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When I sat first sat down for a rerun of Lovejoy after nearly eight years
last seeing its final episode, I was prepared for some nostalgia. However,
the nostalgia turned out to be not just mine, but an integral part of the
show. This is not necessary something you would associate with Jonathan
Gash's novels about the shady exploits of the no-less shady antique dealer
Lovejoy. The first series was a bit closer to the spirit of the novels, as
some of the scripts were adaptations, but the results were still somewhat
uneven, jumpy pieces of television drama. It was only after the show was
revived five years later that it broke loose from the original guidelines,
and by the third series it had developed a more polished and delightful
identity that is as much its own as Gash's creation. And this identity is
all about fantasy and nostalgia.
Just look at the characters: There's Dudley Sutton's Tinker Dill, the tipsy but lovable olde-world gentleman with his perennial beret, tweed suit, campy army reminiscences, and a ready selection of antique trivia, poetry quotes and the admonishment "Visigoths!" for every occasion (this character particularly was softened from the cynical lush portrayed in the first series). And Chris Jury's Eric Catchpole, the leather-jacketed, heavy-metal-gobbling working-class youth and butt of jokes, ever aspirant but almost never bright or classy enough to strike out on his own. His somewhat neglected replacement from the fifth series on, Diane Parish's lively Beth Taylor, seemed to pose problems for the writers, perhaps because it's okay to take the mickey out of a young white man but less okay to take it out of a younger black woman.
Then there's Phyllis Logan's Lady Jane Felsham, the white, far-from-brittle English rose, who doubled as the unreachable object of Lovejoy's romantic longing and as a "nice aristo" with cash and class to support his operations - much to the chagrin of her too-stuffy-by-half husband. Caroline Langrishe's Charlotte Cavendish, who replaced her in the fifth series, may have been airbrushed as a more independent career woman, but ultimately she too was designed as a beauty with a posh accent and suspectibility to roguish charm.
And finally Ian McShane's Lovejoy himself, scampering along as if his jeans were too tight, spinning endless yarns to get him out of a tight spot (and often in them, as well), or taking a double-take glance at something precious - either antique or female - among the junk. As one guest character points out, he is an eternal boy, never "Mister Lovejoy", always unattached, always living basically from hand to mouth. So quite different from the Lovejoy of Gash's novels: the cynical, sexist, womanising, manipulative little schemer whom we should still like, because he supposedly does it all with oh such charm and is occasionally even capable of such great displays of basic human decency as putting people above things. And despite the occasional corpse and threat of bodily harm, the adventures of Lovejoy and his entourage in the series are really boyish romps in search of hidden treasures and a bit of budding romance, providing ample opportunity for excitement, witty banter, humorous escapades and lectures in art history - both real and invented. As if to confirm the juvenility of it all, three of the six series featured Malcolm Tierney's delightfully slimy rival dealer Charlie Gimbert as a bullyboy to be dodged and sent up.
But there's more to it, namely Lovejoy's love for antique for its beauty and preciousness - which doesn't stop him from making profit with it. The highly romanticised view of all that's old and hand-crafted with skill and love is a good excuse to hide from the anxiety about the new. This is why the series has dated little over the years: apart from a stray blast of instantly dateable pop music or fashion, almost all of it takes place in the affected timelessness of dusty antique shops, stately country homes or picturesque small towns where the newest thing in sight is Lady Jane's Range Rover. Of course Range Rover, because this is also about saving British heritage - whether it be medals, paintings or the right people - and pulling a fast one on those who see it as nothing more than a business opportunity or an obstacle to progress. Those who are helped are the little people, loveable eccentrics or down-on-their-luck gentry who still harbour the old skills and crafts or are bit useless but decent folks who deserve a helping hand. And those who get shafted are scheming dealers, greedy real-estate developers, yuppie upstarts or brash Yanks and ockerish Aussies with more money than manners - all those Thatcher's disciples clamouring for ruthless efficiency and frightful modernity.
