The Paradise, Series One (2012)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Were it not for another blog, I may not have heard of this series. (Introducing me to this series was Jeanine, and she deserves a great “thank you” for it.) Many of you likely remember seeing the review of the pilot episode show up here a few weeks ago. Fortunately, in finally finishing up the novel-to-screen adapted first season, I kept an open mind and was handsomely rewarded for that.

Full of promise and ideas is Denise Lovett (Joanna Vanderham). She’s a simple country girl whose innocence is obvious upon meeting the blonde-haired beauty but her ambitions refuse to go unnoticed. Hoping to work with her uncle (Peter Wright) in his small shop, Denise is disappointed to learn that he is unable to support an employee. Wide-eyed with wonder at the town’s bustling prosperity, she applies to the large department store across the way, The Paradise. Her uncle’s 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 lady’s department. Though the woman is a stickler for propriety and rules, something in Denise inspires her to hire her for a probationary period.
At The Paradise, the store’s ambitious owner has plans to expand but is in desperate need of capitol which pushes Moray (Emun Elliott) to request a loan from the father of the wealthy but spoiled young woman whom 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. With the strict rules of Miss Audrey, Denise is kept under careful watch but in speaking her mind, she captures the attentions of the charming Moray.

It isn’t hard to let this delightful piece of costume drama of a series sweep us up into its charming premise chronicling England’s first department store. I was immediately delighted to unwrap its many surprises and poignant charms as soon as I worked past my jaded views of its scripting. Firstly it guest-starred Olivia Hallinan (Lark Rise to Candleford) and later, Mr. Collins himself, David Bamber. Then I found that it was also created by ‘Lark Rise’ writer, Bill Gallagher. Unfortunately, until you get past the first two episodes, I think this BBC program suffers from the pre-cursor of ‘Lark Rise.’ There are familiar plots used and that disappoints. It takes no more than a matter of minutes to draw a handful of similarities between the two series and that doesn’t stop in short order, instead even spilling into the second episode. That’s when all bets are off and unexpected twists begin to take shape.

In its opening, the series had promise. I was swept into Denise’s tempting world (what a pretty, enchanting one it is!) and appreciated her sweet innocence, but it isn’t until three installments in that things become, actually brilliant. There is much more content and the relationships begin to pick themselves up and take surprising turns. I immediately liked Miss Audrey even seeing her at her worst midway through in her brusque attitude and the adorable Pauline (Ruby Bentall, ironically also of Lark Rise to Candleford fame) but was a bit put off by Moray. This reason I cannot put my finger on 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 grinning at his moral character when he stands up for one of his workers accused of impropriety. As a leading man, there is something left wanting in his behavior – he seems unable to “control” his impulses when it comes to women. First he’s obsessed with his wife, seeks comfort in the arms of another and “needs” Catherine for business reasons. And then there is Denise. It’s not that I don’t like them together (the ending swept me up in ways I shouldn’t have let it) but I don’t think he is right for her. In watching the episodes as a whole series rather than individual ones, there is something to be said in favor of rooting 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.
Compliments all around should be given to Gallagher for his teasing scripts; they snag our attention with Moray’s shadowy past and, eventually, the motivations of Catherine which are far from selfless. The passion, ambitions, jealousy and mystery culminates into something quite clever; the script in all regards is interesting. The Paradise has already been ordered for a second, and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t delight me. There are too many things from ‘paradise’ that are far too lovely to miss.  
The Paradise premieres on Masterpiece Theatre Fall 2013 followed by a U.S DVD release on November 12th.
(Parental Concerns: there are whispered wonderings about what happened to Moray’s wife. A woman attempts to seduce her dinner companion after he unties her laces [the camera cuts away]. There are implications that a man slept with his employee and he nearly allows it a second time. Questions arise about a woman’s reputation after she arranges for a scene in which it appears a man has taken advantage of her. The employees often spend nights out enjoying their alcohol at a pub across the street. Off-camera, someone is murdered. The series is rated TVPG.)  


