Chris Jury on Lovejoy: ‘It was innocent, rural, funny and nostalgic’

Dudley Sutton, Ian McShane, Chris Jury and Pyllis Logan

As an actor, writer, director and producer, Chris Jury may have worked extensively in film, theatre and televison, with directors as diverse as Anthony Minghella and Danny Boyle and on series such as Doctor Who and EastEnders, but it’s as Eric Catchpole on BBC One’s Lovejoy that he’s perhaps best remembered by the British public.

Having recently reviewed the re-released complete Lovejoy on DVD, I spoke to Chris about his memories of working on the top-rated programme which baffled TV producers but viewers couldn’t get enough of.

Jonathan Melville: How did you first come to audition for Lovejoy?

Chris Jury: In 1985 I was in a play at The Bush Theatre on Shepherds Bush Green next to the BBC drama offices. They couldn’t find Eric and a secretary in the office saw me in the play and suggested they came and saw me. I was then interviewed by the director Baz Taylor. I heard nothing for three weeks so assumed I had not got the part and accepted a job in Glasgow as Assistant Director to David Hayman for theatre company 7:84.

I was then called back into meet Ian McShane, producer Bob Banks-Stewart, writers Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais, executive producer Alan McKeown and director Ken Hannam. It was terrifying! I was offered the job the next day and had to drop out of the directing gig with 7:84.

The rapport between yourself, Ian McShane, Dudley Sutton and Phyllis Logan seems genuine – did you enjoy making series one?

Chris Jury todayAll the series were a joy to make. Ian, Dudley, Phylis, Malcolm Tierney and I got on like a house on fire. My abiding memory of filming Lovejoy is laughter and friendship. It doesn’t happen very often. I was very lucky. To this day I regard all four of the regulars as among my dearest friends.

Were you all set to return for a second series in 1987 or was it clear early on that the first series might be the only one?

We were hopeful of a second series in ’87 (which would have been filmed in ’86) but the BBC made Executive Producer Alan McKeown an offer he couldn’t accept and all power to him he walked away. The deal’s the thing you see. That’s why Alan is as rich as Croesus and I’m skint.

When did you learn that the programme would finally be returning?

In spring 1989 Michael Grade left the BBC to go to Channel 4 and within three weeks Witzend, Alan’s company, contacted my agent and we were back on. The deal was finally done in the Autumn of ’89 to start filming 10 eps from Easter 1990.

1993 saw two seasons and a Christmas special air, quite unusual for a BBC drama. Did you sense the BBC were particularly fond of the show at that time?

No. I always felt many of the metropolitan TV industry types were slightly embarrassed by Lovejoy. It wasn’t cynical, urban, edgy or cool enough for them. like Heartbeat and Last Of The Summer Wine, it was innocent, rural, funny and nostalgic – and of course immensely popular with the public! My own taste is for drama that engages more directly with the contemporary world but I could appreciate Lovejoy for what it was and that it was done extremely well. The scripts were brilliant!

This sneering metropolitan attitude crops up even now and the show is the butt of jokes from the likes of Catherine Tate and Little Britain who portray the show as a talisman of an unsophisticated middle-England. Very patronising.

Was there a high point for you during the series run?

I think my favourite time was Series Two which we shot in 1990. We’d had such fun on Series One but it had been and gone and we had all moved on…then suddenly there we all were back together again, being paid magnificently and having a ball. What’s not to like!?

Why did you decide to leave?

I was 37 playing a 17 year old. I had been 28 when I was first cast in 1985 and 29 by the time we completed filming. By the time it finished broadcasting in 1986 I was 30! Then we didn’t film series two until 1990 and I was 34! Plus from when I had actually been 17 I had wanted to direct in TV and it seemed if I didn’t do it then I never would. So I left to pursue a directing and writing career.

There have been rumours over the years of a return of Lovejoy. Is it right that Sky considered bringing it back?

Yes. About 10 years ago I was involved as a screenwriter with Ian and Sky in developing a new series that was more closely based on the books. There was a problem with the rights and the opportunity went away.

Do you think Lovejoy could, or should, come back? Would you like to be in it?

