The Paradise: Series One, Episode One (2012)



When it comes to gorgeous costume dramas, the British know how to make ‘em and do it well. There have been dozens of them that enchanted American audiences and several have even ended up in my collection. This is one of their recent endeavors and sadly, I think it shows the wear of writer’s who have already tried this premise.

From a small village into the bustling neighboring town walks Denise (Joanna Vanderham). She’s a simple country girl whose innocence is obvious to everyone upon meeting the blonde-haired beauty. It was always the plan between her family and her uncle (Peter Wright) that she’d one day work in his small shop. That day is now. Surprising her uncle, he informs her at her arrival that business isn’t good and as a result, he is unable to take on an assistant. Wide-eyed with wonder at the town’s bustling prosperity, Denise applies to the large department store across the way, The Paradise. Her uncles mortal business enemy, Denise cannot see her way to not working and despite her awe, she petitions for a job with Miss Audrey (Sarah Lancashire), the head of the lady’s department. Though the woman is a stickler for propriety and rules, something about Denise inspires her to hire her for a probationary period.

The store’s ambitious owner is in desperate need of capitol which pushes Moray (Emun Elliott) to request a loan from the wealthy banker whose daughter he is courting. Catherine Glendenning (Elaine Cassidy) is of the privileged lot but is infatuated by her working-class beau and is all for petitioning her father for the loan on his behalf. Against the advice of his best friend and partner (Matthew McNutly), Moray decides to hold a one-day magnanimous sale. Though kept under the strict rules of Miss Audrey, Denise cannot help speak her mind and captures the attentions of the charming Moray. A suit she may be wiser to ignore.

Having never heard of this series prior to another blog post I read, I was immediately delighted to discover more than one thing about it. Firstly it guest-starred Olivia Hallinan, star of Lark Rise to Candleford and then I found that it was also created by the same man, Bill Gallagher. Unfortunately, I think this BBC program suffers from the pre-cursor of ‘Lark Rise’ – there are far too many similar plot devices used and it made me sad to note its lack of originality (save for its setting). Don’t mistake my tone for dislike of that delightful hamlet of a series, in fact it was a wonderful family show that ended all too soon and one that my friend (you know who you are) can attest to my written tomes (in length), raving (positively so) review. It takes no more than a matter of minutes to draw a handful of similarities between the two series and that doesn’t stop even spilling into the second episode.

Opening, the series has promise. I was swept into Denise’s world (what a pretty, enchanting one it is!) and appreciated her sweet innocence, a rarity in entertainment today but the dynamics and relationships fall flatter than they should. I immediately liked Miss Audrey and the adorable Pauline (Ruby Bentall, ironically also of Lark Rise to Candleford fame) but was a bit put off by Moray. Hopefully watching the entire series will clear my mind of any lingering suspicions of his character because really he gave me no reason to distrust him, I simply felt like he may be a bit of a con man though I was pleased with his moral character when he stands up for one of his workers accused of impropriety. But then, I am getting ahead of myself as that doesn’t happen in the pilot! Back to this episode: I haven’t watched enough of the show to necessarily root for Denise and Moray’s “someday” romance but his demeanor makes it easy to believe he would take advantage of her and leave her broken-hearted. That is a possibility I would not wish on her.

Irrespective of the cues he took from his series prior to this, I cannot help but compliment Gallagher on his ability to snag our attention with Moray’s shadowy past or the motivations of Catherine. The script in both regards was interesting. The costuming however left something to be desired for my cinematic tastes but there are pretty patterns and accessories. The Paradise has already been ordered for a second series, and if I had one thing to hope for it, it would be that it would distance itself from some of its predecessors because it’s a sweet trip back into yesteryear.

The Paradise premieres on Masterpiece Theatre in spring 2013.

(What to know: there are whispered wonderings about what happened to Moray’s wife. A woman attempts to seduce her dinner companion after he unties her laces under the rouse she cannot breath [the camera cuts away]. The employees often spend nights out enjoying their alcohol at a pub across the street. The series is rated TVPG.)  
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Rissi
20 Comments

20 comments:

  1. Sorry to see it's another "almost" copy cat. I hate to see shows take that direction. *sigh*

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    1. Yeah, it was very similar to 'Lark Rise,' Rosie BUT is still a charmer. I've not watched the entire series yet and will post the full review when I do - my mind may be altered once I see it through. :)

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  2. I'm really looking forward to the "dueling" department store shows next year -- both this one and Mr. Selfridge!

