Lovejoy Series 2

Even in a show as universally wonderful as Deadwood, the standout performance was that of Ian McShane as Al Swearengen, the foul-mouthed saloon owner. And despite showing up from time to time in some U.S. shows (including Dallas) before that, most viewers missed out on the role that defined his career in the UK prior to his days in the Wild West: antique dealer Lovejoy. Lovejoy, based on the series of books by Jonathan Gash, ran for six series on the BBC. McShane plays the title character, who can tell instinctively whether or not antiques are genuine. Despite that skill, he inevitably has next to no money and his talent for finding antique-related trouble is second to none. But unlike the books, the sex and violence have been toned down, and while it isn’t completely wholesome, he is the archetypal loveable rogue, and Lovejoy is a very entertaining show. The second series features 12 episodes, most of which follow a similar template, with a mystery that needs solving or a treasure that requires locating, and there’s a really good chance there’s a damsel in distress. The real joy comes from watching McShane interact with his three partners in crime: Tinker (Dudley Sutton), his drunken partner, who shares a similar passion for antiques; Eric Catchpole (Chris Jury), his resident dogsbody; and Lady Jane Felsham (Phyllis Logan), his landlady and ongoing crush. And no matter how formulaic the plot gets, the gentle humour and occasional twists stop it from getting stale. The opening episode, "Just Desserts,” and the double-length "The Black Virgin of Vladimir” rank amongst the best during the entire run of the show, but there’s no real weak moment. The series has stood the test of time remarkably well, even if the ’80s fashions and McShane’s mullet can be a little hard on the eyes. Fans of Deadwood who’ve never seen the show before will be surprised at just how likeable Lovejoy is. Despite walking the line between legal and illegal activity in most episodes, and making a whole bunch of questionable decisions, you always hope he comes out on top, and thankfully he normally does. The extras are almost non-existent. There are a couple of very brief interviews with McShane on the third disc but nothing particularly insightful. And that’s it. Still, even a bare bones release of Lovejoy is better than nothing at all. (BBC)