I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while. BBC’s Jonathan Creek was a little gem for us South Americans. A novelty. Not to say that Britain always took it for granted, quite the contrary, I am just elevating its achievements. So great were these that they translate well even outside Britain, considering differences in culture and language. But upon watching the latest iteration of this series and its blurry intentions, only one thing is clear: its demise.
Jonathan Creek used to be charming, cheesy (in the best way possible) and above all, intelligent. Not only were the stories well written, but the characters where interesting and strangely believable. I would not employ any of these sentences to describe the latest series, which at the moment has delivered two episodes that leave me wondering what went wrong. More importantly, why did they decide to name this Jonathan Creek as it has nothing to do with the previous series?
We see it all the time in video games. Nintendo comes up with an interesting new idea, a fresh mechanic that provides unique gameplay, but the idea is hard to market. This is why we have so many Mario spin-offs. Mario Kart, Tennis, Strikers and even the Super Smash Bros franchise were ideas so bold that had to be re-skinned to something the audience was familiar with. The big difference here is that the people at Nintendo knows what they are doing.
This new Jonathan Creek feels like a different series that just uses the name to draw in viewers. The charm is gone, the characters do not have chemistry and the mysteries are simple and uninteresting. Even Alan Davies seems to be playing a different character, one that just happens to be named Jonathan Creek. He is no longer the awkward but witty magician’s assistant that lived in a windmill, he is now a humourless man who works for an ad agency. Everything that made Jonathan Creek what it was is gone. Even if they are not just using the name to draw in viewers, this is exactly how it feels. It would not be as bad if the “mysteries” and storylines were interesting and smart , but they are mundane and uninspired. They have to be interesting enough for the audience to care and the reveal must satisfy the expectations. The quality of the writing has gone down and it seems the writers are trying to compensate with more instead of better, as both the new episodes had at least three mysteries each, as opposed to older episodes that had just the one, cohesive mystery.
In my opinion, Jonathan Creek did not need reinventing. Both the format of the programme and the character himself would have been fine if no changes were made. It would have made perfect sense if an older Creek was still single, still had a partner he had chemistry with, was still a magician’s assistant and still solving crimes the way he used to. It would have made sense because it would have stayed true to the outlook he had of people and the world. If you wanted to introduce a more mature version of him, maybe make him a magician running his own show. Delivering illusions and tricks with awkward humour would have made his show unique.
This is why I keep wondering what happened. Maybe the people writing it have conflicting interests, or do not have a clear vision of what they want the programme to be. Maybe the people writing it are unfamiliar with what made Jonathan Creek work.
Tomorrow night BBC will be airing the third and final episode for this series. I don’t have high expectations, but I would really love to be surprised.
At least the technical aspects are top notch and it is beautifully shot.