Lovejoy (Ian McShane) has always walked a fine line between legitimate and slightly shady deals - such seems to be the nature of the antiques trade. But in Lovejoy, Series 4, the always charming rogue has crossed over to out-and-out swindling - for a good cause, naturally - the saving of his own skin. Lovejoy is a "divvie," someone who has the gift of being able to sniff out a real antique. This feature has both helped and hindered Lovejoy in his life, loves, and business.
As the series opens, Lovejoy Antiques, Inc. has been seized by the authorities - and Lovejoy is not only out of a home, but his livelihood. He starts scrambling immediately, setting up some deals with his friends and sidekicks, Eric (Chris Jury) and Tinker (Dudley Sutton), while trying to keep some of the more gruesome details hidden from Lady Jane Felsham (Phyllis Logan), who will most definitely not approve. Lovejoy and Lady Jane have always had an on-again, off-again flirtation that has sometimes crossed over to romance, but this season sees the Lady's affections sorely tested. Viewers will recognize Phyllis Logan as Downton Abbey's Mrs. Hughes, who has finally found love on that program with the redoubtable butler Mr. Carson. But will her character Lady Jane fare as well with the rascally Lovejoy?
Lovejoy Antiques, Inc.: L-R: Tinker (Dudley Sutton), Lady Jane Felsham (Phyllis Logan), Eric (Chris Jury), and Lovejoy (Ian McShane).
Recently released on DVD by Acorn Media, Lovejoy Series 4 includes 13 episodes from the season, plus a bonus Christmas special, all on four discs, with a total running time of 693 minutes. There is a warning about grainy quality, which is consistent with 1990s-era television shows (Lovejoy was shot and ran from 1986 to 1994), but the series still looks great on a large-scale, high-definition television screen. SDH subtitles are available, and the aspect ratio of the episodes is 1.33:1. There are alas, no extras included in the set, except some previews for other British mysteries offered by Acorn.
The episodes include:
"The Napoleonic Commode" - Lovejoy has been renting a house from a friend - which the authorities have just repossessed. With nowhere to live or work, Lovejoy starts bouncing from friend's house to house - and scrambling to get back in business. An antique French chamber pot, which may have once been used by Napoleon, could save the day.
"The Ring" - Lovejoy persuades some of his old (and crooked) cronies into forming a ring of bidders to help bump up the bids for a painting he is trying to sell. The scam could work, and lose him his friendship with Jane, when she unwittingly gets pulled into the ring of bidders.
"Second Fiddle" - Lovejoy gets a very different kind of request - can he make a genuine Stradivarius violin look like a fake?
"The Colour of Mary" - Charlie Gimbert (Malcolm Tierney), Lovejoy's arch-nemesis from his past (and season one of the series) is back, and looking for Lovejoy to help him in his latest scheme/scam.
"Fly the Flag" - Lady Jane asks Lovejoy to help out a friend in need, but unfortunately all of his family's supposed antiques turn out to be fakes. The family will be facing dire straits unless Lovejoy & Co. can hunt up something of value, and soon ...
"Judgement of Solomon" - Eric is in jail after stolen antiques are found in Lady Jane's car, while Lovejoy tries to help a retired RAF officer sell his collection of Jewish religious artifacts.
"The Galloping Major" - a hit and run, damaging Lovejoy's little white truck, leads the divvie and Eric on an unexpected journey which may include a priceless and dangerous antique - an old cannon.
"God Helps Those" - Jane asks Lovejoy to run a doll auction for charity, and he also ends up helping an elderly lady to not get swindled by her own son.
"They Call Me Midas" - Lovejoy, Eric, and Tinker take part in an elaborate scam directed at a crooked Dutch art dealer.
"Irish Stew" - Lovejoy and Lady Jane head to Ireland in search of a painting, and get pulled into another antiques-related drama when they get there.
"Dainty Dish" - A baroness in Brighton asks Lovejoy's help in selling what she think is a priceless chest. It isn't, but there may be something else inside the chest that is far more valuable.
"Taking the Pledge" - Can Lovejoy help his down-on-his-luck friend Jamie, who just sold his last possession, for far less than it was actually worth?
"Lovejoy Loses It" - Can you say Antiques Roadshow? Lovejoy appears on a very similar show, but with dire consequences.
BONUS Christmas episode, "The Prague Sun" (97 min.) - Lovejoy and Lady Jane seem to be in their off-again mode, while everyone else is off to Prague, on the trail of some buried diamonds.
Ian McShane is as charming as the eponymous hero as ever, and his chemistry with Logan and the rest of the cast members is undeniable. Some very familiar faces from British film and television also do some guest turns: Alexei Sayle, Michael Hordern, Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter, The History Boys), Martin Clunes (Doc Martin), Ronald Pickup (The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Donald Pleasence, Peter Vaughan, and Dinah Sheridan.
It is always fun to watch Lovejoy straddle the outer edges of honesty in his various deals and swindles. His occasional fourth wall-breaking is as witty as ever, and the art and antiques ephemera and lovely locations are as also as interesting and engaging as ever. Lovejoy Series 4 is yet another great edition in the series, and viewers will be happy to hear that there are still two more seasons and many more adventures for Lovejoy Antiques, Inc. in their future.