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Jonathan Creek

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Written by
David Renwick

No. of series



Mystery Drama

Country of origin
United Kingdom

First episode date
10 May 1997

David Renwick

Jonathan Creek wwwgstaticcomtvthumbtvbanners413198p413198

Alan Davies Caroline Quentin (1997–2000) Julia Sawalha (2001–2004) Sheridan Smith (2009–2013) Sarah Alexander (2013–)

Opening theme
"Danse macabre" by Camille Saint-Saëns (arr by Julian Stewart Lindsay)

Alan Davies, Caroline Quentin, Julia Sawalha, Sheridan Smith, Stuart Milligan

Jonathan creek series 5 trailer bbc one

Jonathan Creek is a British mystery crime drama series produced by the BBC and written by David Renwick. It stars Alan Davies as the title character, who works as a creative consultant to a stage magician while also solving seemingly supernatural mysteries through his talent for logical deduction and his understanding of illusions.


Jonathan creek trailer bbc one


The series ran semi-regularly from 1997 to 2004, broadcasting for four series and two Christmas specials, initially co-starring Caroline Quentin as Creek's collaborator, writer Maddy 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; while a third special, "The Clue of the Savant's Thumb", was shown at Easter 2013.

Sheridan Smith reprised her role as Joey in both specials. Series 5 comprised three episodes and featured Sarah Alexander as Jonathan's wife Polly. These episodes were shown at 9pm on Friday 28 February, 7 and 14 March 2014 respectively.

In 2014, conflicting reports surfaced regarding Alan Davies's view of the show. In one article published online he was said to be 'happy to do Jonathan Creek for another ten years' and praised David Renwick's talent as a writer. Another newspaper report quoted the star as saying that he had become unhappy playing Jonathan Creek and bemoaned both the BBC and the show's harrowing production schedule.

On 4 March 2016, it was reported that the series would be returning for another 90-minute one-off special, with filming to begin in summer 2016. This new 90-minute special aired on 28 December 2016. Sarah Alexander returned as Jonathan Creek's wife Polly, alongside guest stars Warwick Davis, Emun Elliott and Rosalind March.

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 that 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, John Bird and Nigel Planer; 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

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 such tropes 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 discovering 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, but in a way quite banal compared to the trick itself.

The series would also focus on the relationship between Creek and his collaborator Maddy 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 Maddy 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 Maddy 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 Maddy 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 (who would later guest star) and Angus Deayton (who had previously worked with Renwick and director Susan Belbin on One Foot in the Grave). Almost a dozen actors were considered before 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, 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.


1 Anthony Head portrays Adam Klaus in the pilot episode.

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, 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, Rae Baker, Doreen Mantle, Charlie Brooks, Maureen Lipman, Paul Blackthorne, Jimmi Harkishin, Paul McGann and Amanda Holden.

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


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. He originally lived 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 dull-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 asocial anorak to a man with a great deal of wit and charm. This helps to fuel the romantic thread between him and Maddy. 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. A third supporting role was introduced when the show returned in 2009 after a five-year hiatus. From "The Grinning Man" onwards, Creek was assisted by online paranormal investigator Joey Ross, played by Sheridan Smith. As Smith was unable to appear in the fifth series due to other commitments, she was replaced by Sarah Alexander as Creek's wife and newest sidekick.

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 Maddy, Carla or Joey. In "The Scented Room", which centred around a theft from a critic who had lambasted Adam's act, he took great delight in announcing that 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 Maddy due to her having a professional connection to the crime in her role as a journalist, or because it involved an old friend of theirs (Such as one case featuring Jonathan being contacted by an old friend of his mother's after her husband was impaled by a sword in a sealed room). As time went on, he acquired a more significant reputation and was independently recruited by such varied contacts as a chief of police or even 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; one story even saw Maddy being held at gunpoint by a gang member who was only just disarmed thanks to a card trick Jonathan had picked up recently. 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 a murderer being killed and her accomplice then being framed for the crime.

In the 2013 episode "The Clue of the Savant's Thumb", Jonathan Creek had left the world of theatre and magic and is now a high powered businessman with a wife, Polly Creek. Despite this, and his disillusionment with his old work due to the lack of real awe received when he made his announcements, he has still returned to his roots when faced with particularly baffling cases, such as a dead man vanishing from a locked room. During the fifth season, he and his wife move into her family's old village house, with Polly attempting to encourage Jonathan to become part of the local lifestyle, but Jonathan is distracted by various minor mysteries, as well as enthusiastic fans asking for his assistance. The Christmas 2016 special sees a similar format to past specials as an old secret- in this case, an apparently demonic ritual where women witness their lovers thrown through the air into a fire- plays a key role in the death of a man Jonathan once cleared of murder (although the subsequent investigation prompts Jonathan to realize that the man actually did commit the crime he was accused of).


The distinctive theme tune is an arrangement by Julian Stewart Lindsay of Camille Saint-Saëns's Danse Macabre. Lindsay wrote the incidental music for the first three series, after which it was written by Rick Wentworth.

Similarity to other television shows

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.

Regions 2 (UK) and 4 (AUS)

  • Series 1 was released in Region 1 (US/Canada) in December 2006.
  • Series 2 was released in Region 1 in late 2007.
  • Series 3 was released in Region 1 on 20 January 2009.
  • Series 4 was released in Region 1 on 19 January 2010.
  • The Specials were released in Region 1 on 19 October 2010.
  • References

    Jonathan Creek Wikipedia

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