In short, this combination of British archetypes, ironically tinged nostalgia about the old world and jolly adventuring makes for a perfect British fantasy world, the kind that, to outsiders like myself, is probably more real than the real Britain. Like Lovejoy's loaned Volkswagen, Miriam, in series three, it may be a bit rundown, and quite a bit inefficient, but it's got history and character - and it's all we can afford. It's a world where quick wit, a dash of style and knowledge of the past and the crafts of old can still win over ruthless economic realities, tasteless pomp and all the newfangled technology. It's an enticing vision. It's almost complete and utter tosh.
And it works brilliantly. Apart from a slight drop of quality during the final series, the show maintained a high standard of stories, dialogue and acting that kept me watching long after a mere nostalgia trip would have lost its potency. In fact, it's disturbing to see how different this series is from much of today's programming. Few subsequent shows have tried such an almost naïvely waggish approach and fewer still have made it work without coming across as cynical or calculating. Or perhaps I'm just getting old...
This TV series brings back fond memories of the late 80's, early 90's. Happen to have an interest in Antiques but this was completely unnecessary in order to enjoy the series. Lovejoy the Antiques dealer was an interesting combination of amateur Detective, righter of wrongs, incurable romantic/ womaniser (!), and occasional con-man which gave him a slightly dark edge - though he would generally only con other con-men or unsavoury wealthy types with so much money they would hardly notice it. This was a programme which at the time seemed to out-shine all others. The first series in 1986 was separated by a five year gap to 1991 for the second series. It only returned due to huge public demand in the UK. In the end six series were produced though some of the old characters had sadly disappeared by the last series. Why do I think Lovejoy was so good? Because it was refreshingly innocent - there was no 'body count' (well a very occasional murder), lots of good-natured banter between friends and very varied story-lines. Plus Lovejoy seemed to lead a rather enviable life, sometimes struggling financially, other times with a wind-fall but always surrounded by good friends and enjoying the hell out of life. And what country-side - the beautiful green fields and villages of England's East Anglia! There were 71 episodes to enjoy, and it does get repeated here and there - but only a few episodes have been released on VHS. Where Oh where are the DVD's??? If you haven't seen it yet and get a chance to see it - do so - it'll leave you with a feel-good factor you won't forget.
Having moved from the UK to Asia approximately 10 years ago, I have
found myself collecting quality British TV series on DVD, most of which
I had grown up with during my school and college days. These are great
to while away an hour or so on a Sunday evening when pangs of
homesickness occur. Series like Fawlty Towers, Only Fools and Horses,
Men Behaving Badly, Auf Weidersehen Pet and of course ... Lovejoy!
These series bring a smile to the face, a fair number of laughs and that warm fuzzy feeling like putting on a pair of comfortable shoes.
I had almost given up hope that Lovejoy would be released on DVD and while back in the UK on a business trip last week, was overjoyed to find that the first three series were already on the shelves (and had been since Spring 2004). I bought all three!
On first impressions, I wasn't all that enamoured with the image quality, as it comes across as quite grainy. This is a shame and can be a little distracting at times (especially during night scenes). By comparison, I had a totally different experience when I purchased the first series of Cheers on DVD with an amazing remastering job done on the image that just takes your breath away. The sound is also a bit touch-and-go and it can be difficult to hear some of the lines being delivered, particularly if the character is facing away from the camera.
The three-part interview with Ian McShane comes across as a little amateurish, although the effort was appreciated.
The real winner though is the show itself. As the series is set in the English countryside, it is fairly devoid of fashion, technology and modern cars. The result is that there's very little to date it. Only the occasional blast of background music gives the game away. At the end of the first episode, I had a smile on my face and a satisfaction that Lovejoy is back in my life.
