December 22, 2012 15 Comments

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.

‘THE PARADISE,’ SERIES ONE (2012). Lark Rise to Candleford creator Bill Gallagher brings The Paradise, about a small department store, to the BBC. Text © Rissi JC

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.’

RELATED TV SERIES REVIEW | ‘Lark Rise to Candleford,’ Series One: This is a British Drama of Charm

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.

‘THE PARADISE,’ SERIES ONE (2012). Lark Rise to Candleford creator Bill Gallagher brings The Paradise, about a small department store, to the BBC. Text © Rissi JC

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.

‘THE PARADISE,’ SERIES ONE (2012). Lark Rise to Candleford creator Bill Gallagher brings The Paradise, about a small department store, to the BBC. Text © Rissi JC

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.

About Rissi JC

amateur photog. #bookblogger. downton abbey. inspys. internet-photo-shy. writer. the aspiration is to someday write professionally. a girl can dream, right?

Rissi JC

amateur photog. #bookblogger. downton abbey. inspys. internet-photo-shy. writer. the aspiration is to someday write professionally. a girl can dream, right?

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  • Rosie December 22, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    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. ;)

    • Rissi December 24, 2012 at 5:27 PM

      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.

  • Charity December 23, 2012 at 11:56 PM

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

    • Rissi December 24, 2012 at 5:32 PM

      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!

    • Charity December 25, 2012 at 12:38 AM

      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

    • Rissi December 25, 2012 at 5:44 AM

      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.

    • Charity December 26, 2012 at 10:27 PM

      (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.

    • Rissi December 27, 2012 at 6:41 PM

      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.

  • Kellie May 29, 2013 at 6:52 PM

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

    • Rissi May 29, 2013 at 7:06 PM

      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.

  • Ella November 20, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    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.

    • Rissi November 20, 2013 at 5:32 PM

      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! :)

  • […] THE PARADISE […]

  • […] in the footsteps of BBC’s The Paradise, ITV introduced its own take on the real-life American entrepreneur and the fawning fascination […]

  • […] With the death of her father, the Weston’s now have the Paradise and are settling into Katherine’s childhood home, which is no longer full of joy thanks to her cold husband. This drives Katherine to transfer her energies into raising Tom’s daughter and prompts her to send for Moray to again be the manager of the store. Though apart, the love between Moray and the young shop girl, Denise (Joanna Vanderham) has blossomed. Over letters, the two reaffirm their love and upon his return Denise accepts his marriage proposal though she is in no rush to marry lest she have to give up her newly-appointed promotion at The Paradise. When the return of Jonas stirs up old feelings of resentment, financial strains and clandestine meetings, a game of wits is waged. TV SERIES REVIEW | The Paradise, Series One […]

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