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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Lovejoy: The Complete Collection
Lovejoy: The Complete Collection
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // October 13, 2009
List Price: $299.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted November 7, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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The Show:
Okay, confession time:  I didn't get a chance to watch every episode in this set.  I always make it a habit of watching entire sets before I write a review, but it just wasn't possible this time around.  You see, when I elected to review Lovejoy:  The Complete Series I noticed that it had 22 discs.  I've reviewed other large sets; The Midsommers Murders and Foyle's War (19 discs each) come to mind.  The difference is that those collections contained a single 1 ½ episode on each DVD, whereas Lovejoy has four 50-minute episodes on most discs.  So my plan of watching a disc per day quickly fell by the wayside.  I did watch a majority of the episodes, included at least one from each season, and I plan on finishing it as soon as I can.  Lovejoy is a very fun and entertianing show that is a bit different from the typical mystery show and that difference is quite refreshing.

Lovejoy (Ian McShane) is a 'divvie' - a person who can tell if an antique is authentic without consulting books or doing research.  As his associate Tinker explains in an early episode, the term comes from the word 'diviner' and it's an almost mystical talent that he and few others possess.  Naturally with such a talent Lovejoy (his first name is never revealed and he prefers not to be addressed as "Mr.") is in the antiques business.  He goes to auctions, buys things here and there, and then turns them around for a healthy profit.  When genuine antiques aren't showing up at the auctions he's not above making some himself. 
Aiding Lovejoy in his search for undiscovered treasure and a quick buck are his friend Tinker Dill (Dudley Sutton) a perpetual drunk who's willing to help Lovejoy in any nefarious scheme and Eric Catchpole (Chris Jury) a young and not to bright assistant whose father hires Lovejoy to teach his son the antiques business even though this often results in running errands.  Lady Jane Felsham (Phyllis Logan) is a rich noblewoman who is a close friend of Lovejoy's and comes in handy when he needs someone to buy him lunch or bail him out of jail.
On the other side of the aisle is Charlie Gimbert, the owner of a local antiques auction house who has a long running animosity with Lovejoy.  They each will go out of their way to make the other's life miserable.  It is things like cheating Gimbert that get Lovejoy out of bed in the morning. 

In his search to obtain a set of rare flint-lock pistols or maybe a Chinese terra cotta pig, Lovejoy sometimes comes across a dead body.  Or maybe not.  That's one of the great things about the show is that while they are mysteries, they aren't necessarily murder mysteries.  Many of the plots involve Lovejoy coming to the rescue of someone who has been conned in one way or another, often turning the tables on the con man in the process, or just figuring out why a bizarre event occurred.  In one episode he has to track down why fake Roman coins and nothing else were stolen from a museum, and in another he's asked to make a Stradivarius violin look like a fake.

The shows all contain interesting mysteries, even the ones where viewers aren't sure of what the mystery is until the show's half way through, but the thing that keeps people coming back are the characters.  Lovejoy himself has a love of all things old that is rather infectious as well as a devious mind that is both sharp and cunning.  Watching him con a deserving mark is joyous because he sets the whole thing up so well.  Tinker is a drunken sod who is almost, but not quite, repulsive in his manner (which makes for an interesting character) and it's always fun to watch Eric try to keep up with Lovejoy's plans.

The only character that I didn't like was Lady Jane.  The actress did a wonderful job in the role, but she often seemed to be there only to make the plots work out.  Does a key aspect of a story have Lovejoy in a strange town?  Lady Jane will invite him!  Does Lovejoy need some money or authentic expensive antiques for a con?  Lady Jane provides them!  I was just never sold on the notion that a rich, married woman would want to hang out with a rogue like Lovejoy.  It's easy enough to overlook however and doesn't ruin the stories.
One thing I really enjoyed about the show is the way they captured the near obsessive nature of a true collector.  As one who suffers from that enjoyable malady, I can attest that they got it right.  Every once in a while Lady Jane will ask "what's so important about an old piece of wood" which will give Lovejoy the opportunity to explain how collectors will go to extraordinary lengths to obtain that one missing item from their collections. 

The show is pretty consistent over the course of its run, providing sold dramas all the way through the six seasons.  There are some cast changes in the fifth season.  Lady Jane leaves the show early in the run and so does Eric (who is no longer a young kid by this time), though a bit later.  They're replaced by Lovejoy's new apprentice Beth Taylor (Diane Parish) and the owner of a local antiques shop, Charlotte Cavendish (Caroline Langrishe).  I have to admit that I thought the show did take a dip in quality around the time these changes were made, but looking back I think it was more a case of the fact that I didn't like loosing the characters I had grown used to (even Lady Jane) more than a problem with the writing.
While these aren't comedies, the shows do have a good amount of humor.  Lovejoy seems to go through life with a wink and a smile, confident that everything will work out rather than really worrying about anything and this joy de vivre is infectious.  In several shows it's not really clear what Lovejoy's plan is until the very end and these last minute reveals are often quite hilarious.  The comedy is rather dry and understated mostly, Lovejoy admitting that he signed a forged painting with his own name to avoid prosecution, though sometimes the show can become rather broad.  In one case Tinker and Eric are trying to warn Lovejoy that an axe-wielding maniac is after him over a bad phone line and all the divvie hears is that he's being chased by the 'tax man', something that's not too uncommon or threatening.

The DVD:

These seem to be the same as the earlier season set releases all bundled together in a nice sturdy slipcase.  The 22 disc are contained in 7 single-width DVD cases with each season being packaged together and a separate case for the Christmas Specials. 
The show is presented with a stereo audio track, which I suspect is actually a two channel mono mix.  The audio is fine though not outstanding.  The range is about what you'd expect from a show dating back to 1986, and while the audio isn't terribly crisp there are no major defects.  Occasionally a bit player with speak rapidly with a strong accent and it'll be hard to understand what he's saying.  Thankfully there are optional English subtitles for such an occasion.
These unrestored full frame shows are showing their age a bit.  Granted they are TV shows from England so there are PAL to NTSC conversion issues to deal with but I was hoping for a bit more.  The image is generally on the soft side and while the level of detail is fine the colors are muted and a bit muddled in some parts.  They're quite acceptable; just don't expect them to look like modern shows.  On the digital side of things there was a bit of aliasing here and there but no major problems.
The main extra is a nice interview with star Ian McShane.  Here he talks about each season in some detail.  Unfortunately the interview is spread across the six seasons.  I would have preferred that it was kept together on one disc, but it's a small complaint.
Other bonus times are few and far between:  There are a series of interviews that the cast gave prior to the start of the third season included along with season three and McShane talks with daytime TV host Judi Spiers on the second season discs.  I'm a bit disappointed that there weren't more TV interviews included with the later seasons.
Final Thoughts:
Both amusing and filled with some intriguing mysteries, Lovejoy is a fun and entertaining show.  If you've never picked up any of the individual seasons, this entire collection is good way to get the whole series in one fell swoop.  The set comes with a strong recommendation.
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