Appellate Judge James A. Stewart has an antique Cannon in his collection.
Our reviews of Lovejoy: Christmas Specials (published October 9th, 2008), 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.
"I never heard of an antiques dealer going off his legs and losing his punch."—Eric Catchpole (Chris Jury) on Lovejoy
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?
• "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.
• "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."
• "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.
• "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.
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.
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.
Although Lovejoy is always guilty of something, Lovejoy beats the rap
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
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