Jonathan Creek
Genre Drama / Mystery
Written by David Renwick
Starring Alan DaviesCaroline Quentin (1997–2000)Julia Sawalha (2001–2004)Sheridan Smith (2009–)Stuart Milligan (1998–)Adrian Edmondson (2003–2004)
Opening theme "Danse macabre" by Camille Saint-Saëns (arr by Julian Stewart Lindsay)
Country of origin  United Kingdom
No. of series 4
No. of episodes 27 (List of episodes)
Running time 60 minutes (Series 1 and 4) 50 minutes (Series 2 and 3) 90 minutes (3 episodes) 120 minutes (2 episodes)
Original channel BBC One
Picture format 576i 4:3 (PAL) (1997)576i 16:9 (PAL) (1998-2009)1080i (HDTV) (2010–)
Original run 10 May 1997 (1997-05-10) – Template:Finish date


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Jonathan Creek

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Jonathan Creek opening title

Jonathan Creek is a British mystery series produced by the BBC and written by David Renwick. Primarily a crime drama, the show is also peppered with broadly comic touches. It stars Alan Davies as the title character, who works as a creative consultant to a magician while also solving seemingly supernatural mysteries through his talent for logical deduction and knowledge of illusionism.The series ran semi-regularly from 1997 to 2004, airing four series and two Christmas specials, initially co-starring Caroline Quentin as Creek's collaborator, writer Maddie Magellan. After Quentin's departure in 2001, Julia Sawalha joined the cast as new character Carla Borrego, a theatrical agent turned television presenter. Following a five-year hiatus, the series returned for a one-off special on 1 January 2009, "The Grinning Man", which featured Sheridan Smith as another paranormal investigator with whom Creek joins forces. A further 90-minute special "The Judas Tree", was filmed in October 2009 and broadcast on 4 April 2010.The cult success of the series won it the BAFTA for Best Drama Series in 1998. It was notable for featuring comic characters and sub-plots which lent a lot of humour to the series. Unusually, it was produced by the BBC's in-house Entertainment department rather than the Drama department — this was because Renwick preferred working with people he knew rather than the people at Drama who might not share his vision. It has included guest-stars such as Bob Monkhouse, Griff Rhys Jones, Rik Mayall, Jack Dee, Bill Bailey and John Bird, who are mainly associated with comedy, but who gave straight performances.The first two seasons were broadcast in the U.S. on a number of PBS stations, while the remainder aired on BBC America.

Concept and casting

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David Renwick wanted to write a detective series that dealt with the actual work of detection rather than action, which most crime dramas appeared to focus on at the time. Also, whereas most of these were about who did it (Inspector Morse or Taggart) and why it was done (Cracker), this new series would be about how it was done with an element of magic thrown in, such as murders committed in locked rooms, a person being in two places at once or impossible thefts; finding a culprit would still be part of the detective's job but the emphasis would be on how the crime was committed.

Magic would play an important part of the series, but it would be in the form of tricks and sleight-of-hand used by stage magicians to deceive their audiences. The programme often exposed how such tricks are actually done, the way being quite banal compared to the trick itself.

The series would also focus on the relationship between Creek and his collaborator Maddie Magellan, a writer who often uses dishonest means in order to expose miscarriages of justice. It would be a mainly platonic one, though they do at some stage consummate their relationship only to agree that it must never happen again. (In his early planning, Renwick had thought that Maddie should be Creek's stepmother and that they would investigate crime in memory of his murdered father. However, he decided that the concept of the avenging son was far too "Batman" and in the series Creek's parents are mentioned as having moved to America.)

Caroline Quentin was Renwick's first choice for Maddie Magellan, but the casting of Creek proved something of a problem. Renwick had wanted Nicholas Lyndhurst, but he turned it down. Rik Mayall was also offered the part but was, at the time, busy with stage work (he would later guest-star in a Christmas special of the series). Hugh Laurie showed a great deal of interest and agreed to take the part, but later turned it down as he could not figure out Creek's motivations for investigating the cases Maddie involves him in, especially when he shows so much reluctance in some of the episodes.

Others who were tried for the part included Nigel Planer and Angus Deayton, both very popular at the time. Almost a dozen actors were considered before producer Susan Belbin saw Alan Davies during a rehearsal for a sitcom. Davies was invited round to talk to Renwick and "turned up in his duffle coat with straggly hair and a broad grin [and] was self-evidently the closest match yet to Creek as we had always seen him".

The role of Adam Klaus was originally cast to Anthony Head in 1997 in the pilot episode ("The Wrestler's Tomb"). However after accepting the role of Rupert Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV Series), Head was unable to play Adam Klaus in later episodes leaving the way clear for Stuart Milligan to take over the role until the present. This explains why Adam Klaus is missing in episodes 2-5 of series 1.


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Main cast
as of 4 April 2010

  • Alan Davies – Jonathan Creek
  • Sheridan Smith – Joey Ross (2009-)
  • Stuart Milligan – Adam Klaus (1998-)

  • Caroline Quentin – Maddie Magellan (1997–2000)
  • Julia Sawalha – Carla Borrego (2001–2004)
  • Adrian Edmondson – Brendan Baxter (2003–2004)
  • Anthony Head – Adam Klaus (1997)

Guest cast
Many well-known actors have appeared in the series, including Bob Monkhouse, Rik Mayall (who had been considered to play Jonathan) and Jack Dee who are better known for their comedy roles.

