Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Lovejoy" Season 1 Disc 1

A BBC show based on a series of pulpy novels, Lovejoy concerns the adventures of the eponymous Lovejoy (Ian McShane), an antiques dealer with a keen eye and a scheming mind. Lovejoy has a talent for differentiating genuine antiques from forgeries. This uncanny facility leads other characters to call him a "divvie," presumably from "diviner," though perhaps his unscrupulous nature and practiced hand at making forgeries provide a better explanation.

Lovejoy fits a certain mold often seen in detective fiction: He never seems to have any money, in spite of his formidable talents (which only seem to bring him trouble). He lives in a ramshackle house on property he rents from his well-off nemesis, a fellow antiques dealer and auctioneer called Charlie Gimbert (Malcolm Tierney). Gimbert is a pompous, easily-deceived git, and one of the show's chief ironies -- throughout the first four episodes, at least -- is that of the buffoonish Gimbert's success versus the brilliant Lovejoy's near-penury. But Lovejoy's status works for character reasons: we forgive his rascally deeds and hope for his success, even though we realize the premise will always enforce a return to the status quo by episode's end.

And Lovejoy IS a rascal. He is not above concocting extremely elaborate plots to get what he wants. He sleeps around, lies, and uses other people to serve his ends whenever possible. His young "trainee" Eric Catchpole (Chris Jury) and old, besotted barker Tinker Dill (Dudley Sutton) serve as willing accomplices, though often end up doing less-than-desirable work. That said, Lovejoy is loyal to his friends, and looks genuinely hurt when one old acquaintance turns up dead in the first episode. This loyalty, along with his charisma, wit, and ability to charm people -- and women in particular -- keep him a sympathetic character.

The other chief irony of the show, as Eric notes several times, is that the world of antiques -- so boring and stodgy to outsiders -- is actually full of deception, backstabbing, and blood. Any object that Lovejoy makes, buys, steals, acquires, or encounters ends up bringing him into contact with criminals of one sort or another. In this way, the show feels almost like the bastard child of Murder, She Wrote and the Antiques Roadshow. But Lovejoy isn't exactly a detective; it's usually his greed and abiding love for genuine antiques, rather than a sense of justice or desire to set things right, that leads him to solve the various mysteries he encounters.

Lovejoy is certainly an entertaining show. Ian McShane gets to be smooth, sassy, and tough, while the supporting actors all do well with their roles. The first four episodes are compelling, but thus far there hasn't been enough of an overarching narrative in the show's rather episodic structure to kindle a burning need to watch the next episode. With four 50-minute episodes per disc, it's not well suited to someone like me, who tries to turn rentals over as quickly as possible. Lacking a narrative need to immediately watch the next episode or acquire the next disc, Lovejoy would be better off on a streaming service like Netflix's Watch Instantly rather than as a solid block taking up several weeks of rentals.

I understand that major changes took place between the first and second seasons of the show (which were separated by almost five years), so my opinion may change if and when I get to that point. For now, I think Lovejoy might be an effective aperitif between seasons of something more serialized and curiosity-arousing. For me, I think the next show I'll be trying will be the 2003-2009 Battlestar Galactica reboot. More about that later, I guess, and more about Lovejoy whenever it comes up again! 

No comments:

Post a Comment