Last week, Nick Cardillo and I discussed the impossible crime on screen, at the end of which he casually asked about Jonathan Creek like I’d be able to condense my thoughts into a pithy bon mot and not obsess about what I’d missed out for the next 30 or 40 years. Instead, we’re back to discuss the series as a whole today.
I’ve written about Creek before — picking my five favourite episodes, bemoaning its fall from grace — but this time we’re going through the entire series from 10th May 1997 (‘The Wrestler’s Tomb’) to 28th December 2016 (‘Daemons’ Roost’), looking at each and every episode to varying degrees of detail and enthusiasm.
I wouldn’t expect this to be of interest to someone who hasn’t watched Jonathan Creek, but presume all spoilers all the time (I may have forgotten to mention this in the recording — it was a long session, and the edit took frickin’ aaaaages) and seek solace in knowing that a chronological approach is taken and so you might be able to skip over any you haven’t seen. Sure, I could provide time codes, but I’m not gonna.
You can listen to the podcast on iTunes here, on Spotify here, or on Stitcher here, or by using the player below.
Thanks of course go to Nick for the casual suggestion and his willingness to submit to such a searching examination of one of the few genuine joys of my younger life that still holds sway over me as an adult, to Jonny Berliner for the music, to you for being an audience that’ll appreciate this, and to David Renwick for creating something that, while not without significant flaws, undoubtedly altered the course of my interests forever.
Theoretically, episode 28 of In GAD We Trust should follow next week, but I don’t think it will — I’m very busy, the guest is very busy, and I’m not sure that we’re going to be able to co-ordinate in time. I imagine the next podcast on here will be the Spoiler Warning chat about After the Funeral (1953) by Agatha Christie in three weeks, but maybe we’ll surprise you.
There’s so little genuine surprise these days, y’know? Or, at least, not the good kind of surprise. A bit of irresolution is exciting. I hope.
All episodes of In GAD We Trust can be found on the blog by clicking here.
22 thoughts on “In GAD We Trust – Bonus Episode! The Highs and Lows of Jonathan Creek [w’ Nick Cardillo]”
That was an interesting and entertaining two hours as I had expected. Some episodes I rate more highly, some much more lowly but it was interesting to hear your reasons and opinions about the show in general. More thoughts perhaps to come – I couldn’t resist staying up to hear it as soon as it posted. Thanks to you both for making this!
So glad that you enjoyed our discussion and I’ll look forward to your own retrospective thoughts when you have completed your re-watch of all the episodes!
Thanks – I did mine as a least to most favorite ranking video (yet to post). I love all the detail you both went into here.
I was extremely grateful to your posts for reminding me of some of the non-mystery elements — I’m solid on the clues, but the subplots (especially as the series wear on, as we say) are a bit of a jumble.
Thanks for proving it’s possible to talk about each episode to a degree of depth and analysis, too, which is in part what got me thinking about this a while ago. I would ha baulked at the idea of 2 hours on Jonathan Creek were your own remembrances not so entertaining.
Thanks again Jim. I am glad that you pulled all of the seasons 4 and 5 issues basically together and focused on the puzzles. I often felt like half of my posts in the later seasons were given over to complaints about the comedy while I think there were some interesting plots there…
Great fun, thanks guys. Been years and years since I’d watched the show but it’s great to be reminded of how good it is (mostly). And thoroughly intrigued by the sound of that Japanese show!
The Perfect Insider is brilliantly creative…just slow. Fans of dense puzzle plots will be in heaven, however.
PS Regarding Rik Mayall, he had an accident while riding a quad bike. He wasn’t paralyzed as far as I know but took a while to recover and was off the screen for a bit. But he did BLACK CANARY after the accident, so he was perfectly mobile even then. No idea why he’s in a wheelchair in SAVANT’S THUMB, though it is well in line with Renwick’s trademark focusing on how every day misfortune can befall anyone at any time for no reason.
A quad bike! That’s the one!
