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Friday, 14 March 2014

Jonathan Creek: The Magic has gone

BBC/John Rogers
There’s a distinct sense of faded glory about Jonathan Creek these days. Where once the crime capers were a BBC jewel, paving the way for modern adaptations of Sherlock Holmes and the whole ‘geeks are sexy’ movement, now it limps along like an inferior Midsomer Murders.

I have always loved the show, and confess happily that my teenage crush wasn’t a member of a boyband but the mop headed, windmill dwelling magician turned sleuth. But Jonathan Creek is all grown up these days and some of that old magic has been lost.

The plots were always pretty difficult to fathom, but this series have been particularly nonsensical, owing to a bizarre trend in putting roughly 3 plots in one programme, with no real clue as to which one is supposed to be the main story. So this time round we had a dead escort, a kidnapped scientist, comedy twins and a rogue photographer. They linked up reasonably satisfactorily, with the writer’s usual relish for puns and word association. The problem is, that part of the joy of puzzle solving programmes is that the viewers get to try and solve the puzzle, but Creek is always in possession of more knowledge than us, so we don’t stand a chance.

BBC/John Rogers
Lingering teenage jealousy aside, I wasn’t thrilled by the addition of Sarah Alexander as Creek’s wife. I rather enjoyed the gentle ‘will they, won’t they’ of previous companions Caroline Quentin and Julia Sawalha. That said, Polly Creek grew on me as the series progressed and I liked the way that her initial disapproval of Creek’s addiction to puzzles turned into affection and a sneaky enjoyment at getting to help.

One addition to this series that I thoroughly approved was the beautiful house, left by Polly’s father. Alan Davies, who of course plays our titular hero, had stated that as he himself has grown up and got married, so it made sense for Creek to do the same, meaning he couldn’t stay in the windmill. I’m pleased the production team managed to find a suitably quirky residence, and I found the lingering exterior shots a highlight of the new series.

A further series is presumably inevitable, though I’d prefer it if they kept to the feature length format employed by the numerous specials we’ve had over the years, so we don’t have to gather outlandish clues at breakneck speed. I’d also like to see some progression with Polly and Jonathan’s relationship, there were hints this time round that Polly would like a baby and it would be interesting to see Jonathan juggling fatherhood with crime solving.

That said, adding infants to the cast shouldn’t encourage writer David Renwick with his infantile humour. I know there’s always been an element of this in Jonathan Creek and I’m not suggesting it should go completely highbrow, but it seemed like every other line this episode was written by a bunch of prepubescent school boys. There’s a general feeling when watching Creek these days that the audience’s intelligence is being insulted.

Unfortunately, if we feel too slighted, we just won’t watch. Any complaints with Jonathan Creek could easily be remedied by some strict editing and a little more thought. Perhaps Renwick could look to other hit crime shows like Silk or Line of Duty for a lesson in how to write something compelling and intelligent. Of course these shows are wildly different in tone to Jonathan Creek but public tastes have changed, and for Creek to continue to be successful, a slight adjustment in favour of the viewer, over the writer’s ego, needs to be made.

 As always, tweet me @QueeniePrior if you’d like your thoughts added to the reviews.

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