I have to credit my Ex-Girlfriend, Wendy for one thing... She broke up with me and forced me to move back in with my mother for a time just in time to catch this series on A&E back in 1995! Ian McShane is possibly one of the finest character actors ever to have a lead in a series, and the writing for this show certainly didn't hurt. Of course, it didn't stay on A&E very long, as they seem to prefer British series based on famous literary sleuths (Holmes, Marple, Poirot, etc.). Nonetheless, for an estranged Doctor Who fan (The local PBS station had just announced it's demise and their intent to cease carrying the series) that was jonesing for a fix of cleverly written British comedic drama, this show was a godsend. The stories were rich and enthralling, the supporting cast was wonderful, and McShane's characterization was brilliant. An honorable rogue with more than his share of brushes with Murphy's law made him so enchanting... More Rockford than Rockford, more Magnum than Magnum, and a gentleman to boot. My only regret is that i have no idea how to acquire NTSC copies of the show. I can only hope they start showing it again on PBS or BBC America some time.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Lovejoy on A&E channel some years ago.
Ian McShane was right on as the roguish antique dealer, and he was ably
accompanied by Dudley Sutton, Chris Jury, Phyllis Logan, Malcolm
Tierney, and later on, Caroline Langrishe. I'm happy to see that it's
now available on DVD. I taped most of the episodes, but at the end, I'm
afraid my collection became a little confused.
I admit to not having read the books, but I understand they're much darker than this show that displayed beautiful antiques, fun characters, and glorious countryside. The ensemble work was great. I confess to especially liking the flirtation between Lovejoy and Lady Jane. I recall the last episode as being a bit of a downer, but probably fitting with the character of Lovejoy as portrayed by McShane. A&E used to have the most marvelous series - I remember this fondly, along with the House of Elliott.
Excellent series full of humour and wit. Stories well written. Deals with the 'life and times' of an antiques dealer with a problem with commitment except to friends. Terrific supporting cast who play their roles with a joy and bring depth to their characters. Wonderfully interesting stories - I especially enjoyed seeing the 'J. Arthur Rank gong' again after an absence of many years - I hope that it has now found its way into a museum for safe keeping! I wish that a new series would be produced but, and here I compliment the BBC, the production company know when to end a series - that is, while it is still excellent!
I have very fond memories of this lovely, gentle, fun but exciting series.
It was perfect Sunday evening viewing in my house, something all the
could watch. There was the occasional coarse word or double entendre, but
that was alright because my parents thought we didn't understand!
It bore little resemblance, however, to the books on which it was based. The Lovejoy series, by author Jonathan Gash, portray a much darker, nastier world, with an appropriatley seedier Lovejoy. The TV series was the sanitised version, but no worse for that. I would, however, encourage any real fans of the series to also read the books, and see the dark side of the antiques world.
After what seems like an eternity along with rumours that "It will never happen because Jonathon Gash is against it" etc - it has finally happened. The UK's BBC have just announced the DVD release date for the first series of ten episodes (17th May 2004). It will be region 2 from the BBC, presumably the other regions will be catered for elsewhere. I hope the later series will follow, probably depending on how well this first one sells. So it's up to us, Lovejoy fans - let's support it, and tell your friends! I really hope (are you listening?) that the full 71 episodes will be released in time, along with the Christmas specials. Not only that, but how about an 'extras' DVD with interviews with the cast, Jonathon Gash, TV screenplay writers. Ian McShane, of course (!!), who having read the books helped to get it televised (of course it's a different slant on the Lovejoy character which was born in the books, but which is valid in it's own right in my view). Also location information, stills and any other trivia would be great. Believe me, I would buy it!!
Very few series anymore give me a warm feeling. You know, the feeling you
get when you're watching a show that 'feels like home'. Lovejoy was a show
like that, it really made me feel comfortable.
Unfortunately, I don't think there will be shows like Lovejoy anymore. There are few newer series that have come close. One of them is Frasier, although they don't make it anymore either. Maybe I should just watch the older series over and over again, shows like Jeeves and Wooster, The Prisoner, Red Dwarf, etc.
I have all the episodes but not in the right order. ( Yes Sad I know)This is a great series about a roguish but lovable antique dealer, a role that Ian McShane was born to play. Apart from Lovejoy my favourite has to be Tinker...What a character. The rest of the regular cast, especially Phyllis Logan is excellent
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