With Ian’s success in Hollywood after Sexy Beast and Deadwood I think it is highly unlikely that Lovejoy could return in the form it was. Apart from anything else we’re all ancient. I’m 55 for goodness sake! And I’m meant to be “young Eric”. There has been talk of a sort of Son Of Lovejoy (or daughter) and I think that could work and I’d love to be part of it. I can’t see it happening though to be honest.

Thanks to Chris Jury for his time. Find out more about Chris and his latest projects.

103 thoughts on “Chris Jury on Lovejoy: ‘It was innocent, rural, funny and nostalgic’

  1. Pingback: News | Chris Jury

  2. it was wonderful. no quotas, no right-on message, no propaganda, no ‘essential’ multiculturalism, no bbc cronies, no morons, but good manners, well-spoken, well written, aesthetically pleasing, hugely entertaining, well acted light drama showing england at it’s best and when england was recognisable as england. all gone now.

    • er!yikes. you don’t half sound all daily mail! haha.england recognisalbe as england! haha. fair play. I am watching the repeats on yesterday and it have to say it seems alil bit late 80’s and early 90’swith the hair and clothes but I am not going to put a 2012 perspective and expect it to be shakespeare either.Enjoy it without bringing politics into it. Well spopken!? I always thought Lovejoy’s accent was very London but perhaps that is me!

  3. I loved the original series, but I don’t want to see it brought back. All the actors would be different. I can’t imagine any new actors would be as good as the originals. it would be like remaking Casablanca.

  4. bring it back please. why do tv stations take these progranms off air when we all love them…
    what do we have now american crap, on our tv 24 7, bring back lovejoy, i dont care how old eric is he is still eric
    and why did lady jane leave, someone needs to tell ian mcshane to get his finger out his ass and bring lovejoy back

  5. If Sherlock Holmes came back from the dead, why not Lovejoy Yes even here in Holland we would like to see the series called The return of Lovejoy

  6. I say bring back Lovejoy. Of course there would be a new script / plot and all of the characters would be more mature, but a new storyline could be created. Anyway I think it could be made to work. The cast of characters and their interaction is the important ingredient. Any number of adventures could be designed for them. Just do it.

  7. Also, make sure you bring back Phyllis Logan as well, of course, as all the usual supects. BBC, make it happen.

  8. I still love this show!!!!!
    I’m sick of modern TV and what I call “cadaver” crime shows with blood and guts autopsy scenes galore. In Lovejoy a punch on the jaw was about as bad as violence ever got. The scropts were great, the blending of drama and comedy excellent. Asan Australian I also loved the parody they did of Christopher Skase….
    Modernize it, make the son or daughter an integral part, whatever, but lets just see it again!

    Hal Saunders

  9. Without a doubt one of the best tv programmes ever. I’ve got the DVD set but still watch the re-runs on ‘Yesterday’. Would love to see a new series with the original cast, especially the great Dudley Sutton as ‘Tinker Dill’. Although some episodes of the original series were loosely based on some of the books, I feel that it would be better to follow most or all of the Jonathan Gash written work more closely.

  10. Lovejoy:I can still hear myself saying that when we’re 70! Jane: No, Lovejoy the things I like about you won’t go away with age! Hear! Hear! The clue is that in the final episode Lovejoy refers to Jane’s betrothed as Roger (who was Tinker’s brother-in-law) instead of Robert. In my end of the galaxy Lovejoy and Jane do eventually end up together. Need ideas for a sequel? I’ve got them.

  11. just watched season 1 again, for first time since it first aired in the uk – the programmes have held up very well and some moments are just laugh out loud funny – brilliant! what superb writing and dialogue.

  12. I have just finished watching the complete series of Lovejoy on dvd and the final episode was a kind of tear-jerker with Lady Jane reappearing and Lovejoy recollecting the wonderful times they had together but with nothing to come of any of it.
    How nice it would been to finally see Lovejoy and Lady Jane (my personal favourite) as a couple!
    Thankfully the marriage with Charlotte didn’t materialise for she blew so hot and cold with Lovejoy and it would just never have worked.
    As for bringing the series back, in my opinion, a resounding NO for remembering how everyone was and not seeing how they have aged etc is the memory that I want to retain.
    Lovejoy, a great series but it had to end sometime and somewhere as the storylines would sooner or later have become repetitive meaning the viewing figures would declined.
    As I said earlier Lady Jane and Lovejoy would have been a nice couple but the writers sadly deemed otherwise, a great pity!

