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Case Number 15422

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Lovejoy: The Complete Season Four

BBC Video // 1993 // 663 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // January 13th, 2009

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge James A. Stewart has an antique Cannon in his collection.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Lovejoy: Christmas Specials (published October 9th, 2008), Lovejoy: Series 1 (published August 13th, 2014), Lovejoy: Series 2 (published October 11th, 2014), Lovejoy: Series 3 (published November 22nd, 2014), Lovejoy: Series 4 (published January 23rd, 2015), Lovejoy: Series 5 (published April 22nd, 2015), Lovejoy: Series 6 (published July 28th, 2015), 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.

The Charge

"I never heard of an antiques dealer going off his legs and losing his punch."—Eric Catchpole (Chris Jury) on Lovejoy

Opening Statement

At the end of the third season, viewers might have thought Lovejoy would marry Lady Jane Felsham and settle down. It didn't happen, and Ian McShane tells us in a short interview that it couldn't have been, since television characters, as with celebrity icons like James Dean, have to remain the same forever.

"You want to keep him in that suspended animation state," McShane says.

How do you accomplish that? Lovejoy: The Complete Season Four starts with a reversal of fortune, sending Lovejoy back to the start—and his old ways of scamming. To that end, Malcolm Tierney returns as more respectable but even less honest rival Charlie Gimbert.

Facts of the Case

As Lovejoy: The Complete Season Four opens, the tax collectors are amassed outside the home the antiques dealer has been housesitting. They're there to collect Freddy's back debt, but they make off with Lovejoy's antiques as well. Will he pack it in?

Disc One
• "The Napoleonic Commode": "I haven't got a pot to piss in, and all you can come up with is an antique French loo," Lovejoy barks at Tinker. The next step is to "authenticate" it as Napoleon's commode. Alexei Sayle guests as Freddy.

• "The Ring": Lovejoy wants to organize a "ring" to drive up the price of a watercolor. It's a tricky task now that his old gang has gone straight.

• "Second Fiddle": Why does a talented musician want Lovejoy to find someone to "cobble" a beautiful Stradivarius? Lovejoy—and a violin forger—want to know.

• "The Colour of Mary": Charlie Gimbert (Malcolm Tierney) wants Lovejoy to search for a billiard table owned by Mary Queen of Scots to help him string along a champion.

Disc Two
• "Fly the Flag": A Revolutionary War standard found in a church could help pay a once-wealthy family's tax bill. But does it belong to the family, the church, or the Americans?

• "Judgement of Solomon": Two burglars drop stolen artifacts in the boot of Jane's Range Rover while Eric's driving it. Worse yet, the silverware has Lovejoy's prints all over it.

• "The Galloping Major": When a couple drives off after smashing Lovejoy's taillight, the ensuing chain of events leaves the antique dealer with a cannon that's hard to handle.

• "God Helps Those": When the bureau Lovejoy left on commission at an antique store is destroyed in a smash-and-grab robbery, he vows to catch the "barbarians."

Disc Three
• "They Call Me Midas": They may call the art dealer with his eye on a Klimt a Midas, but Lovejoy's mentor calls him a sucker and enlists the antiques dealer's help in a scam.

• "Irish Stew": When Lovejoy and friends interrupt a burglary, it gives the antiques dealer a chance to restore missing pages of a historic book and get revenge on a dishonest rival.

• "Dainty Dish": Lovejoy's Brighton fun involves racing to gather a collection of valuable plates before Charlie can get it, with the help of Tinker's clairvoyant ex-flame.

Disc Four
• "Taking the Pledge": Lovejoy doesn't have the money to help a homeless lord get a valuable miniature back from the pawn shop, but he has an idea: barter to turn two pounds or so into thousands.

• "Lovejoy Loses It": After a high-profile TV gig, "media star" Lovejoy's mistakes include a crooked deal with Charlie and overlooking a valuable wine cooler in a house clearance.

The Evidence

Lovejoy's reversal of fortune at the start of Season Four gives Ian McShane a chance to return Lovejoy to his antiheroic ways. He's seen leaving a lover's home—in a hurry, chased by dogs—when her husband comes back early from a trip. He's also scavenging and looking for easy dishonest money.

However, it's not exactly the old Lovejoy, since by now the emphasis has shifted from plot to character and comedy. In "The Ring," for example, the actual scam Lovejoy pulls is a small part of the story. More important are the once-shady characters he reunites with and Janie's reaction ("I've never been more angry with you," which Lovejoy foolishly disputes) to her unwitting involvement. The romantic relationship between Lovejoy and Jane Felsham seems to have petered out, with both back to seeing others while trading risque remarks.

The humor is stronger in Season Four. A lot of it is physical as Lovejoy and his friends deal with objets d'art such as a fragile chamberpot or a heavy antique cannon, but the dialogue is also fast and silly. My favorite bit was Tinker's recreation of the Boston Tea Party on Jane's table in "Fly the Flag." As the show turns more to humor, Dudley Sutton as the tippling Tinker Dill steals a lot more scenes. The best episodes this season are the ones that veer completely toward the farcical: "Fly the Flag," "The Galloping Major," "Dainty Dish," and "Taking the Pledge."

The finale, "Lovejoy Loses It," has its silly moments but is touching as Lovejoy, trying to maintain the balance in his life, meets with a retired divvy who lost his gift and camps out with Tinker and Eric in the queue at an antiques fair.

While the series is now rather light on suspense, there are still some fine dramatic character moments, such as the bonding of a father and son over a Stradivarius in "Second Fiddle" or a rabbi's reaction to the discovery of a black marketeer in "Judgement of Solomon."

The picture here was decent, with occasional grain and one freeze-up that I noticed. Trips to Ireland and to Brighton allow for some fresh scenery. Sound quality was good, with "The Colour of Mary," "They Call Me Midas," and "Irish Stew" benefiting from scores tied to their themes.

In a short interview, Ian McShane talks about keeping Lovejoy fresh, his dad's career with Manchester United, the many houses used in the series, and "The Colour of Mary," which seems to be his favorite episode of the season.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

How many times has Felsham Hall been robbed? With a long-running series, some things start to repeat themselves by the fourth season. Two attempted burglaries in a row at Felsham Hall seems a bit much, especially if you're powerwatching.

Closing Statement

Lovejoy: The Complete Season Four leans more toward comedy than mystery, but it includes some memorably funny episodes. That might not appeal to viewers looking for a challenging puzzle, but if you like British comedy and memorable characters, it's some fun hours at the telly.

Moreover, the season's theme of getting back on track after a financial disaster makes this a well-timed release if you're dealing with the ravages of a recession. I wouldn't recommend following Lovejoy's methods, except in the last episode, but watching him bounce back may make you forget your troubles for a while.

The Verdict

Although Lovejoy is always guilty of something, Lovejoy beats the rap once again.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 85
Audio: 88
Extras: 75
Acting: 90
Story: 80
Judgment: 84

Perp Profile

Studio: BBC Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 663 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Comedy
• Drama
• Foreign
• Mystery
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurette


• IMDb

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