This article could contain spoilers.

You may have heard of the Crime and Investigation Channel, and yes, most of the time it’s full of crap murder reconstruction shows. I’m not saying I’ve watched Killer in the Family, Killer Kids, or my personal favourite, Wives with Knives, but that is the sort of stuff you may come across while channel-hopping. But something quite different premiered on CI this week.

The premise of The Jail: 60 Days In is this: seven civilian volunteers are put in an American jail for 60 days to try and survive, and ultimately help prison bosses expose where all the illegal shiz is going on. And if you don’t find that concept riveting, then where did you get your concept of fun.

The great thing with this, unlike the aforementioned programs, is that it’s actually quite well made. It is really, really tense because people seem genuinely at risk of being hurt. I know what you’re thinking: ‘They wouldn’t actually put people into a situation where they would be injured.’ But this is America my friends, and they let you do all sorts of crazy stuff for the righteous cause of entertainment.

The contestants have been carefully chosen to maximise the tension. There is a guy called Robert who, despite being a teacher and working with under-priveleged kids, still manages to come off as a bit of a bell-end. Robert thinks that people in jail enjoy a luxurious lifestyle. Robert thinks that jails need to toughen up. Robert thinks that jail is like a ‘country club’. I think that Robert may die.

Instead of sticking to his story, Robert has taken the show as an opportunity to try and get himself in the running for an Oscar. He’s sidelined his training and started making all sorts of shit up that wasn’t in the brief. The inmates are on to him already. They all think he’s a cop and are constantly threatening to ‘fuck’ him. Now I thought this was just a gangsta way of saying they would beat him up, but they also start ranting about his ‘tight booty’ and I think they genuinely mean they want to ‘fuck’ him – in the literal sense. Hot tip: apparently, in jail, being angry with someone means you will want to have sex with them. Just in case you ever end up there.

There is also a police officer called Tami who wants to find out what the people she locks away end up enduring. Now you’d think Tami, as an actual, real cop, would struggle more than Robert. But Tami takes to jail like a duck to freaking water. Not only does she look the part with her tattoo sleeves and army cut, but she ends up taking on the leader of the pod for stealing her shower shoes. Meanwhile, you’re screaming at the TV: “Pick your battles Tami! You can shower any time. It isn’t like you’ve got a packed schedule in there!”

What’s also quite clever is none of the plants know there are other plants going in. A 25-year-old mother of two who resembles a toothpick has gone into Tami’s pod. They have no idea the other is also participating in the program. The toothpick just cries a lot and has been comforted by one of the inmates with the gentle phrase: “No-one’s gonna make you their bitch. You ain’t gonna get raped.” Which I think we can all agree would make anyone feel pretty sound.

The most inspiring story of all, however, is that of Zac, who went in and was fortunate enough to be mistaken for the brother of an ex-inmate. Combined with the fact he helped wipe down the tables on his first day, Zac is becoming pretty popular. Now he’s under the wing of the pod ‘chief’ and they’ve been giving him little gifts of ramen noodles. In fact, Zac is so accepted I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t want to leave. Film. In. The. Making.

So tune in if you like the feeling of being unable to breath for an hour, or enjoy having a group session of screaming at the television. Next week we can expect to see Robert’s corpse, Tami beating up the mother-of-two and Zac sitting in a throne fashioned out of the inmates playing cards, overlooking his kingdom. Then who will blame you for ‘accidentally’ leaving the TV on for Wives with Knives?

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  1. I stumbled upon the show a few days ago, by chance, and it's great. A very well written piece on it, too, can't agree enough with your points!