Lovejoy - The First Season DVD Review
By David Mumpower
June 5, 2007
For those of you who have never watched Lovejoy on PBS or BBC America, the story is most aptly described as being the genesis for PBS's Antiques Roadshow...but with crime solving thrown in for good measure. McShane portrays the titular Lovejoy, a man obsessed with all things beautiful. Though largely financial strapped, the antiques dealer scours the land in search of undiscovered, undervalued treasures which he may make his own. Along the way, he also has a tendency to focus upon the other vast beauty that matters, hot women. In between the treasure hunting and womanizing, Lovejoy also somehow finds the time to solve mysteries in his spare time. He is considered nothing short of a savant with regards to his ability to determine items of true value from those best described as pyrite, forgeries or overestimated works lacking in real financial value. Whenever the antiques dealer sees an artifact worthy of purchase, it's a safe bet that an appraiser will soon offer a lot of money for said antiquity.
Lovejoy even has a recurring arch enemy, something of a rarity in this style of 1980s television. He is the tasteless nouveau riche "connoisseur", Charlie Gimbert (Malcolm Tierney). This is a man who is the polar opposite of Lovejoy in that he acquires antiques not to enjoy their beauty but instead to relish in his possession of artifacts others covet. This is the way he attains self-esteem, making him the perfect foil for Lovejoy, a true patron of the arts. One is a true lover of the arts, while the other is simply obsessed with having the most toys. The oftentimes penniless Lovejoy must constantly out-maneuver the deep-pocketed Gimbert in order to protect these works of art from being wasted upon an undeserving art fraud. This makes for an engaging combination for television fans.
In some ways, Lovejoy is modeled after early 1980s American television staple, Hart to Hart. The difference here is that while he fights crime and solves mysteries in the same way that Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers do, he also opposes a man in Gimbert who is just like them as well. Gimbert does not have their same sense of honor and decency, but he does have a bank roll that can match the Harts dollar for dollar (err, pound for pound). So, Lovejoy in some ways mirrors and in some ways rails against the Hart to Hart style of television. In fact, Lovejoy's struggles with being skint are an amusing aspect of this oftentimes dark television production. Walking the fine line between comedy and drama is difficult, but it's something Lovejoy pulls off in impressive fashion due to the fact that its lead character's talent always saves him from financial ruin in the end.
The character of Lovejoy in season one is just as dated as one would expect of a television production from 1986. McShane sports an English mullet throughout the ten episodes, and his comments about women are...well, charmingly out-dated. Despite seemingly despising their insecurities and character flaws, he tolerantly chooses to have sex with them anyway. What a prince. The disconnect between the way he derides them, then spends a great deal of time trying to seduce them would seem silly if McShane were not so damned winning every step of them. He's the type of guy who could be stabbing you in the chest with a rusty dagger while calmly explaining his actions in such a poised fashion that you would come to agree with him by the end. There are multiple times during the first season of Lovejoy where the genesis of the Al Swearengen character is readily apparent. No one does ethically challenged, morally complex acting like Ian McShane. No one.