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    1. Had to look up Mr. Selfride, Ruth as I'd not yet heard of it. :) Sounded cute - now I am curious! This one is good and VERY charming so hopefully BBC won't disappoint us. :)

      Lovely to see your name here, girl!

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  3. This looks sooo good.It sounds a bit like Lark Rise to Candleford,which is why I think I would like it.

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    1. If you liked 'Lark Rise' (and I know you did!), you'd enjoy this one, Ella! It's sweet and the scripts aren't half bad.

      It comes to the U.S. early next year so I'll be anxious to know what you think of it. :D

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  4. Ugh. Wish I could watch all these amazing looking tv shows that you review! I'm still trying to get through the 6th season of Bones... I watch like... one episode every week. I'll probably be watching that season until I'm 30. lol.

    thanks for the comment on my blog! i'm so excited for the new blog, too! and yep, it does mean more pictures! :)

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    1. I keep up with the ones I do because they are amazing, Rachel! :)

      Aw! Neat - are you still liking Bones? I'm watching S7 and it's HILARIOUS so far. Sadly, fans were only given 13 episodes instead of the usual 20-something. Hope you get past S6 before turning 30. ;D

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  5. I trust your review, but I think I'm still going to be suckered in because these are exactly my kind of show.

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    1. Please don't mistake my "lackluster" review for dislike - this is a charmer, Alison. If you enjoyed 'Lark Rise,' then you'll appreciate this one. I went into it expecting more originality but if I know my cinema tastes, I'll enjoy the entire series a great deal. It has potential and that is an excellent starting place: I always say you should give a show a three to four episode try before dismissing it. :)

      Thanks bunches for visiting, Alison - come back again anytime. :)

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  6. I've not yet gotten to watching this (might do so now Downton Abbey series 3 has ended), but I was surprised when you mentioned the similarities of this to Lark Rise. The Paradise is based (maybe only loosely) on a French classic novel, so this gets me wondering whether the similarities where already there or if it is in the hand of the maker that the similarities came about. Hmm, interesting...

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    1. Yes, this is based on a book. Though you are probably right in saying it is "loosely" done so - since most adaptations are nowadays. Drawing similarities to 'Lark Rise' was my overall conclusion - the writer seemed to be drawing inspiration from his prior series which isn't a bad thing but we've seen the concept done before and I had way too high of expectations. With that being said, watching the entire series will still likely be a delight and it will (hopefully) grow.

      I'd love to know what you thought of it, Birdienl if/when you see it. :)

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  7. I've started watching this and I'm with you -- I really, really don't like Moray. He's a manipulative philanderer who appears to use women to get whatever he wants -- Clara for sex, Katherine for financial gain, and now Denise for... what? I'm sorry, I can't root for her to be involved with him, because everything about the character screams blackguard!

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    1. Yay! So glad you are watching this - we'll have to compare notes. :)

      Mom and I just finished it and quite liked it in the end. It grew on me a great deal more than my lackluster impressions after two episodes. If Twitter is any indication, Rachel (M) loves it - and Moray, but I am a bit skeptical of him. Having said that I will admit to getting swept up into the ending an am curious to see where S2 takes all the characters...

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    2. I will, once I get into it further. (Don't ask how, but I wound up seeing the last episode first. Oops.)

      Yeah, even knowing the "ending" (which isn't really much of an ending!) ... I don't like Moray. The actor doesn't help, since for some reason I seem to have an aversion to him.

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    3. Oh, goody! I shall look forward to it. :)

      Ooops! That is an awkward "mistake." LOL! :D Disregarding my skepticism, I did "like" the ending - I got caught up in the moment... I couldn't help myself. This is of course, pending on what the outcome will be - despite what it seemed, S2 could start not how we expect. Whenever one has "bad" feelings for an actor, that NEVER helps. My mother is like that - sometimes to an extreme. I can overcome it but it's tough.

      Hope you end up liking parts of the series - Pauline is sure cute, right!? :)

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    4. I am enjoying it, overall (on episode 4 now). Still not a fan of Murray. I love Miss Audrey, though. And yes, Pauline is adorable. =)

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    5. So glad you enjoyed it, Charity - Miss Audrey is actually one of my fave characters also. I think it's because, deep down, she isn't as cold as she seems. She does genuinely want to help Denise. And, Pauline is too cute for words! :)

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  8. Hmmm, I started watching this but didn't finish it all the way. May have to take a second look!

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    1. If you like costume dramas like Mr. Selfridge or the like, you'd probably like this one, Becca. I also have a complete first season review if you were ever interested in more specifics. I thought, in the end, this was a really sweet drama and when viewed like that, it's a fun way to be entertained. :)

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