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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Lovejoy: Series 2
Lovejoy: Series 2
Acorn Media // Unrated // September 2, 2014
List Price: $49.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Paul Mavis | posted November 4, 2014 | E-mail the Author
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Reviewer's Note: Way back in 2007, I began reviewing the BBC's boxed sets of Lovejoy for DVDTalk. Those sets subsequently went out of print, and are now being re-released by Acorn. As far as I can tell, these are the same fullscreen transfers used for the previous releases (Acorn's now-standard disclaimer about audio/visual imperfections for these older U.K. TV shows is present). So, I'll port over my older review (with a few minor tweaks)...because my opinion of these delightful mysteries hasn't changed a bit, I found, after watching these charmers all over again this past weekend.

Acorn has released another winner in Lovejoy: Series 2, a three-disc, 12-episode continuation of the popular British mystery series starring Ian McShane. Lovejoy, the randy, slightly dodgy antiques "divvy" who can't seem to stay out of trouble, is back from a five-year hiatus with another collection of delightful, light comedic mysteries, perfectly suited to the roguish talents of McShane. Too bad they didn't port over the few small extras--including a couple of interviews with McShane--from the BBC set.

If you're new to the show (as I was until I reviewed the first season of episodes, which you can read here), Lovejoy (no first name, thank you) is an antiques dealer, a "divvy" with true knowledge of the various art mediums who can spot a bit a gold among the dross where others can't. Perennially in debt, and constantly dodging the police when he becomes involved in various shifty deals - which, it's important to note, never involve Lovejoy committing a real crime - Lovejoy's adventures are usually predicated on helping out an innocent who's found him or herself swindled by a nefarious, unscrupulous dealer or collector. With Lovejoy's expert knowledge of priceless works of art - as well as his skills in spotting and mocking up perfect copies to swindle the swindlers - he's a magnet for not only the victims of these crimes (who usually wind up being pretty and single), but also the perpetrators, who aren't above knocking him about if the mood strikes them.

Aiding Lovejoy in his rather laid-back lifestyle are Tinker Dill (Dudley Sutton), an older expert on antiques and a fair one to knock back a drink, and young apprentice Eric Catchpole (Chris Jury), whom Lovejoy uses as a general dogsbody and source of transportation (via motorcycle sidecar) when Lovejoy's new/old motor, a Morris Minor that Lovejoy affectionately names Miriam, breaks down - which is almost every day. And of course, the main object of Lovejoy's affection, the down-to-earth, fresh Lady Jane Felsham (Phyllis Logan) is there to provide a constant source of frustration for Lovejoy's libido, always seemingly promising final capitulation to the charmer, before both realize they're better off resisting temptation and remaining friends.

Lovejoy was a popular hit with British viewers when it first premiered in 1986, but it took five years for a second season ("series" in Britain) to make it to the airwaves, debuting in January of 1991, and remaining on the air for each consecutive season until December, 1994. Perhaps in a bid to smooth over the extended time lapse between seasons one and two, the producers begin season two with Lovejoy in the nick. Falsely imprisoned after being set up by, what else, a beautiful woman, Lovejoy solves that particular mystery, but doesn't go to the police to clear his name. That's one of the most enjoyable elements of Lovejoy; the main character's dislike of the police just on principle. That's not to say that Lovejoy commits crimes. On the contrary, it always comes out that Lovejoy only looks guilty on the surface, particularly to the dull coppers who don't want to expend a lot of energy looking for the real culprits. Even though Lovejoy usually goes out of his way to finally solve the cases for the police, his general air of anti-authority distrust is quite amusing.

I particularly enjoy the world that Lovejoy inhabits, as well; the tony, well-heeled mansions of Suffolk, brimming with objects d'art both phony and real, amid the various strata of English society that come into contact with Lovejoy. A straight shooter who never puts on airs for anyone, Lovejoy is at home (or oblivious to the reactions by the snobs to his leather jacket and cowboy boots) on both palatial estates and run down tenements, at dress teas and at the local pub. Moving through the various layers of the British class system, Lovejoy, while keeping his ethical standards resolutely intact, may always be putting himself out for his true friends, but that doesn't stop him from making a profit while he's at it. It's a terrifically appealing character, particularly, I would suspect, to Americans (the show was a big hit on A&E), because Lovejoy frequently finds himself as perplexed by the various upper crust British stereotypes he encounters as we no doubt would be in the same situation.

There's a deft, light, comedic touch to the Lovejoy mysteries that's quite a hard note to maintain, but that the producers manage to hit most of the time. Each story is solidly pinned on some aspect of the antiques market that provides a rather fascinating hook for the viewer, as well as a convincing framework for the narrative. Plots involving bin diving (sorting through trash for treasure), architectural theft (literally stealing handcrafted staircases, walls, and even floors from antique homes to be resold out of the country), and mocked-up Renaissance bronzes and Russian religious icons among others, always give the viewer a little bit of unexpected information about the antiquing game, to the point where you'll never trust going to one of those quaint country antiques auctions again, for fear of everything out there being a fake. There's not a heavy, serious note to be found in this second "series" of Lovejoy, and that's just the way I like it. This is escapism, pure and simple, and quite well-written escapism at that, with fun, bouncy little mysteries headlined by a terrific cast, as well as some of the best supporting British actors out there to round the stories out.

