Jonathan Creek (1997–2016)
8 user 1 critic

The Grinning Man 

Stage magician Lance Gessler lives in a mansion known as Metropolis that has a deadly history. When another victim succumbs to an ominous presence in the attic room, it's up to Jonathan to unravel the mystery.


David Renwick


David Renwick (by)




Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Andrew Havill ... Narrator (voice)
Jon Campling ... Jacques Futrelle
Patrick Poletti Patrick Poletti ... Eli Mencken
Eloise Rakic-Platt Eloise Rakic-Platt ... Child Constance
Sarah Champion ... Marcia
Sheridan Smith ... Joey Ross
Alan Davies ... Jonathan Creek
Stuart Milligan ... Adam Klaus
Sally Plumb Sally Plumb ... Housewife
Adam James ... Alec
Naomi Bentley ... Mina
Ciarán McMenamin ... Glen
Nicholas Boulton ... Lance Gessler
Jenna Harrison ... Elodie
Judy Parfitt ... Constance Gessler


Stage magician Lance Gessler lives in a mansion known as Metropolis that has a deadly history. When another victim succumbs to an ominous presence in the attic room, it's up to Jonathan to unravel the mystery.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery



Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Debut of Sheridan Smith as Joey Ross. See more »


The portrait of the 'Grinning Man' smoking a pipe is supposedly by Hieronymus Bosch who died in 1516 long before tobacco had been introduced to Europe. See more »


[Adam is lusting after a pornography actress with unbelievably large breasts]
Adam Klaus: Ohhhhhh. What I wouldn't give, Jonathan, for a piece of that action. The eighth and nine wonders of the world. If you're looking for a 360-degree experience, you could lose your whole face in there and never see it again. Forget about bras - you wouldn't get those in a *hammock*!
Jonathan Creek: Have you finished?
Adam Klaus: Sorry?
Jonathan Creek: Are you done? Because I've really got better things to do than stand around here watching your tongue hanging out like...
See more »


References Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) See more »

User Reviews

A Welcome Return
2 January 2009 | by CharteredStreetsSee all my reviews

It has been more than four years since the inimitable (can you imagine if Nicholas Lyndhurst had got the role?) Alan Davies donned his duffle coat and applied his lateral mind to a baffling mystery. This time it concerns, typically and wonderfully, a spooky old room in a spooky old house. It's called the Nightmare Room, and - as Judy Parfitt ominously explains - people disappear when they try to stay in it over night; the set up has touches of earlier episodes 'Mother Redcap' and 'Satan's Chimney,' but manages to take its own path. The finest appropriately Gothic touch is the study by Hieronymus Bosch on the wall, smiling out at the poor suckers who think they can outsmart the ghost of some mad old relative kept there years ago. If you think that the episode will end with a confrontation with the ghost, you don't know Jonathan Creek.

I know Jonathan Creek a little too well. This one ranks as a good one, while not quite up there with my favourite, the 1998 Christmas Special 'Black Canary' which co-starred Rik Mayall. The first thing I liked is the show hits the ground running as an episode of Jonathan Creek; locked rooms, magicians and all. No long explanations for the four year gap, mercifully.

The appeal of Jonathan Creek is that of any hardened cynic in a world gone topsy-turvy. When things vanish from or are killed in a locked room with no means of escape or sign of an assailant (as happens in JC slightly more often than in real life), he keeps his head on. In fact he is stimulated; for all he seems relieved at the start to be done with grizzly murders, we know that JC loves the challenge. If you are new to locked-room mysteries, I recommend 'The Hollow Man' by John Dickson Carr, a novel that tells you everything you need to know about LRMs (and the finest of all, Gaston Leroux's 'The Mystery of the Yellow Room'). These give you an indication of how to apply logic to a locked room mystery, although I concede that my logic failed me last night and I had no idea how it would resolve itself (well, a bit of an idea, but hardly the whole solution). Unlike a real magic trick, where the presentation is everything and the explanation is banal, the mystery aspect of Jonathan Creek makes the mechanics of the trick an added delight. There are several methods of explaining the inexplicable on Jonathan Creek. Two relatively common ones are the variants that a) it looked odd but relatively straightforward but turns out to be the result of something much more sinister, or b) it looked incredibly sinister but turned out to be something surprisingly (and sometimes pleasingly) straightforward. The fact is we want to be surprised - some of us want to be the smartest guy in the room and say they worked it all out, but I can honestly say I've never fully worked out an episode of JC (maybe one or two from the fourth series, but even it has the superb 'Tailor's Dummy' episode).

The characters who hang around the bizarre old mansion - called 'Metropolis' and surely a reference to Charles Foster Kane's 'Xanadu', as is the opening news reel - are all appropriately suspicious. David Renwick, who has written every episode of the show (as well as One Foot In The Grave, also about a likable, cynical grump; he also directs this episode), is a natural at the mystery genre. He presents the possible suspects without making any big deal, and leaves it to the audience to take stock and evaluate. As always the biggest question is not 'who done it?' so much as 'how?' There is at least one red herring. 'Jonathan Creek' tells ghost stories then explains how there are no ghosts; with episodes like this and Black Canary it gets to have its cake and eat it too, going for creepy effects and later explaining them with a satisfyingly logical conclusion.

If there are imperfections in this show, they are not major. I would say that two hours of running time was perhaps a little inflated; this story could have been told in 90 minutes, like Black Canary, and perhaps would have a little more punch. Sheridan Smith was fine as the assistant (/sidekick?), coming on board when her own friend disappears in The Nightmare Room, and I liked the idea of one who was a match for his expertise, but the two still lacked the chemistry of Maddie and JC from the earlier series (this is not to say I'd love Caroline Quentin to come back, as I think perhaps that chemistry might not return anyway). Stuart Milligan is back as magician Adam Klaus, who Creek designs the tricks for but who never seems to shape his own public persona quite the way he'd like it; whenever he gets close, his ego gets in the way.

I hope there are more episodes to come. I'd settle for the occasional Christmas Special, to be sure. Renwick stopped doing the series in 2004 because he felt he was running out of ideas; the conceits that keep the show moving. I wonder if he thinks of an ingenious solution then works backwards to fill it out to a story, or he thinks of a deliciously eerie set-up first then has to figure out how to tie the whole thing up. An annual, or at least occasional, Christmas special might be less pressure to churn out idea after idea. I will be thoroughly satisfied if they are as good as 'The Grinning Man,' which is an excellent addition to the series and a good episode for people who have somehow managed to miss the lateral vs. paranormal dealings of Jonathan Creek the first time round.

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Release Date:

1 January 2009 (UK) See more »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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