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 first season, I keep an open mind and am handsomely rewarded.
The Paradise, Series One (2012) ITV Review
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 plans to expand but is in desperate need of capitol. This pushes Moray (Emun Elliott) to request a loan from the father of the wealthy but spoiled young woman whom he’s 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 under careful watch but by 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. This immediately delights to unwrap its many surprises and poignant charms as soon as I work past my jaded views of its scripting. Firstly it guest-stars Olivia Hallinan (Lark Rise to Candleford) and later, Mr. Collins himself, David Bamber. Then I make the discovery that its creator is the ‘Lark Rise’ writer, Bill Gallagher. Unfortunately, until we pass the first two episodes, I think this BBC program suffers similarity to ‘Lark Rise.’
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There’s familiar plots and it 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. This sweeps me into Denise’s tempting world (what a pretty, enchanting one it is!) and I appreciate her sweet innocence, but three installments in, things get, 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 gives me no reason to distrust him. I simply think he may be a bit of a con man though I like his moral character when he stands up for one of his workers accused of impropriety.
As a leading man, there’s something left wanting in his behavior; he seems unable to “control” his impulses when it comes to women. First he obsesses over his wife, seeks comfort in the arms of another and “needs” Catherine for business reasons. And then there’s Denise. It’s not that I don’t like them together (the ending proves this) but I don’t think he’s right for her. As I watch this as one unit rather, there is favor in rooting for Denise and Moray’s “someday” romance. However his demeanor makes it easy to believe he may take advantage of her and leave her broken-hearted. That’s a possibility I don’t wish on her.
Compliments all around should go 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 already has a second series, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say this is good news. There are too many things from ‘paradise’ that are far too lovely to miss.
Content: there’s whispered wonderings about what did happen 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 it to appear a man takes 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 TVPG.