After a five year hiatus Alan Davis finally returned to TV screens last year as that duffle coated solver of impossible crimes, Jonathan Creek. Creator David Renwick admitted that he stopped writing the series because he simply ran out of good ideas. The only reason he bothered to drum up a new script was to hold off retirement.
However, there is very little that is actually new about Creek’s encore. Certainly “The Grinning Man” bares similarities to the show’s previous Christmas specials, “Black Canary” and “Satan’s Chimney” including a gothic setting and tone, the dark secrets of a former magician and a classic locked room mystery. Revealing more would give too much away so I’ll stop there.
The central mystery at the heart of “The Grinning Man” is certainly a gripping and intriguing one but hamstrung by too many lousy sub-plots and narrative cheats. The solution to one mystery is far too convoluted even for Jonathan Creek. And the storyline involving Jonathan’s boss, sleazy magician Adam Klaus, borders on the farcical as Klaus become involved in the porn industry.
Davis slips back into the role with ease. Jonathon is older, bit out of shape, no wiser but still just as fiendishly cleaver as he’s always been. Joining him is Sheridan Smith as Creek’s latest sidekick. Sadly, despite a strong performance, Smith fails to offer anything new to the mix. Her character is reminiscent of Creek’s last partner, Carla. The two character are virtually identical. Seems Renwick has a type and he’s sticking to it.
After such a long absence, especially with so much pedestrian murder mysteries like Midsummer Murders clogging up the airwaves, it is great to see Jonathan Creek back on the box. “The Grinning Man” maybe far from the glorious comeback some might of hoped for but nor is it the bitter disappointment others feared. Despite it’s flaws this is simply a good old fashioned mystery tale and a welcome return from one of TV’s finest sleuths.
Rating: * * *
-Behind the Scenes