This series is in the English tradition of the « independent » investigator who helps the police solve some bad criminal cases essentially with their mind power and their observation power. The great model of them all is Sherlock Holmes but many more were invented and developed in detective story literature, especially female specimens like those of Agatha Christie. In this case the main mind, Jonathan Creek, is associated to a woman who is a reporter or writer of some kind. They are only interested in complex cases, especially having to do with some surreal or super-real elements. Jonathan Creek is by profession the technical inventor of a very successful magician, a certain Adam Klaus. So there is always the disappearing of a criminal or of some artifact, or some illusion that has to be placed back in context, and that cannot be explained at all with normal physical considerations. In other words magic. Then the stories always add a personal element about the victims and the people around the victims that is strange too and has to do with some kind of mysterious business often shown as a scam. The object here is to show that most "magicians" are nothing but crooks who pretend they are performing something supernatural, only when they are performing a sham, an illusion, a treacherous dishonest act. The stories are extremely inventive and the situation in which Jonathan Creek and his female associate finds themselves are often hairy and frightening. Generally it ends up in the hands of the police except from time to time when they decide it is worth a special treatment. The second Christmas special is typical at that level. Satan's Chimney really is Satan's Chimney. Of course not the Satan you may think of, but quite a different one that has not been living since the Middle Ages, but one of blood and flesh today. That Satan is so perverted that he leads some people into doing some so unnatural things that the name of Satan is by far miles away from his reality. The second quality of this series is that, being a BBC production, it has no advertising and an hour is an hour. I must say that is slightly different from the one hour American series that are reduced to a small 45 minutes, when so much, because of the advertising that is interspersed in the show. The extra fifteen minutes gives the story some depth because they just have the time to build that depth and there is only one enigma in each episode which makes it possible to concentrate on the details, and that once again is a major difference with American series in the field, today imitated by some European series, particularly French series. That's definitely a positive point. If you add to that the acting that is perfect, even at times more than perfect you nearly have a totally admirable picture. But in fact there is another essential element that is 100% British. It is humour (note the spelling of course). At times it is gross, at times it is subtle, or sexual, or political, or whatever but it is humour all right and it gives the series a catching look that you cannot miss. You laugh in the midst of the worst details of the worst crimes you can imagine. Finally we will note the police is practically always shown under a non-negative light, often positive, and some times not too swift. There is a nasty copper from time to time just to spice up the vision. This series is worth the numerous hours it covers at least 1,000%.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID
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