First Aired: 10 May 1997
Alan Davies Johnathan Creek
Caroline Quentin Maddy Melagan
Anthony Steward Head Adam Klaus
Alistair McGowan Trevor
Colin Baker Hedley Shale
Sheila Gish Serena Shale
Jane Hazelgrove Katrina Toplis
Plot: Philandering artist Hedley Shale is murdered during what appears to be a botched home invasion. A known thief with a history of similar breaking and entering crimes is lifted by the police, but protests his innocence, seeking assistance from crusading journalist Maddy Melagan. The only other suspect is the victim’s wife, who aware of his affairs has plenty of motive, but a locked door alibi. Perplexed, Maddy stumbles across Johnathan Creek, a designed of illusions for famous magician Adam Klaus and asks his aid in disproving the alibi of Mrs Shale. Creek is obsessive and has a mind that seeks out puzzles and evidence of ingenuity and the two investigate together as he is drawn further into this murder mystery.
Through lies, dumb luck and bizarre leaps in logic, they work out whodunnit (won’t spoil that) complete with the evidence being sent to the police and a meet-cute sort of ending, which leaves whether or not they will work together again up in the air, not that there was any doubt there.
Notes: I had not watched this series before I started this blog, I have no idea what changed in the series after this, though I doubt it was much, given that the BBC tends to commission series en masse rather than renew after a pilot, but I am glad that this was where I started.
This show was made on a BBC budget in the latter half of the 1990’s and boy does it show. Artsy, low budget direction, theatre luvvies in the cast either sounding as realistic as kung fu movie dubbing or leaving bite marks in the scenery they chew. So to be objective, I had to view it as series of its time. It did remind me how some social mores and TV tropes had changed over the last two decades because the sexual politics of this program are dodgy as fuck. With dialogue such as “I want to come here and make me bark like a sea lion.” That line was delivered in a straight face by Colin Baker, Colin f***ing Baker, he was a Doctor Who!??!?! Or the multiple shots of guys slipping their hands inside a woman’s top to get a cheeky fondle. (No, I am no prude and more than fond of a little boob-fondling from time to time, but time and place, y’know?) Some of the fondling was by Anthony Head, who also said he wanted to “Lie with her covered in glue.” as if that’s a normal thing, but I digress.
Once I viewed it more in the context of the time it was made, it improved leaps and bounds. While less than naturalistic, the dialogue is clever with much of the choicest dialogue split between the leads who quite quickly develop an easy going chemistry. Davies’ Creek is a little naive but thinks light years ahead of most around him, while Quentin’s Maddy is equal parts quirky romantic lead and hard-nosed noir detective cliche and their partnership works from the onset. I had actively avoided watching the program for a number of years, not really having time for Alan Davies as a comedian. But watching him as a straight up actor was a bit of a quirky treat.
Does it work?
It wears it’s genre trappings openly and the oddball detective genre always seems to have legs.
Does it need fixing?
Not as far as I can see from the first story. The characters are broadly written but realised enough to serve the story and leaving it open for development on an ongoing basis. All we need really is what the status quo will be, which you generally get with the second episode.
Does it stand up?
It’s very dated, can’t really avoid that, but the stuff that needs to works well.
Did I want to watch the next one?
I was very tempted to say let’s put the next one on.
Did I enjoy it?
A lot more than expected
5/5 An excellent start.