I think you’ve slightly misrepresented “Shoestring”, in which car chases (even in a not very glamorous car) hardly featured at all, as far as I recall – in fact, I’m not sure that Eddie could drive, though my memory might be at fault.
Incidentally, you might like to know that the latest episode of “Silent Witness” had both an impossible crime (of a very specialised sort) and a locked-room mystery.
I distinctly remember a young Trevor Eve in a Ford Cortina. Or maybe I’m thinking of Julian Barrett in Mindhorn.
I apologise to anyone who tracks down Shoestring in the hope of a crappy British TV car chase and has to make do instead with Trevor Eve running around a Welsh quarry in a cardigan.
Why am I the only one who recognizes the Chestertonian magic of Time Waits for Norman? I can see why some people would have a problem with the space-and time alibi without a proper crime or a more weighty problem, but it’s a great, low-key episode with an original premise and one of Renwick’s cleanest plots. Not to mention a convincing piece of code cracking and that splendid motive! But you guys loved the comedy bits. It’s like being surrounded by Philistines and Vandals!
Anyway, great overview of the series! 🙂
I note those Chestertonian elements there, but even more so in The Problem at Gallows Gate (the apparent strangling is basically the solution of Three Tools of Death), and Tailor’s Dummy (where the suicide is a beautifully realized variation on The Eye of Apollo… with a dash of Carr’s Constant Suicides thrown in).
Too late… aneurysm!!
As the years go by, I feel Jonathan Creek can be increasingly seen as both more and less admirable than it did originally.
The facility of Renwick’s puzzle plotting grows even more impressive from a distance— he truly did demonstrate that Carrian plotting can be effectively presented on the screen. However, at the same, time both his humor and characterization seem increasingly more jaded and even sleazy.
For, even worse than his homophobia and other intolerance of alternate lifestyles is Renwick’s general misanthropy. He just doesn’t seem to like people. I can enjoy witty cynicism (Oscar Wilde, Kind Hearts and Coronets, House of Cards, etc…) but Renwick’s world is almost entirely populated by petty, selfish, unlikeable (and not all that witty) people. Jonathan is clearly meant to be the best of them, but upon reflection it occurs to me that even he is only somewhat more intelligent, not really much more sympathetic. I’m certainly not one who prizes characterization over plot (and I laugh at those who prefer the thinly-plotted early seasons of Poirot simply because they give us more Captain Hastings and Miss Lemon), but it gets difficult to spend so much time with a series in which a pissed-off curmudgeon is the nicest guy around by default.
My lift of favorite episodes are not all that much different from both of yours. Black Canary and Jack in the Box are in my top 5. Satan’s Chimney and Tailor’s Dummy (probably my second favorite of all, and my clear favorite of season 4) are there as well. What’s #5? Maybe Mother Redcap. I dunno.
I do have a few differing views. The solution to Angel’s Hair seemed rather obvious to me (I think perhaps I’ve performed too many magic tricks that play with a similar confusion between past and present). I also find Seer in the Sands somewhat subpar— I don’t mind the prediction in the sand, but as for the fax, I think if you add the odds of the coincidence that a fly would land on the exact spot (and at the correct angle) which would reverse the meaning of a message to the odds that Jonathan would be likely to consider that possibility from reading the note without the comma, you have what Jim describes (in reference to a later episode), as “coincidence to the level of coincidence squared to the power of coincidence.” In other words, I consider it something of a 5th season episode in season 4, and if you buy it, I suggest you buy a lottery ticket immediately. I certainly don’t.
On the other hand, I once woke up from a dream in which my brother (who is neither Christian nor evangelistic) tiraded me at length with dramatic tales of fire and brimstone, only to find that my television— which had been showing a 30’s classic when I fell asleep— was now playing its Sunday morning religious sermon. I was quite evidently incorporating the fiery oration of the preacher with the dream of my brother while in that semiconscious dream state that is at the core of hypnotic influence. It may not be a reliable way to teach French, but it actually occurs. And all the more convincing in that it was not depended upon to work that way by the culprit. I buy the Eyes if Tiresias!
