them yet to get approval.

None of those proprietors were selected for walk-on or non-speaking parts, presumably because their inclusion would only add to the show’s burgeoning budget and could not enhance or even equal box-office returns to be had from a one-on-one joust with Jack.

A happy ending is also predictable, with Jack adhering to Jerry’s requirements which, even with bureaucratic bungling, could come as early as this weekend, foreshortening the time between the first and final episodes.

Which is why most critics agree that the better studio decision would have been to make The Jack and Jerry Show just one episode of the ongoing series called Nine-Day Wonders of Trinidad and Tobago.

But the careers of both Narace and Warner will easily survive an early cancellation of the series. Already, Jerry is involved in a new show, this one involving political colleague Ken Valley, which seems all set to run for a full season.

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