"I've been in more hot water than a tea-bag," declares rapscallion antiques dealer Lovejoy, played with devilish charm by Ian McShane (Deadwood
, Sexy Beast
). And indeed he has: Whether his quarry is a forged snuffbox, a pair of pistols, or an Arab wedding headdress, he always seems to run afoul of greedy collectors, unscrupulous dealers, and scheming lowlifes. How does he triumph? By being just as greedy, unscrupulous, and scheming as they are! This raffish mysteries series, set in the world of English antiques, revels in roundabout plots and oddball characters, but its success rests on McShane's shoulders. Some episodes are sluggish (the one with an axe-wielding lunatic after a Welsh dresser never quite takes off) and some are deft (a forger's heart attack in the middle of a cricket match leads to an underground crypt, with a phony priest and an upper-class nymphomaniac along the way), but McShane is always captivating as he zips around the countryside in his battered yellow station wagon or clings to his assistant's motorcycle sidecar. The ten episodes of this first season (followed, after a hiatus due to some contractual problems, by five more) feature a Japanese firefly cage, Roman coins, mysterious love letters, and Machiavellian identical twins, as well as run-ins with Lovejoy's prat of a rival, Charlie (Malcolm Tierney) and flirting with the posh Lady Jane (Phyllis Logan). The supporting cast does a decent job (particularly Dudley Sutton as a boozy antiques expert), but they know they're just along for the ride. With his heavy-lidded eyes, rolling voice, and dangerously seductive smile, McShane's charisma is off the chart. He even carries off talking to the camera--you wish he was talking to you all the time. Fans of English mysteries who tire of the usual moral rectitude should give this bad boy a try. (The only extra is a brief interview with McShane, pleasant but unrevealing.) --Bret Fetzer
Ian McShane (Deadwood
) stars as the irresistible rogue with a keen eye for antiques, intrigue and beauty. Just call him Lovejoy. This antiques dealer and part-time detective scours the murky salesrooms, auction halls and stately homes of Britain, always on the lookout for a find or a quick buck. As if the antiques business isn't exciting enough, Lovejoy has a particular weakness for a good sob story or a pretty face, either of which is enough to send him off in pursuit of villains and help victims recover their property. Whether it's a priceless old master or a pretty young lady, his love of beauty is sure to land him in trouble wherever he goes.