Jonathan Creek-Christmas Specials (1997)

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Released 12-Nov-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category TV Series None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 206:58 (Case: 208)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Sandy Johnson
Keith Washington
Marcus Mortimer
Richard Holthouse
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music Julian Stewart Lindsay


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

†† British TV makes absolutely little sense to me. I don't understand why TV seasons tend to last only 6 episodes (give-or-take), nor why it can take years to see a completed series air. I'm also tremendously baffled as to why various series occasionally have movie-length Christmas specials with little warning nor reasoning, but there's no point in complaining when so many of these are stunning examples of excellence. After a five year absense, the dawning of 2009 found the series return of cult classic Jonathan Creek in a new Christmas special, The Grinning Man,†focusing on the mysterious†attic of an old magician's house where anyone who would stay the night would disappear by the morning, never to be seen again. Despite mixed reactions from the critics, the new special featured an excellent new assistent (companion, perhaps?) for the central character, as well as plenty of hilarious moments and an absolute corker of a mystery. With the focus of the series being on impossible and often terrifying locked-room mysteries it was great to see a fascinating and well-devised literal locked-room at the centre of this special, along with a wonderfully shocking and grotesque reveal at the resolution.

† † But long before this, when the show was in its prime, two separate Christmas Specials bridged the latter two seasons. For the uninformed, Jonathan Creek follows investigative journalist Madeleine "Maddie" Magellan (Caroline Quentin) who partners with brilliant magician's assistant Jonathan Creek (Alan Davies) to solve unsolvable mysteries; a modern-day answer to†Agatha Christie's†Marple and CSI, the show's clever and devious mysteries are offset by clever humor and hysterical situations, the likes of which only creator David Renwick can write. The first special, Black Canary, finds Jonathan and Maddie investigating the apparent suicide of a well-known fellow magician, whose body was long dead before she was seen taking her own life with a shotgun in the snow. A phenomenal and perfectly-paced mystery with clever plotting, engaging drama and hilarious comedy (a Prestige-like twist is played for both horror and dark humor) this is the quintessential Jonathan Creek†episode, and is worth buying the set for alone.

†† The second special, Satan's Chimney, is great viewing but not quite up to scratch with Black Canary, and begins an unfortunate downward twist for the series, which would later go on to receive its worst ratings with the fourth season. With Caroline Quentin absent, the wonderful Maddie is replaced by the much less likeable Carla Borrego (Julia Sawalha), a sensationalised and over-the-top foil for Jonathan's cool intellect and wit. While the two central mysteries - a sealed-off†derelict cell that impossibly burns any captives to death, and the impossible shooting murder of an actress in a locked set - are as engaging and clever as anything else seen in the series, the main storyline is similarly sensationalised and over-the-top, featuring ridiculous soap opera characters, murky pacing, forced humor and an unlikely reveal involving multiple killers staging an elaborate scene for no one to see. While still satisfying and fun to watch, the major tonal shift feels strange and out of place, and was unfortunately built upon in the following series, leading to the apparent end of the cult classic.

†† Fortunately, it seems like we may see a revival of the once-great series, with the new special taking record ratings. Whether we see more of Jonathan's adventures onscreen is yet to be decided; for now, this is a solid set featuring two engaging feature length episodes, and despite the change in quality, both are must-watch. Having them both available together in this nifty set is a treat, and a must for the fan and completist.

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Transfer Quality

Video

†††The video is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.
† †
††† Like the previous Jonathan Creeksets, the video transfer is very varied,†featuring a high level of grain throughout the specials and unfortunate variation in sharpness and detail. There are frequent though minor film artefacts. Brightness and low level noise are both fine, fortunately, with strong detail in dark scenes (61:11). To be fair, the second special is a lot sharper and more detailed than the first, though its still not perfect, with occasional hideous interlacing and some frustrating and noticable film artefacts. This could have been a much cleaner transfer, and the show deserves it.

†††These are dual-layer discs, with the layer change occuring between the specials.

†††There are English subtitles, which are accurate based on the sample of scenes I viewed with them.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

†††The audio is presented in English Dolby Digital 2.0 (Stereo).

†† Jonathan Creek features effective but unexceptional sound, with the excellent main theme booming lovingly through the stereo speakers as each episode begins before taking a backseat to the superb, perfectly-synced dialogue. All audio is well mixed and audible, as is important in a show like this in which the small details can make a big difference. Although full surround would be better, its absense is not noticable.

†††The distinctive theme tune is an arrangement of Camille Saint-SaŽns' Danse Macabre by Julian Stewart Lindsay, who composes the excellent, often intense orchestral underscore throughout the series.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Animated Menus with Sound

†††The menus here feature the Danse Macarbe theme over still shots of the stars, and is nice enough.

Production Notes Booklet

†† The only Extra across the†set is this full colour booklet, with plot summaries from the specials as well as a few paragraphs about the show with photos of the cast from the episodes. As nice as this is, couldn't a featurette or two have been afforded on how this show was made and constructed?

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

†††The R1 editions of this set is not yet available, although all features appear to be†identical. The set is also available in R2 by itself, or featuring the third and fourth seasons; the first and second seasons were included in an initial R2 set, and finally the R2 received a phenomenal entire series set, featuring all episodes, specials and extra features, which would be the best buy to my mind.

Summary

†††Jonathan Creek remains an exceptional, unique mystery television show, with elements of drama and comedy mixed in with unforgettable characters. Although these two Christmas specials have big changes in quality and tone, I still cannot recommend†them enough.

†† Both the video and audio transfers are†fine but not exceptional.

†† Booklet aside, there are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ryan Aston (Bioshock)
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using Component output
DisplayPhilips 47PFL9732D 47-inch LCD . Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderLogitech 5500 THX. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationLogitech 5500 THX
SpeakersLogitech 5500 THX

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