Inside Television: The Letters of Septimus Noone is a magic show for Creek-Freaks


Which BBC detective has a cult appeal that inspires intense devotion across the globe? Despite an attitude which could charitably be described as 'anti-social', he is beloved for his lateral thinking, his off-beat good looks and the coat that’s become a trademark. Alas, the short series only appear once every few years, always leaving fans wanting more. No, not bloody Sherlock. We speak, of course, of Jonathan Creek.

This evening, the mop-headed magician’s assistant returns to BBC1 to solve another howdunnit, involving a West End play, a locked room and a grinning corpse. ‘The Letters of Septimus Noone’ is the first episode in the show’s first series for a decade, and a few things have changed since Alan Davis first donned the duffel.

He’s onto his fourth female companion, for a start. Polly (Sarah Alexander) differs from writer Maddie (Caroline Quentin) TV presenter Carla (Julia Sawalha) and paranormal investigator Joey (Sheridan Smith), in that she also happens to be Mrs Creek. The man she married is older, greyer and more reluctant than ever to solve crimes, but otherwise the show retains its gothic-lite charm. In fact the biggest change since 2004 is one which took place outside the world of the show; the success of a new BBC1 detective drama called Sherlock.

Judging by the slightly chippy Cumberbatch references in tonight’s episode, this  comparison has also occurred to Jonathan Creek writer, David Renwick. He even has Creek confronted by a Sherlock-like amateur sleuth called Ridley, whose logic-based deductions are dazzling, and, alas, completely wrong. It’s not that Renwick is in awe of his fellow Conan Doyle obsessives, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, or even in competition with them. The relationship between the two shows is much more reciprocal than that. Viewers of both might have noticed that Sherlock included its own reference to Jonathan Creek episode, ‘The Problem at Gallows Gate’ at the beginning of the last series.

Could it be that Sherlock, brilliant as it is, isn’t quite the game-changer it’s often assumed to be? The proof of this is in the phenomenal success of a third BBC detective show, which airs its third season finale next week. Death In Paradise is cliched claptrap with plots as transparent as the Caribbean sea, but neither that, nor the casting of the irritating man off the BT ads has stopped 6m+ viewers tuning in every Tuesday. Sherlock has topped 8m, but, it’s only on three times a year.

Not only is Sherlock-mania no threat to the popularity of less flashy detective shows, but in many ways it provides the perfect cultural context for the return of the modestly satisfying Jonathan Creek. Sherlock Holmes is fundamentally a show-off, whose brilliance makes Jonathan Creek look all the more ordinary by comparison. And Jonathan Creek’s ordinariness, is exactly what makes him special.

Nowt as talented as these folk

This week marks 15 years since Channel 4‘s groundbreaking drama Queer As Folk first aired. Has anything changed in TV’s depiction of gay men? Debatable. There’s no debate, however, on the phenomenal TV talent that Queer As Folk helped launch.

Writer Russell T. Davis revived Doctor Who and is soon to return to Channel 4 with Cucumber, another drama about gay men in Manchester. Craig Kelly (Vince) had a role in Corrie - surely every actor’s dream - Aidan Gillen (Stuart), was Mayor Carcetti in The Wire and Littlefinger in Game of Thrones. Charlie Hunnam has beefed up to twice Nathan’s size to star in a string of Hollywood movies. Last year he made the wise decision to pull out of the upcoming 50 Shades of Grey adaptation. So, will the cast of Sky Atlantic’s Looking be so fortunate?


Jonathan Creek, Series 1, Netflix

The appeal of the series might not have changed, but Creek himself certainly has. Thanks to Netflix, you can go right back to the very first episode on Netflix and marvel at how the meek, virginal anorak-man of 1997, turned into the suave, world-weary anorak-man of today.

The Necessary War/The Pity of War, BBC iPlayer

As part of the BBC’s centenary programming, historians Niall Ferguson and Max Hastings went head to head this week to argue their view on the causes of the First World War. On Tuesday, Hastings made the case that Britain’s decision to go to war was necessary, while tonight Ferguson will use a lecture in front of a live studio audience to call it “the biggest error in modern history”. Watch them back to back for the full effect.

One Born Every Minute, 4oD

Never mind the anxious fathers, the heroic mothers or those teeny-tiny babies - the star of the latest series of One Born is midwife Lara. She takes such pride in bringing the next generation of Bristolians into the world: “Once they’ve been touched by my hands, that’s it - they’re set for life.”

The Voice, BBC iPlayer

Thanks in large part to ‘The Kylie Effect’, the ratings for the BBC’s singing contest are up on previous years, with 7.25m viewers last Saturday compared to Ant n Dec’s 6.05m. Is it Kylie’s pop-music experience and showbiz charm that viewers respond to? Or is it her impressive ability to sexy-dance, while still seated in a chair?

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness