Mini reviews of Television seasons old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional bunnies.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Jonathan Creek: The Judas Tree (2010)

The Judas Tree had Jonathan's spirited opposite, Joey Ross, return for another of the feature-length outings that kept the series sporadically alive for years after the regular weekly format ended. The unlikely duo investigate a macabre mystery involving a ghostly apparition and an unexplained death.

The Adam Klaus character is again shoehorned into the story, but it's less forced this time. However, I did get the feeling more than once that David Renwick was overcompensating for something by filling the story with multiple twists and turns, some of which ask the viewer to make some sizeable leaps of faith and logic. Perhaps the BBC's decision to chop the budget had him worried. To his credit, he managed to not let that aspect visibly weaken the production, and it looks just as good as what he delivered previously.

It employs some clich├ęd horror movie techniques that I wasn't enamoured with; it's effective in creating atmosphere, sure, but dragging an intellectual drama like Jonathan Creek down to that kind of level cheapened the experience for me.

It excels in other ways, though: the comedy is timely; both Alan Davies and Sheridan Smith play their roles well, with the relationship between them clearly defined and unlikely to be misunderstood; and at one stage it even exposes and draws attention to its own workings, which is a brave thing to do.

Running Time: 94 minutes.

3½ drawing boards out of 5

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Jonathan Creek: The Grinning Man (2009)

A feature-length adventure (two whole hours!) that saw the wooly-haired sleuth return to our screens after a lengthy five-year absence.

It's written and directed by creator David Renwick, so the quality is high. The only dip is with the inclusion of an entirely superfluous subplot featuring magician Adam Klaus. I mean no disrespect to Stuart Milligan, but it goes nowhere interesting and serves no purpose other than to give him something to do; its removal would've strengthened the pace of the main plot considerably.

Jonathan (Alan Davies) has been superseded by a younger demographic with less duffel in their wardrobe. When last we saw him, he was being tormented by Carla Borrego (Julia Sawalha), but she's since moved on to graze in pastures new. (What is it with the women of the series? They never stick around for long enough.) Filling her role is Joey Ross, played by Sheridan Smith. Joey performs the same function as the women that came before, which won't surprise anyone, but Sheridan's gung-ho attitude and willingness to get her feet dirty enables the viewer to envision her as having a very different background than Maddie or Carla.

The case involves a sealed attic room in which someone disappeared without a trace over seventy years prior, in 1938. The room's secrets remained hidden, as did the motivations of the designer, but that's only because JC hadn't been around to poke into dusty corners and tempt fate with his trickster’s intuition.

Running Time: 120 minutes.

3½ reality checks out of 5