Warning: this is going to be a specific rant, about a specific show, for a specific reason.
Specifically, there is a show on Amazon Prime, here in the United states, on a Britbox platform, called Jonathan Creek. It ran from 1997 until 2002, plus there were a few more stand-alone episodes throughout the years since, with the last one airing in 2016.
I don’t know how popular it was in England, but I’ve never heard of the show until I read a description about it. Usually I don’t watch a show unless I know it’s coming back for another season, but there was something about Jonathan Creek that intrigued me. So, I watched all five seasons of it — and now I find myself thinking about it at odd times.
The show is about Jonathan Creek, a man who creates illusions for a professional magician. He lives in an old windmill (is there a modern windmill other than the one for energy?) he inherited from his parents who emigrated to America. Creek has kinky, curly hair that is just a little too long, and wears a beautiful anorak coat. Because of how he thinks, laterally, instead of linearly, he is particularly adept of solving supremely puzzling mysteries. The show features locked room mysteries — where the murder happens in a seemingly impossible way or almost impossible for the killer to evade detection. I find these type of murder mysteries absolutely the best. In the first few seasons, Creek was helped by an investigative journalist. When the actress who played this journalist became pregnant, she was unceremoniously dumped by the producers (a red flag and one that bothered me then and bothers me now, still), and replaced by a number of other female “Watsons” to be the sounding board for our Sherlock-like detective, until the middle of the fourth season. Then we were introduced to Creek’s wife, whom he married after a whirlwind romance (we are to believe) and who “rescued” him from his windmill and his beloved profession — installing him in a position working alongside her for her father’s business. His wife, Mrs. Creek, pretty much explained this plot device about the windmill and such to someone Creek introduced her to, while he had a sickly smile plastered on his face during her speech.
While I loved the mysteries, I found myself complaining about the show to everyone who would listen (and a few who wouldn’t listen, but whom I cornered in the kitchen and they had no choice) that the writing had a lot to be desired. Sometimes actual dialogue as well as characters (the journalist did not sound sane all the time, and had a very annoying “I want him/I don’t want him/I definitely want no one else to have him” thing, and also, the absolute disregard the writers had for any story lines they didn’t know what to do with. For example, the worst of them involved the magician’s assistants who would quit the show, one after another. When Creek followed one of them, he discovered that another magician (a really crappy one) was recruiting them, then, in the middle of his trick, the girls would be abducted by a couple of Eastern European thugs. When Jonathan confronted the magician, and told him he had one day to make everything right, Jonathan and his female sidekick were abducted and left to die in a magic trick. Of course, they don’t die, and were rescued eleven hours later, fine and dandy. But what about the bad magician who was held at gun point? How about those women who were abducted? What about the thugs? Nothing, no clues, no idea, they were just abandoned somewhere in the plot line.
Yes, I watched every episode and loved the “impossible” mysteries. Yes, I would watch any other ones if they were to come out. And yet … and yet …. I am still bothered by the abruptness of firing a woman for getting pregnant, the discarding of facts and people when they don’t suit the writers’ purposes and the audacity of Jonathan’s wife of “rescuing” her man from a life he loved and a job he was good at. This makes what could have been a great show just an OK show, and the writers’ collective laziness and inattention infuriates me.
I read up on this show, and I know that the windmill was something they could no longer film in. But I’m sure they had plenty of exterior shots, and could have built an interior set. The writers could have written him creating his beloved magic tricks, if not for the same magician (who was beyond sleazy, by the way), then for another one. And to create roles for the ongoing troop of disposable women, interchangeable, really, is sloppy and unconscionable writing — like writing in a bunch of interesting characters in the first chapters of a book, and then forgetting about them entirely.
I am of two minds about the show, because it feeds my love of a good mystery to solve. But in the end, it was the slipshod workmanship make me admit that it was really like an accident that I should have, but I could not look away from.