Jonathan Creek

For other uses, see Jonathan Creek (disambiguation).
Jonathan Creek

Opening title
Genre Mystery Drama
Written by David Renwick
Starring Alan Davies (1997–present)
Caroline Quentin (1997–2000)
Julia Sawalha (2001–2004)
Sheridan Smith (2009–2013)
Sarah Alexander (2013–present)
Stuart Milligan (1998–2010)
Adrian Edmondson (2003–2004)
Opening theme "Danse macabre" by Camille Saint-Saëns (arr by Julian Stewart Lindsay)
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 5
No. of episodes 31 (list of episodes)
Running time 60 minutes (Series 1 and 5)
55 minutes (Series 4)
50 minutes (Series 2 and 3)
90 minutes (4 episodes)
120 minutes (2 episodes)
Original network BBC One
Picture format 576i 4:3 (PAL) (1997)
576i 14:9 (PAL) (1998)
576i 16:9 (PAL) (1998–2009)
1080i (HDTV) (2010-present)
Original release 10 May 1997 – present
External links

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.
A 90-minute special (the first since 2014), will be aired on 28 December 2016.[1] This special will again star Sarah Alexander as Jonathan Creek's wife Polly, as well as a host of big names, including Warwick Davis, Emun Elliott and Rosalind March.[2]


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;[3] while a third special, "The Clue of the Savant's Thumb", was shown at Easter 2013.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7]

The cult success of the series won it the BAFTA for Best Drama Series in 1998.[8] 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.[9] 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.[9] 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.)[9]

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.[9]

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".[9]

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.


Actor / actress Character Role Series
1 2 Christmas 1998 3 Christmas 2001 4 Specials 2009-2013 5 Christmas 2016
Alan Davies Jonathan Creek Creative consultant Main
Caroline Quentin Maddy Magellan Writer Main   Photograph
Julia Sawalha Carla Borrego Television presenter Main   Mentioned
Sheridan Smith Joey Ross Paranormal investigator Main
Sarah Alexander Polly Creek Jonathan's wife Guest Main
Actor / actress Character Role Series
1 2 Christmas 1998 3 Christmas 2001 4 Specials 2009-2013 5 Christmas 2016
Anthony Head Adam Klaus Stage magician Pilot
Stuart Milligan Recurring
Geoffrey McGivern Barry Opper Maddy's agent Recurring
Rik Mayall Gideon Pryke Detective Inspecter Guest Guest
Bill Bailey Kenny Starkiss Magician Guest Recurring
Adrian Edmondson Brendan Baxter Carla's husband / TV producer Recurring
John Bird Horace Greeley Magazine editor Recurring

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.

King's Mill, Shipley, West Sussex, used as Creek's initial windmill home in the series

Creek is a somewhat cynical designer of illusions for stage magician Adam Klaus. He originally lived in a windmill in Sussex.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12]

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.



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.



Series Series premiere Series finale No. of
Avg. UK viewers
(in millions)
Most watched episode UK Viewers
1 10 May 1997 7 June 1997 5 8.43 "Jack in the Box" 9.35
2 24 January 1998 28 February 1998 6 9.70 "Mother Redcap" 10.92
Christmas 1998 24 December 1998 1 9.86 "Black Canary" 9.86
3 27 November 1999 2 January 2000 6 10.69 "Miracle in Crooked Lane" 11.45
Christmas 2001 26 December 2001 1 7.64 "Satan's Chimney" 7.64
4 1 March 2003 28 February 2004 6 8.97 "Angel Hair" 9.9
Specials 2009-2013 1 January 2009 1 April 2013 3 8.43 "The Grinning Man" 9.91
5 28 February 2014 14 March 2014 3 7.36 "The Letters of Septimus Noone" 8.09

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
1998 BAFTA TV Award Best Drama Series Susan Belbin, Sandy Johnson, Marcus Mortimer, David Renwick Won
Best Design John Asbridge, Jonathan Taylor Nominated
Best Sound (Fiction/Entertainment) Terry Elms, Craig Irving, Laurie Taylor, Lee Crichlow, Ben Norrington Nominated
Broadcasting Press Guild Awards Writer's Award David Renwick (Episode: "One Foot in the Grave") Won
National Television Awards Most Popular Drama Series Won
Most Popular Actor Alan Davies Nominated
1999 BAFTA TV Award Best Drama Series Verity Lambert, Keith Washington, David Renwick, Sandy Johnson Nominated
British Comedy Awards Best TV Comedy Drama Episode: "Black Canary" Nominated
RTS Television Award Best Drama Series Won
2004 British Comedy Award Best TV Comedy Drama Nominated

Similarity to other television shows

Other television programmes have utilised the same formula of a magician helping police to solve crimes,[13] 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.[14] 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.[13]

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.[15] The second attempt, also by Renwick, was for Whoopi Goldberg and would have included Alan Davies.[15]

Home media

Regions 2 (UK) and 4 (AUS)

DVD Date
Series 1 & 2 16 February 2004
Series 3 & 4 & the Christmas Specials 2 August 2004
Complete Series 1–4 & the Christmas Specials (gold-coloured) 29 November 2004
The Grinning Man 19 October 2009
The Judas Tree 12 April 2010
Complete Series 1–4 & the Christmas Specials (blue-coloured) 4 October 2010
The Clue of the Savant's Thumb 6 May 2013[16]
Series 5 17 March 2014[17]


  3. "Jonathan Creek, The Judas Tree". BBC One. 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  4. Brown, David (5 December 2012). "Jonathan Creek to return for new episode". Radio Times. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  5. Jeffery, Morgan (28 February 2014). "Alan Davies: I want to play Jonathan Creek for another 10 years". Digital Spy. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  6. Oglethorpe, Tim (13 June 2014). "Why I don't enjoy playing Jonathan Creek any more: The BBC's cut his pay, the hours are crippling... and Alan Davies is VERY grumpy". Daily Mail. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  7. Wightman, Catriona (4 March 2016). "Jonathan Creek is returning to BBC One for a new special". Digital Spy. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  8. "BAFTA Awards (1998)". 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 Clark, Steve (21 October 1999). The World of Jonathan Creek Paperback. London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0563551355.
  10. The actual windmill used is in Shipley, West Sussex "Shipley Windmill". Retrieved 12 July 2010.
  11. alandavies1 (10 March 2009). "Thanks for all tweets regarding ...". Retrieved 21 July 2014. Thanks for all tweets regarding Ali Bongo's passing. He was a great inventor of tricks & the inspiration for J Creek, nice man.
  12. Wylie, Ian (18 December 2008). "Jonathan Creek gets creepy". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  13. 1 2 "Ban on eating and drinking on buses is just the ticket". Sunday Mirror. 15 June 1997.
  14. Corcos, Christine Alice (27 April 2004). "The Magical World of Jonathan Creek". Picturing Justice: The On-line Journal of Law and Popular Culture. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  15. 1 2 "Jonathan Creek - The American Series". BBC. September 2005. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  16. "Jonathan Creek - The Clue of the Savant's Thumb DVD". Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  17. "Jonathan Creek: Series 5 [DVD]". Retrieved 17 February 2014.
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