Where Are the Joneses? was nothing if not unique: a British comedy series, produced by The Imagination Group and sponsored by American automobile manufacturer Ford, that relied on the direct participation of its viewers, who could edit and re-edit the script before shooting commences. The show allowed for infinite possibilities—which have been taken well advantage of—because its initial premise was so wide open: Dawn Jones (Emma Fryer) discovers upon the death of her mother that she is one of 27 children of a particular sperm donor. She sets out to locate her fellow siblings and her father with Ian (Neil Edmond), the first brother she contacts.
Where Are the Joneses must unfortunately be spoken of in the past tense – it began in June 2007 but its run, and the participation that was inseparable from its existence, ended three months later in September. Viewers can now watch the entire series from the start.
Evaluating Where Are the Joneses? without engaging in its myriad collaborative features means losing half the excitement of such a project. That said, the success of the final product can still be gathered from the episodes alone—and the experiment, it seems, ultimately works. That’s because no matter how many web chefs contribute to the soup, the show maintains a consistent look and feel that is anchored by its two leads. Where Are the Joneses? is highly indebted to the improvised goofiness (and slight disdain) of Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries and maybe David O. Russell’s real-parent-search Flirting With Disaster—indeed, the show is in the style of a documentary filming Dawn’s international quest.
The show primarily thrives not on its viewers, but on the performances by Fryer and Edmond, who display ceaseless energy in acting obliviously naïve and airheaded throughout the story’s increasingly wacky twists and turns. Because of them the melodrama of Where Are the Joneses wanes where the isolated fun of each episode’s impossible antics waxes. And that’s a good thing.
Where Are the Joneses really gets involved once Dawn and Ian get on the road (and first discover one of their other siblings is an acquaintance of Ian), so the best way to not only understand but get involved in the series is to check out the first episodes. Some classic moments: Ian responds to Dawn’s news by simply running away;Ian goes through an astounding list of phobias just as he and Dawn set off on their journey;Dawn and Ian’s heartfelt bottle messages to their father.