Thursday, 29 December 2016

Jonathan Creek - Daemon's Roost - BBC TV review

Jonathan Creek returned last night with a brand new 90 minute episode, Daemon's Roost. David Renwick created Creek (Alan Davies) twenty years ago, and deserves a huge amount of credit for reviving interest in the locked room/impossible crime mystery. He did so by updating the form, combining clever plots with sharp humour and winning performances from Davies and his original partner in crime, Maddy, superbly played by Caroline Quentin.

It's often said that the law of diminishing returns applies to humorous crime stories. Creek is no longer a fresh face on the screen, and Maddy is long gone; her successors have all been very good actors (in fact Sheridan Smith is one of my top favourites) but none have quite been able to capture the same spark with Davies. The same is true of Polly, his wife, played by Sarah Alexander. Polly is beautiful, and she and Jonathan are happy together; perhaps the problem is that it's a relationship with insufficient conflict, other than Polly's determination to declutter Jonathan's life, and make a break with his past.

Daemon's Roost paid tongue-in-cheek homage to the Hammer Horror movie, in its opening scene and the plot as a whole. I was amused to see a film poster which gave, as the name of the schlocky screenwriter, David Wickren - one of those little jokes with which Renwick, a quite brilliant writer of comedy, likes to adorn his stories. We had a creepy old mansion, a mysterious old legend in the Baskerville tradition, and a sub-plot featuring a rather unlikely homicidal maniac, bent on murdering Jonathan.

There were some very good moments in the story - many of them featuring Warwick Davis, who was terrific as the cheery local vicar. (But might he also be a killer?) The clues varied from the unlikely to the obvious, but the method of murdering a rich wife was ingeniously contrived; John Dickson Carr would, I suspect, have enjoyed it. Because Jonathan Creek is now so familiar, this show won't have made the same impression as the early episodes - how could it? - but it was enjoyable seasonal fare.

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