sun 23/06/2024

Jonathan Creek, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

Jonathan Creek, BBC One

Jonathan Creek, BBC One

It may be looking a little creaky, but it's still fun and frothy

A kind of magic? Sarah Alexander as Polly Creek, with husband Jonathan (Alan Davies)

In its infancy back in 1997, Jonathan Creek felt fresh and inventive, with clever little swipes at the entertainment industry and a new take on crime drama: not who or why, but more of a howdunnit.

Its star Alan Davies, he of the duffel coat and the tumbling hair, was rather good at narrowing his eyes and staring into space while we let our hot chocolate go cold waiting to discover not only who carried out one of those incredibly theatrical murders, but to see its baffling mechanism unpicked.

And now he’s back for series five, doing rather nicely in marketing and with his days as a deviser of tricks for a famous magician behind him. The coat may have gone but the shaggy hair remains, albeit with a touch of grey. "The Letters of Septimus Noone" was episode one of three and, though there have been one-off specials, this is the first new series writer David Renwick has afforded us in 10 years. Previous sidekicks Caroline Quentin, Julia Sawahla and Sheridan Smith are – like the coat and that lovely windmill – long gone, the gap now filled by BBC comedy regular Sarah Alexander as Creek’s wife Polly.

The sex scene between the married couple was shockingly out of place with the rest of the show

JC regulars understand that some things have to change, but a few expectations remain and Renwick served up a promisingly preposterous story for starters. Well, actually four stories in one, and perhaps that's why I felt a bit dizzy by the end. Creek’s challenge centred on the stabbing of a West End musical star Juno Pirelli (Ali Bastian, pictured below with Simon Thomas as Christophe Holtz) who was found in a pool of blood in her dressing room. The incident was apparently fuelled by the jealousy of a crew member’s wife (the sex scene between the married couple prior to this was shockingly out of place with the rest of the show, so much so I was convinced someone had changed channels halfway through the act. Solve that one, Jonny boy!)

Juno’s door had been locked. Nobody came in, nobody went out. So do explain, Mr Creek, and he zoomed in on the tiniest of clues to unravel the lot. While not Renwick’s finest ever locked-room mystery it was a pleasing trick, yet arguably a bigger test of our hero’s mental powers came about via his wife. Or rather her now-dead father. Polly’s mother – also dead – had apparently had a lover, as evidenced by the letters she found, signed "Septimus". Questions surrounding the integrity of her parents’ marriage competed for attention with sub-plots involving a family friend’s ashes and a student wanting "work experience" with Creek, the young man behaving like a Cumberbatch-inspired Sherlock tribute act.

Early Creeks contained intricate puzzles that left you exasperated when you had failed to spot the twist, but there was none of that here. Perhaps the show needs a bit of time to relocate the old magic. The guest stars are always great and the partnership between Davies and Alexander has promise, even though one worries that marriage has made Creek himself a bit too cosy.

It’s not a show that will win buckets of awards, but it’s fun and it’s frothy; escapism on a Harry Houdini scale. Jonathan Creek may just need a few tricks up his sleeve to encourage the magic to return.

It’s not a show that will win buckets of awards, but it’s escapism on a Harry Houdini scale


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article


who wrote this rubbish!!!! did they bother watching any of the previous series, no tension no suspense nothing to keep me watching. thanks for ruining what was a great series

How disappointing. No spark, plot dire. Bring back Caroline Quentin. I used to love this programme but if this is how it is from now on i will not be tuning in.

Almost a descent into self-parody - a strong cast appear to have given up hope of breathing life into the dire scripts and are just walking through their parts. Sarah Alexander, for example, was hilarious in "Smack The Pony", here she shows barely a flicker of life. Unless some scripts can be written with compelling plots and three-dimensional characters, there seems to be no point to this revival at all.

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters