Appellate Judge James A. Stewart hits the "Don't Find Answers" Mapquest key when planning trips.
Our reviews of Lovejoy: Series 1 (published August 13th, 2014), Lovejoy: The Complete Season Four (published January 13th, 2009), Lovejoy: The Complete Season One (published June 20th, 2007), Lovejoy: The Complete Season Six (published November 19th, 2009), Lovejoy: The Complete Season Three (published June 4th, 2008), and Lovejoy: The Complete Season Two (published February 13th, 2008) are also available.
"Your passport does less than justice to your talent. Perhaps you should change antique dealer to detective."
Christmas is a special time of year, as you can tell by the number of specials that television networks the world over trot out in December. For British viewers, the holidays are a time to sit by the electronic fire with highly rated pull-out-the-stops episodes of favorite series.
During two Christmas seasons past, Lovejoy, Ian McShane's series about an antiques dealer who's always uncovering a mystery, got that special treatment. What's special about these episodes? Location shooting. Each of the mysteries Lovejoy encounters provides an excuse to go abroad—more specifically, to Prague and North Carolina.
Those two double-length episodes—from December 27, 1992, and December 27, 1993—are presented together as Lovejoy: Christmas Specials instead of on their respective season DVD sets. The object seems to be to release a more reasonably priced Lovejoy offering in time for holiday shopping; this set costs less than $20 on Amazon.com, while other sets are more than $50.
Lovejoy: Christmas Specials features two episodes, each around 93 minutes long:
• "The Prague Sun": A Czechoslovakian man who served in the RAF returns to England to reunite with his ex-fiancée, antiques shop owner Dotty. When he goes missing, Lovejoy discovers the man has been beaten severely, and it has something to do with diamonds. When Lovejoy and Eric head off to Prague to find answers and protect the man's beautiful daughter, Lovejoy becomes a murder suspect and draws attention from a former intelligence agent. Jane Felsham (Phyllis Logan) runs over to help. Donald Pleasance guests.
• "The Lost Colony": After a family funeral, our hero believes he's "the last of the Lovejoys"—until Mary John Lovejoy shows up from the States. She settles her accounts promptly, not the sign of a true Lovejoy, and then shows her family resemblance by stealing some relics that could shine light on the famous Lost Colony of Sir Walter Raleigh. When Lovejoy heads off to North Carolina to find answers, he becomes a murder suspect and draws attention from some shady kinfolk. Charlotte Cavendish (Caroline Langrishe) runs over to help. Ken Kercheval and John Gielgud guest.
The first episode, "The Prague Sun," is classic Lovejoy, with an intriguing mystery and twists that come as fast as the silliness. Some good scenes find Tinker surprising his friends by complaining about extended pub hours ("Half of the charm of drinking was knowing you had only so much time to do it in") and Jane explaining her relationship with Lovejoy: "Did you come to Prague because you love him?" "Not exactly. I came for the usual reason: He was short of money." The story that flashes back to efforts to save art treasures from the Nazis and the relationship between Dotty and her former beau added strong human elements, and, while you know right off that Donald Pleasance is the villain, the plot still holds a few surprises.
The second, "The Lost Colony," mostly goes for laughs, probably including every Southern cliché you can think of: a sheriff who's more interested in barbecue than the law, hungry gators, moonshine, redneck tough guys, and accents so thick you could cut 'em with a knife. There's even a frog in the bathtub at the motel where Lovejoy's staying. The best laugh here is that, by the end of the episode, all the Lovejoys think of the surname-only sleuth when uttering the name "Lovejoy." It's not affection, but contempt, since he's shutting down their scams. There's also a nice scene at the end when a child psychic drops a hint to discourage him from a lie of his own. It's not bad, but it lacks suspense and leans on the cast to make some old gags feel fresh.
Both episodes were penned by series developer Ian La Frenais and his longtime collaborator Dick Clement. First known for a '60s British sitcom called The Likely Lads, they more recently worked together on Across the Universe.
The big budget means plenty of foreign scenery, which cameramen shot with loving care. For some reason, the transfer in "The Prague Sun" comes across dark and blunts the effect of all that beauty. The lighting in "The Lost Colony" is better, though, and North Carolina comes across like a picture postcard, showing off both its cities and its countryside. You'll find scratches and minor flaws on both episodes. The sound came across well, with the familiar background music infused with holiday strains in "Prague Sun" and a Southern twang in "Lost Colony."
If you have a Lovejoy fan on your Christmas list, they'll enjoy these episodes. The emphasis on comedy over story in "Lost Colony" might not win over mystery fans who aren't already familiar with the characters, though.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
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