I suspect McShane is probably best known for this role, and it's not hard to see why. Often appearing as if he couldn't care less whether he's in front of the camera or not, that insouciant, supremely laid-back air only makes the Lovejoy character that much more appealing, and McShane has that locked down. The series' tradition of having Lovejoy speak directly to the camera, even during the middle of a conversation with someone else (the other person always stops, like in a play, and waits for Lovejoy to finish), is a tried-and-test gimmick, but one which is hard to pull off. But McShane does it effortlessly, often coming off as the East Anglian Alfie, chatting to us as much about Chippendale dressers as some lovely "bird." Quite a bit more screen time this season it seems, is given to Sutton's Tinker character, and he's quite charming as the older, sometimes tipsy version of Lovejoy (he's touchingly funny in the episode, National Wealth, where he sighs and moons over a former cinema matinee idol of his). And several episodes have some terrific turns by excellent character actors, including John Wells as a daffy tavern owner (Who Dares Sings, which features a marvelous bit by Tinker and Wells' character, as they reintroduce their army music hall act, "Crime and Punishment"), Tom Wilkenson as the amusingly monikered Ashley Wilkes, who paints women's cottages to get into their beds (One Born Every Minute), Ronald Frazer in a quick bit as a butler (National Wealth), and an all-star final two-part episode featuring Dallas' Linda Gray, Brian Blessed, Mako, and an unrecognizable James Booth (The Black Virgin Vladmir).

Here are the 12, one hour episodes of Lovejoy: Series 2:

DISC ONE

Just Desserts
A priceless antique dressing table - and a treacherous blonde Dane - is the key to who set up Lovejoy for his prison stint.

The Italian Venus
A greedy older brother is searching for a valuable Venus statue, hidden somewhere on his ancestral estate. But his poor younger brother has Lovejoy help him hatch a plan to get his share of the inheritance.

Bin Diving
A kindly old woman - and a friend of Lady Jane - is robbed, and all fingers point to Lovejoy. Or Eric. Or the bin man.

Montezuma's Revenge A cursed Incan figure, a heavy metal rock band, and slightly dim-witted Eric all add up to murder in Suffolk, and Lovejoy must come to the rescue.

DISC TWO

Who Dares Sing
An ex-prison guard "buddy" of Lovejoy's cons the con into breaking into an abandoned house and stealing all the antiques, so Lovejoy has to find him before their newest client - an old army buddy of Tink's - loses everything.

One Born Every Minute
A gifted painter is wasting his life, going from one affair to the next, by charming women with his house portraits. Can Lovejoy stop him? And more importantly, why?

National Wealth
A beautiful ex-movie matinee idol steals Tink's heart - while thieves strip her mansion bare. Can Lovejoy get her precious memories back, before the Inland Revenue comes knocking?

Sugar and Spice A secret pornographic art collection at Lovejoy's daughter's school provides our divvy with a tricky problem: who's trying to fob off the collection, and why?

DISC THREE

Raise the Hispanic Lovejoy's friend's daughter is getting married...to an absolutely bounder. But hours after the ceremony, who killed him?

Lily's Pearls Lovejoy becomes involved with a rough real estate magnate who's having pearl trouble with his ditzy wife.

The Black Virgin of Vladimir (Parts 1 & 2) Lovejoy and beautiful friend Cassandra Lynch (Linda Gray) are in business together to bring down crooked dealer Harry Catapodis (Brian Blessed), with the aid of Japanese millionaire Tanaka (Mako) and fake rabbi Mordechai Frobel (James Booth).

The DVD:

The Video:
Perhaps a slight improvement over series one, the transfers for Lovejoy: Series 2 are a little sharper, a little cleaner, but the color still seems muddy. Compression issues seem to be okay.

The Audio:
The Dolby Digital English 2.0 soundtrack for Lovejoy: Series 2 is an improvement over series one. Dialogue is crisply clear, and English subtitles are available.

The Extras:
The Ian McShane interviews--admittedly brief--from the BBC release aren't here, so...no extras for Lovejoy: Series 2.

Final Thoughts:
Divvies of humorous British mysteries should find much to their liking in Lovejoy: Series 2, another charming collection of 12 episodes featuring the randy con man antiques dealer. Despite a five year hiatus between this "series" and the previous first "series," there's no loss of sophisticated fun in these lighthearted romps. Ian McShane--as well as the rest of the regular cast and the guest stars--is delightful. I highly recommend Lovejoy: Series 2.


Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.

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