    • Well some of the stories in the books were written in 2000’s I think sooo it could be reborn on TV me thinks !!!

  13. Lovejoy was a fantastic series and it deserves to be brought back. The stories are intriguing, funny and extremely well written and acted. There are new Jonathan Gash Lovejoy books, these could be adapted I would so
    love to see Ian Mcshane and team back, Lovejoy could work with daughter/son and embark on a new set of ventures.

  14. Of course a “son of Lovejoy” would actually have to be his daughter Vicky – now there’s a twist! Would we ever learn his first name? I’m not sure a modern era version would work – antique shops are closing down rapidly as tastes change. Would they be able to find any more stately homes and thatched villages as sets?

    A one-off episode showing what they are doing 20 years on (except Tinker – RIP) would be popular but I can’t expect it to get past the BBC “suits” despite the export potential.

    Shame there isn’t any behind the scenes footage or out takes available to include in the DVD sets.

    A feature film based more closely on a Gash novel might also work and be an interesting contrast.

  15. I loved and still love the series, set in “real old England”, Lovejoy is the typical handsome rogue a bit of a smoothie, and Ian was perfect for the part. I enjoyed the series thoroughly and am thinking of buying the collection of DVDs. Also, there must be some writer who could make a new series working around and following on from the original, always with Ian Mc Shane in the star part! Someone somewhere must be able to write a follow on.

  16. Lovejoy is undoubtedly the best comedy drame ever to be shown by the BBC . I loved it when it was on originally and now my son is a big fan having bought the complete series on DVD. I must have watched each episode many times over the years. Would be great to see return in some form but would need the original cast . Feel good TV ! We need more of it !

  17. 17th April 2013 – It’s being aired at present on YESTERDAY – twice a day, 5 days a week ! Wonderbar !!!!

    Last time was in 2011 – soooooo popular !

      • Ian McShane starred with two actors from my home town of Walsall over his career – Frank Windsor in LOVEJOY episode called ‘Raise The Hispanic’ [1991] and Richard Wattis in the film TAN LIM [1971]

  18. Just talked about the return of all these great iconic TV series at a local restaurant; coming back as the usual repeats or as new dramas in their own right or as where are they now type shows.

    Anyway Lovejoy is on TV again [YESTERDAY CHANNEL] – great stuff !

  19. Jonathan Gash has just sent me back my copy of one of his Lovejoy novels signed with a brief note – wonderful and mark of the man !

  20. Found a LOVEJOY audio book in my library in Walsall and also books by Jonathan Gash that are unrelated to Lovejoy. This author should be celebrated more!

    • Just finished reading Jonathan Gash’s “Finding Davey”. A must read for any Lovejoy fans. Ian McShane could certainly play the lead if ever a movie was made of it. An old master craftsman of antique furniture refuses to give up hope of finding his kidnapped grandson.

  21. I agree with most comments especially regarding Lady Jame and Lovejoy getting together. I didn’t enjoy the series quite so much after she left. Watch it regularly on Yesterday even though have seen most of them before!

  22. Well it ended the same again on YESTERDAY and he’s back to square one – ‘…the past is a foreign land, and Lovejoy doesn’t live there anymore…’ How sad !!

  23. I wrote a letter in a few East Anglian rags in 2011, asking where LOVEJOY had been filmed [locations] and had loads of replies back, but they have gone west now sadly and I can’t find tem, only one e-mail reply somewhere. I found this on the net which may answer some yearning questions about location sites from the series for hardened LOVEJOY fans like myself :

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/essex/content/image_galleries/lovejoy_tv_locations_gallery.shtml?1

    On another note I see LOVEJOY has returned sporadically on the new DRAMA channel – hurrah !!

  24. Saw Ian McShane in a 1989 episode of ‘Minder’ this morning on ITV 4 called ‘THE LAST VIDEO SHOW’. A bolt over from making ‘Lovejoy’ it seems, then back again……….