Other guest stars, both comedy and straight, have included: Steven Berkoff, Geoffrey McGivern, John Bluthal, Kate Isitt, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Nigel Planer, Griff Rhys Jones, Hattie Hayridge, Alistair McGowan, Tamsin Greig, Katherine Parkinson, Colin Baker, Brian Murphy, Rebecca Front, Mary Tamm, Jim Bowen, Peter Davison, Maureen O'Brien, Lysette Anthony, Mark Caven, Lorelei King, Geoffrey Beevers, Annette Crosbie, Doreen Mantle, Charlie Brooks, Maureen Lipman, Paul Blackthorne, Jimmi Harkishin, and Bill Bailey (who was also pencilled as the original Jonathan Creek).

Jonathan Ross, Michael Grade and Bamber Gascoigne have all appeared as themselves.


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King's Mill, Shipley, West Sussex, used as Jonathan's windmill home in the series

The series follows the exploits of Jonathan Creek and (in the first three series) Maddy Magellan, a pushy investigative journalist as they work together to solve crimes where others have failed.

Creek is a somewhat cynical designer of illusions for stage magician Adam Klaus, and lives in a windmill in Sussex; his ingenuity and lateral thinking usually, if not immediately, lead to an unveiling of the intricacies of the crime.

Magellan is a plausible liar who never seems to have trouble sneaking in to closed crime scenes, and Klaus is a flamboyant performer with a sinister stage persona who is really a dumb-witted, insensitive womaniser. In some instances, his magic tricks go comically wrong.

The programme usually features 'impossible crimes', for example an offence having been committed in a sealed environment from which no criminal could have escaped (a "locked room mystery"), paranormal thefts and murders. Creek solves these cases using his knowledge of misdirection and illusion. No matter how fantastic the crime appears to be at first, he always finds a rational explanation, giving the character a passing resemblance to stage magician turned paranormal investigator James Randi. Some aspects of the character were inspired by Ali Bongo.

As the series progresses, Creek gradually changes from an antisocial anorak to a man with a great deal of wit and charm. This helps to fuel the romantic thread between him and Maddie. Jonathan's trademark duffle coat worn in the first series was actually Alan Davies' own coat that he wore to the auditions; it helped him win the role, as the writer and producers thought it suited the character. After the first series, Jonathan's coat was supplied by the wardrobe department. Davies kept the original at his home, and wore it again for the 2009 New Year's special.

For the 2001 Christmas special and thereafter, Caroline Quentin declined to appear, and so a second supporting role was introduced, theatrical agent Carla Borrego, played by Julia Sawalha. After her first appearance, the character married TV producer Brendan Baxter (Adrian Edmondson), and she became a TV presenter.

Part of the humour comes from the fact that Jonathan often does not want to get involved in other people's problems, and has to be pressured into it by Maddie or Carla. In "The Scented Room", which centred around a theft from a critic who had lambasted Adam's act, he took great delight in announcing he had solved the crime but wasn't going to tell anybody how it was done. Initially Jonathan was only brought in to investigate because he was asked by Maddie due to her having a connection to the crime, or because it involved an old friend of hers. As time went on, he acquired a more significant reputation and was independently recruited by such varied contacts as a chief of police or the United States military.

Over time the show became noticeably darker, with Jonathan investigating psychopaths, pimps, gangsters and corrupt policemen, who stood in stark contrast to the duplicitous suburbanites of earlier series. The 2009 special contained a hybrid of elements from earlier and later seasons, with the lethal engineering element, somewhat reminiscent of "Mother Redcap", and the torture and murder of a young woman as she is held dangling by a rope in the middle of a room. This theme continued on in the Judas Tree with the murdering of a murderer and her accomplice then being framed for her murder.


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The distinctive theme tune is an arrangement of Camille Saint-Saëns' Danse Macabre by Julian Stewart Lindsay, who also wrote the underscore for the first three series, after which the underscore for the remaining series and two specials was written by Rick Wentworth.

Similarity to other shows

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Other television programmes have utilised the same formula of a magician helping police to solve crimes, such as the U.S.-made programmes The Magician, starring Bill Bixby, which aired in 1973-74, and 1986's short-lived Blacke's Magic, starring Hal Linden. Other current American series utilising a similar format include The Mentalist and Psych, each of which revolves around "mind-readers" who use their skills to help solve crimes and mysteries.

There were two attempts to make a U.S. version of Jonathan Creek. The first involved Castle Rock, the production company behind series such as Seinfeld, but the initial scripts were not felt to be good enough, and David Renwick's scripts were rejected by CBS. The second attempt, also by Renwick, was for Whoopi Goldberg and would have included Alan Davies.

DVD releases

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Regions 2 (UK) and 4 (AUS)

Series 1 & 216 February 2004
Series 3 & 4 & the Christmas Specials2 August 2004
Complete Series 1-4 & the Christmas Specials29 November 2004
The Grinning Man19 October 2009
The Judas Tree12 April 2010
Complete Series 1-4 & the Christmas Specials4 October 2010

Series One was released in Region 1 (US/Canada) in December 2006. Series Two was quietly released in Region 1 in late 2007. Series Three was released in Region 1 on 20 January 2009. Series Four was released in Region 1 on 19 January 2010. A Region 1 release of The Specials is scheduled for 19 October 2010.

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