Maybe it was the Winter Olympics, perhaps it was the arrival of the second series of House of Cards on Netflix, or it could be that my trying to catch up with Top Gear via BBC iPlayer had something to do with it. Either way, I managed to miss the news that Jonathan Creek was returning for a new series until a couple of days before it was broadcast. The return of this late Nineties detective show struck me as odd, because those of us who hanker after a private investigator who sees things that others don’t nowadays get our kicks from Sherlock. Besides, the actor in the title role has moved on too, becoming that bloke who always gets the questions wrong on that over-rated panel show QI. Have I missed something?
I have certainly managed to miss the various one-off specials of Jonathan Creek that were broadcast over the past few years (the last actual series aired ten years ago), but I used to like this show so I tuned in to watch the latest offering on Friday evening. Having done so, I was most surprised to behold a Jonathan Creek who has ditched the duffel-coat, moved out of his windmill and evidently moved on from being the creative consultant to a stage magician. Even more implausibly, he’s now married to Susan from Coupling. Character development is all very well but this is taking things too far.
Worse still, us viewers were shown the crime being committed in the first ten minutes. This may have worked with Columbo, but that was how that show operated; it doesn’t work for Jonathan Creek, where the mystery was invariably of the locked-room variety (often with apparently supernatural overtones), and the highlight was always when Jonathan, having utilised his talents for lateral thinking and creating illusions, showed everyone how a seemingly impossible crime was committed. This, rather than the more conventional identifying of the motive and the culprit, was always the thing that made Jonathan Creek different from, say, Inspector Morse and Agatha Christie’s Poirot. What was writer David Renwick thinking?
Robbed of the main attraction, the show struggled on through the sight of Alan Davies riding a donkey, a less-than-subtle Sherlock piss-take – Jonathan reluctantly took on an assistant who, aside from looking like a cross between Benedict Cumberbatch and David Tennant, made observation-based deductions that turned out to be completely wrong – and a couple of puzzles which didn’t really hold the viewer’s attention.
Not being privy to the inner workings of the BBC, I don’t know why they decided to resurrect Jonathan Creek. Furthermore, it is a mystery to me why Mr Renwick decided to mess around with the show’s formula which has worked so well in the past. But I cannot help but think that these were the wrong decisions.