Sunday, June 21, 2015

DVD Review: Lovejoy Series 6

Lovejoy Series 6
DVD 3-Disc Set  (approx. 500 minutes)
Released by Acorn Media on June 16, 2015. SRP $49.99
Subtitles: English SDH 4:3

I have stated on a few occasions how much of a fan I am of the BBC series Lovejoy. Remember that loveable rogue who works in the antique business. Perhaps once in a while, he dips in the underground world of dirty dealing but generally he is on the up and up with a big heart of gold. He’s a divvy which means he can instinctively know if a piece is legit and if it is worth money.
As I profess my love for this series, there is one thing I need to disclose. I had never seen the final series of Lovejoy. By the time we get to the final series, which is Series 6 and what this review is about, I felt that the series had changed enough where some of my favorite characters were gone and I lost interest in the series. That was 20 years ago.

As I had been making my way through the Lovejoy series, I decided I would give the final series a chance. When I saw this was coming out from Acorn Media, I wanted to see what I missed. I think what I was most concerned about was the thought of the fun witty writing that was mixed in with some fairly serious situations for our favorite antiques dealer made me uninterested in watching any further.
When I sat down to watch Series 6, the thing I noticed was that we have different writers than before but I feel the character of Lovejoy is tweaked. What I personally see as the series progressed over the years was how Ian McShane (Lovejoy) had gotten himself in better shape over time. Now, I have no problem with anyone who wants to get themselves in better shape and that is not a reason to not like a series but it felt to me that Lovejoy was becoming a bit of an action hero opposed to an accidental hero which I found so charming. There is a scene in the Series 6 episode Breaking the Broker where Lovejoy needs to steal back a painting belonging to Tinker. Lovejoy needs to basically jump over fences and climb up walls of a house to steal it back. He does it so effortlessly he almost looks like Spiderman. Lovejoy is not Spiderman.

By this point in the series, Lady Jane Felsham had left the series. As I said in my review of Series 3, she may have been one of the most patient people in history based on how many times she needed to bail Lovejoy out of some problem. She is replaced for lack of a better term by Charlotte Cavendish. Charlotte and Lovejoy do have a “thing” going but she can be easily exasperated by Lovejoy. She’s not afraid to tell him to push off. I think the bigger hole in the cast was when Eric Catchpole left the series. He was sort of our conduit of comedy into the series. That was the starting point of the series when Lovejoy was paid by Eric’s father so Lovejoy could show Eric how to be an antiques dealer since Eric had absolutely nothing else going on in his life. Eric was replaced by Beth. Although not as funny, it was a wise move by the producers of this series was to not make Beth comedy relief. Eric was often what caused some of the problems in the series for Lovejoy and Tinker. Beth was not. She was actually competent which is wise but just not as funny. Now, since is the first time I have seen Series 6, did I like it?
Of course I did. It is Ian McShane playing Lovejoy. To me, it is new episodes of Ian McShane playing Lovejoy since I haven’t seen these before now. I actually thought when I started to dig into this set that some of the storylines would look familiar to me but it was all actually new. I never caught these on A&E during its original run or repeats.  I don’t like Series 6 nearly as much as Lovejoy in its heyday but no series maintains the same quality throughout. I think the series has Lovejoy too confident and less frantic. It’s funny I say that because the blurb that Acorn provides for the series says, “Ian McShane's raffish antiques dealer may have finally found some professional and personal stability.” I think that is the problem I am having with this period of the series. Maybe I don’t like Lovejoy to have stability. I like the more rogue sort of character from the earlier episodes. He is just scraping to get by and needs to find ways (some not so legal) to survive. I also thought that some of these episodes took themselves a little too seriously. Episodes such as Day of Reckoning sees an old enemy of Lovejoy’s (played by John Castle) kidnap Charlotte in a plot to kill her just to hurt Lovejoy for revenge. This episode does not fit in with what I think Lovejoy was about. Obviously that is a personal observation yet I do feel this episode is not right. Another one I feel this way about is the one I mentioned above which was Breaking the Broker. I don’t dislike this episode because Lovejoy can easily scale walls. I think it’s worse than that.