“As the years go by, I feel Jonathan Creek can be increasingly seen as both more and less admirable than it did originally.”
In my opinion, the biggest contribution of Renwick and Jonathan Creek has always been and will always be the glimpse it gave us of what a proper adaptation of John Dickson Carr or G.K. Chesterton would look and feel like. Sometimes I wish Renwick had spend those years adapting Dr. Gideon Fell or H.M. to the small screen, because I’ve noticed the years Renwick borrowed quite a few of his locked room ideas. This is why Jack-in-the-Box is not half as impressive as it was on my first watching and The Scented Room really should have screen credit reading “based on a story (“The Stolen Romney”) by Edgar Wallace.”
This discovery made my admiration for the genuinely good episodes only stronger, but wouldn’t hesitate a second to trade The Black Canary, Time Waits for Norman and The Tailor’s Dummy for Renwick’s adaptation of Carr.
My problem is that though I think Renwick would know how to adapt the plots— he’s proven himself there— I’m really not at all convinced he could pull off the tone. Of course, he wasn’t trying for that tone in Jonathan Creek— but I wasn’t at all crazy about the time he did try for. I generally watched the series fir its plots DESPITE its off-putting style.
That describes my experience with the show’s latter days, certainly. In its early days, I like to think I was too naive to realise too much about these wider issues, and just loved it as a mystery show that had occasional comedic asides.
he is only somewhat more intelligent, not really much more sympathetic
This is a quite superb observation. Jonathan’s approach to people is often to be caustic or disbelieving, and if you strip away the “ain’t he sweeeeet?!” trappings of shaggy hair and the windmill he’s actually kind of an arsehole in the earlier series, and when that gets stripped away later on he’s just…dull.
But, nevertheless, the best of the puzzles still stand up, and — like yourself — it’s the puzzles that kept bringing me back. And would bring me back again if the BBC resurrect this in 5 years. I’d probably hate it, but I’d watch it for sure!
To be honest, the series isn’t half as fun as listening to two fanboys wax enthusiastic about it! 🥳
I bought the first four seasons many years ago and generally loved the series (except the one with all the ancient corpses floating under the bed – my nerves still haven’t gotten over that one. During the pandemic, I rewatched all of these and found, like everyone else, that the side plots and humor gradually brought the whole thing down a great deal. All this talk of “Carrian plots” – I agree to the use of Carrian TRICKS, but none of these holds a candle to the plots – and cinematic potential – of Carr at his best.
For all its baggage, though, I can’t think of another puzzle-driven series in existence that actually contained such high-quality puzzles, and for that we must give Renwick – and all the masters from whom he stole ideas – their due.
Yeah, I agree — the closer Renwick gets to the complexity of Carrian plotting, the more unhinged he becomes and the wilder his focus becomes as he tries to hold onto all his threads.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think monk ever suffered any kind of consistent decline in plotting merit. I feel rather that throughout its entire run it alternated stretches (of various lengths) of solid puzzles with inept ones (and in that respect I feel it was much like the first four seasons of Creek). And while it never offered the plotting complexity and ingenuity of Jonathan Creek at its best— and though I remain steadfastly a puzzle-foremost guy— having characters one could care about (and cared about each other) was a definite asset.
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I just wanted to say, thank you for the recommendation. I am in the U.S., in my 30s, but had honestly never heard of this show. I don’t remember it ever airing here, but maybe somehow missed it. I was able to check out the dvds from my local library, and watch season five with the free trial of britbox. I obviously wanted to watch all of the episodes, before I listened to your podcast episode. Which is why this comment is coming to you long after the episode aired.
I agreed with you on many things, maybe not on others. But it’s always fun to hear a good conversation, from passionate fans. All in all, I really enjoyed the show, so thank you again!
And thanks for the podcast, in general. Definitely one of my favorites.