  25. In the Lovejoy novels, such as ‘GOLD BY GEMINI’ by Jonathan Gash, Lovejoy and Janey do the deed and have a full blown affair, which, for some unfathomable reason, they never achieve in the TV series!

  26. LOVEJOY – please come back to our TV screens as a newly thought out programme [there’s nout on these days]. Those were the days :

  27. Anyone wanting to find out locations where lovejoy was filmed,google maps provide alot of them!
    Alot of series 1 was filmed around my area of south norfolk/north suffolk and have been a massive fan of the show from the start,its my favourite program ever,
    I was a teenage heavy metal fan back in the mid 80s and it was great hearing a suffolk voice on tv back then and seeing towns villagers and countryside i grew up around,
    I go around the auctions of diss and beccles now as you never know,one day i may get a ‘divvie’ funny turn and find a bargin! lol,
    Oh and they shouldnt bring it back,i want to remember the gang as they where,

  28. Anyone who is interested in filming locations can get them from google maps,Lovejoy is set in suffolk and series 1 was filmed around where i grew up and live,north suffolk/south norfolk,
    Later series,allow still being set around suffolk did use surrounding countys such as essex and herts as filming locatons,
    To me lovejoy is the best tv show ever and i watched it from the start when i was a teenage heavy metal fan,it was great to hear a suffolk accent on the tv (chris did a great job on that) and see placers and locations i knew,and i still watch them when ever i see it on to this day,allow my taste in music has changed!
    I do go to the auctions of diss and beccles in the hope that lovejoys magic “divvie” sence rubs of on me and i see a bargin! lol,
    I dont think they should bring it back though,i like to remember the gang as they where,i dont want to see them grey and old,the magic wouldnt be there!

    • Very sad, there was some of the best actors on lovejoy always remember. Jean god bless you
      Will tonite wach the episode national wealth this veining,

      • me too, even though i am on an oil rig in the middle of nowhere. Lovejoy makes me feel as if i am back home. bring it back. just Ian Mcshane. returning to the area, for the first time in 20 years, cant find anyone, so heads out to the hall, et voila…gimbert, Lady Jane, Tinker, Eric all gradually get found…imagine..yes please

  29. Don’t make classic programmes anymore. Lovejoy was one and always will be. I’m a big fan of Ian. Dudley. Chris, and of course the lovely Phyllis Logan. It would be great to see another series. But. Everyone moves on.

  30. LOVEJOY is an ‘Every Man ‘ type character who would be good at any age, any time frame. To bring him back would require great plot lines , good writing, decent exec production. Not something the BBC does well or often now a days. Have you noticed how all their main actors from the past complain in interviews about the lack of proper BBC programming these days ! Sky spoke to Ian and Chris ten years ago but nothing happened . Shame . Maybe one day but I feel the moment has past . Double Shame .

    If he does come back it would have to be in Suffolk, Herts and Essex country like before. Unfortunatly it would now look different as all those white washed cottages and pubs are painted terrible light pinks , blues and even orange . Treble Shame !!
    Heres hoping but wont hold my breath

      • Just finished converting all of my Lovejoy series to mp4 so that I’ll have a permanent digital copy. They still look great! Here’s an idea. How about doing the more recent Lovejoy books as one off mini-series? Ian mcShane would be an excellent choice to play the lead in Jonathan Gash’s “Finding Davey”. If you enjoy Gash’s style in the Lovejoy books this has a similar feel and is is an excellent read.

  31. Lovejoy was the Pure class back in the early 90s unlike todays pc dull tv programs long live legend of C,Gimbert.

  32. Lovejoys to old for a return hes 72, Tinker would be 80 odd it would not be fun seeing them that old in today world.

  33. Good to see chris looking well as i get older love the old lovejoysthese were inocent days with classic tv like to think would be great having lovejoys life which is the charm of the show keep going strong chris.

  34. LOVEJOY has come to an end again on DRAMA CHANNEL, always sad the final episode, one never knows if he is glad he’s being abducted or not, to get out of the wedding……!!!!

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