If Appellate Judge James A. Stewart strikes it rich and heads to Spain, don't expect to see him back.
Our reviews of Lovejoy: Christmas Specials (published October 9th, 2008), 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), and Lovejoy: The Complete Season Two (published February 13th, 2008) are also available.
"This is what I missed. Gave up the game for a while. Went to live in Spain to see if I could remember how to paint. They're not fakes. The real thing, just to see if I could. I can't…Perhaps I have returned a better and a wiser man. Who knows?"
It looked like the last anyone would see of Lovejoy (Ian McShane, Deadwood) when he made a big score at the end of Season Two. However, as Lovejoy: The Complete Season Three begins, the dodgy divvy has returned to rural England and is getting his old team back together. Lady Jane Felsham's on board right away, especially since she doesn't have to give him free rent in that cottage on her estate. Tinker Dill has joined a monastic order, but he's very willing to abandon his vows. Eric Catchpole, who has moved up in the world a bit by taking a job as a security guard, isn't quite as eager, but he'll be back on Team Lovejoy by the end of the opener.
It looks like the same old Lovejoy, but one area of Lovejoy's life is getting more complicated: romance. There's a new love interest in Victoria Cavero (Joanna Lumley, The New Avengers), who fled Peru after her husband was murdered and is looking to start a new life in England. There's also a chance to start a romance with an old friend, since Jane's marriage is on the rocks.
Facts of the Case
Lovejoy: Complete Season Three features 13 episodes on four discs:
"Out to Lunch": Jane wants Lovejoy to concentrate on furnishing the Dalrymple house, but the divvy's distracted by Victoria—and a mystery involving a painting he bought at auction.
"No Strings": Victoria surprises Lovejoy with a sailing trip, and he surprises her with a marriage proposal. The Hothouse Flowers drop in on Jane, then ask for Lovejoy's help to stop a promoter who absconded with concert revenues meant for charity.
"Angel Trousers": When Lovejoy doesn't want to get out of bed, Jane tries to brighten his spirits by taking him to a funeral, where he ends up giving the eulogy for a man he never met. He finds valuable medals and a picture of Mussolini, which does bolster his spirits.
"Eric of Arabia": Eric's into antique motorcycles. Lovejoy's not, especially after a broken leg puts him in the hospital; he's itching to get out—and just itching. There's still a mystery, though, when a Chinese bank note turns up inside a terra cotta pig. Bert Kwouk plays a banker.
"Scotch on the Rocks": Lovejoy's miffed when his daughter Vicky (Amelia Shankley) sells a basket sword she found in her flat through another dealer and bids up the price he ends up paying for it. He's worried when someone tries to steal the sword.
"Loveknots": Jane sells a favorite rug—with a pattern symbolic of "marital harmony"—to patch up a fight with Alexander, who delivers an ultimatum. Meanwhile, a rug with a hidden romantic message gets too much attention at auction.
"Kids": Lovejoy's daughter Vicky is dating a man Lovejoy's age, but the antiques dealer is more interested in the art scam the son of a member of Parliament has pulled on a friend. Meanwhile, Lovejoy and Tinker are bartering to get a birthday gift for one of Jane's relatives. A young Minnie Driver plays Vicky's friend.
"Members Only": Lovejoy discovers that an exclusive golf club's silver trophy cup has been replaced with a fake. Meanwhile, a Japanese businessman is confident that he'll gain membership, even after being blackballed.
There are still antiques and crimes in a Lovejoy episode, but by Season Three, the emphasis has shifted to comedy and Lovejoy's personal misadventures. There's barely a mystery in "Loveknots" as Jane and Alexander hash out their differences; one mystery episode, "Angel Trousers," has a resolution that appears out of left field after Lovejoy spends a comic hour dealing with drunken World War II veterans and his own fears of boats and confined spaces.
Ian McShane's Lovejoy, a rogue and reluctant detective in earlier seasons, is starting to be the person people turn to with a puzzle. Lovejoy seems more eager to get involved; in one episode, a photo in the paper presents a riddle he just must uncover. The characters who change more this season, though, are Phyllis Logan's Lady Jane Felsham and Chris Jury's Eric Catchpole. Jane's undergoing a separation, which finds her struggling with emotions. It's most obvious in "Loveknots" when she sells a favorite carpet at auction to—possibly—save her marriage. She's teary eyed, but it's clear it's over marital woes, not the rug. Eric is starting to become more responsible, as seen in "Eric of Arabia" when he studies antique motorcycles and even surprises the boss by picking up some of Lovejoy's dishonest negotiating skills. Eric's still enough of a bumbler to accidentally bid at an auction or blow a musket hole in Lovejoy's kitchen ceiling, though. Dudley Sutton's getting fewer great comic turns as Tinker Dill, though. Even a chase scene in the finale seems an echo of one from the previous season.
Jane's sudden availability becomes a running plotline in the latter part of the season. Other characters think they're an item, and Lovejoy is dining alone with Janie at Felsham Hall. However, it's more of a gag than a serious romantic possibility.
The season's best episodes are comic turns, as Jane deals with Lovejoy's lovesick irresponsibility in "Out to Lunch"; Eric deals with a motorcycle and Lovejoy battles an itch in "Eric of Arabia"; and Lovejoy matches wits with an archaeologist who's got a secret in "Smoke Your Nose." Guest actors playing a snobby club captain, a Japanese businessman, and a well-bred plumber make "Members Only" one of the better episodes. While there's no puzzler that'll compel you this season, "Angel Trousers" is the only complete train wreck of an episode.
The picture's got some wear and tear, with fading, flecks, and the like. It's nothing surprising or dealbreaking, though.
For extras, there's a segment of a fresh interview with Ian McShane, plus interviews with Chris Jury, Dudley Sutton, Ian McShane, and McShane's wife, Gwen Humble, from the BBC series Pebble Mill. The big revelation here is that Humble chose Joanna Lumley as Lovejoy's romantic interest; the two women are friends after working together on stage.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The stories are still fun, but some of you might be disappointed to see Lovejoy turning over a new leaf.
Joanna Lumley's bare shoulders in the occasional bedroom scene undoubtedly got the attention of British male viewers during the series' original run. Her stint on the series, alas, was too brief; she's only in the first three episodes.
By Season Three, Jonathan Gash's Lovejoy and Ian La Frenais' Lovejoy have become two different characters. Fans can judge the merits of that for themselves. Regardless, this season offers some interesting guest spots—in addition to Joanna Lumley, Dougray Scott (Mission: Impossible II) and Minnie Driver (The Riches) have small early roles—and some good character comedy.
Not guilty, although viewers might wish Lovejoy had returned to East Anglia a rogue instead of a better and a wiser man.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
• Pebble Mill Interviews with Dudley Sutton and Chris Jury, and Ian McShane and Gwen Humble
Review content copyright © 2008 James A. Stewart; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.