May 10, 1997 – On UK TV: Jonathan Creek

Jonathan_Creek-1997Jonathan Creek is a British mystery crime drama series produced by the BBC and written by David Renwick. It stars Alan Davies as the title character, who works as a creative consultant to a stage magician while also solving seemingly supernatural mysteries through his talent for logical deduction and his understanding of illusions.

The series ran semi-regularly from 1997 to 2004, broadcasting for four series and two Christmas specials, initially co-starring Caroline Quentin as Creek’s collaborator, writer Maddy Magellan. After Quentin’s departure in 2001, Julia Sawalha joined the cast as new character Carla Borrego, a theatrical agent turned television presenter.

The cult success of the series won it the BAFTA for Best Drama Series in 1998. It was Alan Davies and Caroline Quentin in Jonathan Creek.notable for featuring comic characters and sub-plots that lent a lot of humour to the series. Unusually, it was produced by the BBC’s in-house Entertainment department rather than the Drama department – this was because Renwick preferred working with people he knew rather than the people at Drama who might not share his vision. It has included guest-stars such as Bob Monkhouse, Griff Rhys Jones, Rik Mayall, Jack Dee, Bill Bailey, John Bird and Nigel Planer; who are mainly associated with comedy, but who gave straight performances.

David Renwick wanted to write a detective series that dealt with the actual work of detection rather than action, which most crime dramas appeared to focus on at the time. Also, whereas most of these were about who did it (Inspector Morse or Taggart) and why it was done (Cracker), this new series would be about how it was done, with such tropes as murders committed in locked rooms, a person being in two places at once or impossible thefts. Finding a culprit would still be part of the detective’s job, but the emphasis would be on discovering how the crime was committed.

Magic would play an important part of the series, but it would be in the form of tricks and sleight-of-hand used by stage magicians to deceive their audiences. The programme often exposed how such tricks are actually done, but in a way quite banal compared to the trick itself. [Wikipedia]

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