When I was about 13 years old, I watched a programme called Jonathan Creek with my mother. She did her best to try and explain what it was about but I didn't really get what she was on about and it is only now that I can fully appreciate how difficult it was for her to explain what the programme was about. The particular episode, which I now know is entitled "The Scented Room", involved a painting being stolen from a sealed room, where the door had only been closed for 30 seconds and the hall outside was full of people. So how did the thief do it?
Rather than spoil it, I suggest you watch it, but what followed was an hour of brilliant mystery solving and unravelling that captured my fancy the moment the solution was revealed. This I knew was my kind of programme. The only problem? Jonathan Creek wasn't on all that frequently, even now with Sky Digital the problem wasn't wholly solved and the interwebs only has two-three episodes that are viewable. My solution - buy the DVD boxset.
Even though I had watched them all weeks ago, only now have I got the chance to share the experience. Jonathan is played by the brilliant Alan Davies, and for series 1-3 is accompanied by Crime-Investigative writer Madeleine (Maddie) Magellan played by Caroline Quentin and for series 4 is joined by journalist Carla Borrego whom Jonathan had a previous relationship with. There are guest characters in episodes including Anthony Head and Bill Bailey to name but two. Before even getting to the premise of the whole thing, I should point out that throughout all the series and specials the acting and characters are very believably, in particular Alan Davies. Once you become familiar with the character of Jonathan Creek from watching it, you find yourself hard pressed to imagine anyone else in the role. What's more is the line between Davies and Creek is very hard to define, thus adding to the performance and credibility of the character. His character also develops over the course of the episodes in a subtle yet noticable manner.
Creek himself works for illusionist Adam Klaus (played by Anthony Head in the first episode and later by Stuart Milligan. Creek's job description is probably best described as "Illusion-Maker", making the props and tricks for Klaus' show, fooling the audience. He's not much of a socialiser and struggles with women at points. However over the course of the series' he becomes more open and charming, likely due to his working relationship with Maddie that is started in the first episode.
In any particular episode, Creek is usually faced with an "impossible" crime or feat or mystery. More often than not, Creek is brought in my Maddie who usually is called upon in the first case as an investigative writer by the "client", to help her out. What's more, she also writes about Creek's endeavours, generating an unwanted fame meaning that in some and in particular later episodes he is "hired" to solve the mystery.
I should stress perhaps that it isn't always murder at the heart of the story, though I must admit some of the best ones DO relate to murder mysteries. The thing that makes the programme special and watchable is that like any crime/mystery series, like Inspector Morse for example, you want to solve it as well. Whilst you know the solution will be revealed by the shows end, you can't help but try and figure it out for yourself. Trust me when I say that what you think is the solution is very probably miles off the mark.
I guess in part my interest in the show is fuelled by my chosen profession of engineering, as the type of thinking I have to do is in many parts similar to what Creek has to do.
"Making the impossible possible" is an often cliched phrase thrown about in these kind of things, but the style of Creek is unique in the sense that it requires very lateral thinking, something that many people, myself included, simply cannot do off the bat. Unlike a crime series such as Inspector Morse that I mentioned above, where the crime is very motive based and a little piece of the focus is given to technique, the plots of Jonathan Creek give equal emphasis on both, almost doubling your value from the point of view of story-telling and mystery solving and I can guarantee that you won't be disappointed with the end results.
In an early episode Creek makes a statement regarding the "impossible, the improbable and what's practical/logical" as he is about to reveal how the particular crime occured. The ideas of "impossibility", "improbablity" and "logical" are the cornerstones of the series' brilliance and it's these set the tone for all the episodes to follow. In order to solve these mysteries, you need to separate what's impossible from what's unlikely, and then establish how the unlikely could've been done. I can guarantee that in each case you will be thoroughly satisfied with the end result, scratching your head at the ingenuinity of it all yet just how simplistic it all really was.
The DVDs themselves are what they are. All the episodes and specials minus "The Grinning Man" which was shown January 09. There are several bonuses available including documentaries, interviews, etc. Standard fare stuff.
On just a general note of the episodes all together, it seems as though the mysteries/quality of the episodes in series 4 wanes a bit. I'm not suggesting they're bad by any stretch of the imagination, but if you watched them in order as I did the "impossibility" shall we say of the mysteries isn't as grandiose as the earlier seasons, though the episode "Gorgon's Wood" - the last in series 4 - is certainly up there with the best of 'em.
Jonathan Creek has generated huge viewing numbers across England, and the success of the show is shown in the specials that are produced this year and for next. If you like a mystery this is certainly for you. I can guarantee a thoroughly enjoyable experience with the perfect blend of humour, mystery and drama. Just remember to bring your lateral-thinking-cap with you when you do.
P.S. I can't link to episodes, but if you want to find some online, google it and you should be fine.