This episode sees Tinker set up Lovejoy, yes I said Tinker, to steal back a painting he sold to another dealer. Lovejoy is then caught by the Police and is forced to help them. Tinker was in on this too.  I’m sorry, I just don’t buy for a minute that Tinker would do this to Lovejoy. It actually sort of depressed me. That just wasn’t right. There was a point where Lovejoy told Tinker to never speak to him again. The mood does lighten up on this episode but it just still isn’t right.
Do I like any of the episodes?  Absolutely! I really like Fruit of the Desert as this is one of those classic episodes of Lovejoy where he is looking to make a ton of money from a deal, working with other parties (robbing Peter to pay Paul) to secure funding only to find once he has the money and paid for the goods, he has been scammed! Now he needs to figure out how to find a way to make good on the other promises. To me, that is a good episode of Lovejoy. I don’t think the series should be confused with what it is, it should stay true to itself.
A real treat for me on this set was taking a look at the final episode of Lovejoy, Last Tango in Lavenham. I had never seen it before and it even got the original writers back to write the episode, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. It is a nice combination of closure and sweet reminiscing which also brings Lady Jane back into the storyline along with a little cameo with Eric at the end. It is a satisfying ending to a series I cared a great deal about while growing up.

As keen as I am about British television, there are some great performances from some wonderful actors found in episodes on this set: John Castle, David Ryall, Richard Vernon, Dinsdale Landen, Julian Glover, Julia Sawalha, Richard Marner, Martin Jarvis, Gary Waldhorn, Terence Rigby, Christopher Benjamin, Gavin Richards, Donald Pickering, Earl Cameron, and Brian Croucher.

The quality on this is the same on the other sets which is simply OK looking quality. The film footage didn’t look that great on original broadcast. As I have stated previous times, this would look amazing restored in HD but there isn’t much luck of that happening. I still contend that the BBC Home Entertainment release of this series on DVD looks a little bit better, this is still watchable. It evens says on the packaging due to the age of the program, it may not look great. I have always heard is that due to the way the series was post-produced back in the 1990s is why it is not that stellar looking. It’s not the fault of Acorn. These masters would have been passed along by Fremantle.

There are no extras on this set. There were some extras on the BBC set but it needs to be understood from a consumer standpoint that if a studio buys a series to put out on home media that was previously released by another studio, they are generally only buying the right to the series and not to the extras that may have been previously produced. It’s important to understand. On the BBC Home Entertainment set that is now out of print, they include an excerpt from a BBC program that Ian McShane did at the time of the series on the air and also a newly recorded interview. That’s not easy to get. Once again, I don’t fault Acorn for not having any extras on any of these releases. Always to me, the important thing is to get the episodes in the best quality generally as originally seen.

DVD Breakdown:
Disc 1: Fair Exchange, Day of Reckoning, Somewhere: Over the Rainbow, Double Edged Sword
Disc 2: Guns and Roses, The Last of the Uzkoks, Breaking the Broker
Disc 3: Fruit of the Desert, Holding the Baby, Last Tango and Lavenham

It also should be pointed out on the same day as Series 6 being released, Lovejoy: The Complete Collection got a release. This is a 21-disc box set that includes all 6 series. The SRP on it is $199 but I have seen it on Amazon for as low as $117. This is a really good deal for a very good series. As a box set, this is a Highly Recommended purchase.
As for Series 6 of Lovejoy, if you have been a fan of the series and you want to see where it goes and how it ends I would consider this a Recommended purchase. If you are new to the series, do not start here. The series is not at its best at this point. In my opinion you could start anywhere between Series 1-4 and find it highly enjoyable. If you plan on grabbing a few series at once to try out, I would recommend the entire series boxset or there is also AcornTV which is currently (at the time of this review published) streaming the whole series. Lovejoy as a series is too good to be missed.

Next week: Not British television but British film and damn good British film. I am going to look at the film A Hard Day’s Night starring The Beatles! In the article, I will make a startling admission!
Have a great week!

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Dave G said...

I have finally gotten around to watching Lovejoy from the start through to the end, and for the most part I agree with your assessments. It hurt the show when Eric and Lady Jane left, and even back in series three, the ongoing love interest with Joanna Lumley turned me off. Still as far as series six goes, it had its ups and downs, but even the worst of it is miles ahead of much of the dross of current television.

Greg said...

Hi Dave,

I will say that Series 6 is munch better than I ever gave it credit for but it was a wise move to end it when they did. I didn't know you watched it. I am really happy to hear you did. It is one series I was telling you to watch for years. I even played one episode at your house which you didn't seem overly impressed. I am really happy you have seen the series.

Take care,

Craigie said...

Your right, Tinker would never have set Lovejoy up . With their relationship as it was he would have clued Lovejoy as to what was happening , stayed one step ahead of the Police , and yes laughed about it all the way home ! All along way from the first episodes or even the last. They lost it at times during the last series but theres still some good stuff there . The worst of Lovejoy is alot better than most programming . Cheers Craig Herts UK