  1. I'm glad your opinion changed! Haha! Yeah, I remember your post about the pilot. I just might tune into this come spring. I haven't seen Lark Rises to Candleford so I probably won't recognize any similarities. Great review, as always. ;)

    1. As am I, Rosie. Once you get past the first two eps., the show becomes surprisingly clever. Plots take turns you'd never expect in such a genre and it's fun - and unexpected that way.

      'Lark Rise' is a delight. It's a family-like series that younger audiences can enjoy and I like that about it!

      Thank you for reading - and I hope you enjoy this! You'd be right in saying the similarities would mean nothing to you. Script wise, this is probably the stronger one.

  2. I enjoyed it overall, probably even more than Lark Rise -- but I'm not a fan of Moray. More thoughts in my e-mail. =)

    1. Good (loved reading your thoughts!), I am so glad, Charity. As far as writing goes, I think this was the stronger serial... though I still adore 'Lark Rise' for its cute and innocent story. (Plus in this, it was grand to see "Laura" and "Minnie" again. :D)

      I totally "get" where you are coming from with Moray. Believe me.

      Looking forward to that conversation!

    2. I liked Lark Rise (and particularly Dorcas -- she's my one weakness ;) but The Paradise seems a bit more... grown up, so I appreciated that about it. =)

      I'm starting to wonder if this particular writer simply can't write a male character I like! Moray is horrible -- and I never particularly liked any of Dorcas' leading men either; Timothy was a twat, and JD was a philanderer -- she deserved better. I much prefer Dudley over Moray -- shame he's married, and off the market, he'd make a much better romantic lead. =P

    3. I see that perspective. Dorcas (she needs to appear on 'Paradise') was lovely - she was the "one weakness" on that show. Only in this case, that is an EXCELLENT thing not criticism. 'Paradise' definitely grew further in and I recognized and appreciated that.

      You raise an excellent point. Perhaps Bill cannot write a suitable male lead. *sigh* That's not promising. I didn't mind JD (to a certain point) and believed that he loved her but Timothy was a dweeb. Or maybe something stronger? A jerk. Gabriel was alright though not totally without fault - he was a "broken" man. Like usual, I liked the teacher but was disappointed he left.

      Funny you should mention Dudley. Before realizing he was married, I'll confess he caught my eye for Denise - and without even a hint that he may be paired with her! Fortunately, they aren't making him out to be a philander. That's a positive.

    4. (Minor note -- check the spelling in the title of this post.)

      Lark Rise was enjoyable -- but juvenile much of the time. I don't mind silliness but... there's something lovely about a "mature" series (without much bad content).

      I've begun showing my parents the series, and Mom hates Muray. Dad hasn't said much, but I gather he doesn't like him either. We all think he's just toying with Catherine, using her for her connections and money. We prefer Dudley. SIGH.

    5. Ooops! Guess I had dyslexia... or something! Perhaps I just wanted to re-name the store. ;D Thanks for that.

      I think one of the reasons I liked 'Lark Rise' so well was because of its wholesome stories and the characters. I get where you are coming from completely. If something can be "mature" without adult content, that is a HUGE plus and a hurdle overcome that deserves credit.

      I don't think I can say that I "hate" Moray but there is something... fishy about him. His demeanor is somehow not trustworthy. In spite of his manipulative ways... Catherine has got ulterior motives. Or that is my impression so far. It'll be interesting to see what the second set brings.

  3. Hey, Rissi! Have you heard anything about this being released for Region 1 anytime soon?

    1. Unfortunately... no. The second series is about to start filming so maybe *fingers crossed* that will prompt it to arrive in the states. You can get it on Amazon but it's only region 2, which is... *sniff* quite sad.

  4. I just finished watching season one last week. This is one of my favorite tv shows now!
    I hope season 2 is just as good.

    1. Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed this, Ella! I'm hoping to get S2 watched around Christmas so they'll be a review up and like you, my expectation of S2 is that it'll be as good as this first series. Cannot wait! :)


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