Okay, confession time… Before buying the DVD of this series (and series two), I had only ever seen one single episode of Death in Paradise. Not being an avid tv watcher, I’ve completely missed this, and it was only by chance that, while flicking through the channels, I saw this and thought, well, why not… And the rest is history.
Death in Paradise is a kind of mystery drama with a bit of comedy thrown in, and is based on the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Marie, which is a mixture of cultures (The history of it is “It was claimed by the French, who lost it to the British, who lost it to the Dutch, who lost it to the French, who gave it to Britain”), is hot all year round, with most of the days being sunny. It stars Ben Miller as the sun-and-sand hating British policeman, called Richard Poole, who was sent to Saint Marie to investigate the death of his predecessor, with the help of the Saint Marie police force – total number of people: 4. And despite his hatred and discomfort with the sun and sand, he finds that his boss in Britain along with the Police Commissioner of Saint Marie has conspired to keep him on the island after solving a puzzling mystery as the new chief of the Saint Marie policeforce. As if that wasn’t enough, he discovers that working alongside him will be a half-French native of Saint Marie, detective sergeant Camille Borley, played by Sara Martins, who he has encountered in the proceedings.
All throughout the series, there is a number of murders occurring, leading some people to comment that it was the “Midsomer of the Caribbean” (“Midsomer Murders” is an British police series about police in a small, quiet village in mid-England, which seems to have a rather disproportiate number of people getting murdered – I suppose, a US equivalent might be something like “Murder, She Wrote”?), but it’s only a side part of the series, the main focus being on the relationship between Richard Poole and Camille Borley, and in some ways plays up on the stereotypes of the differences between English and French people (which does see Camille occasionally going “You are SO English!” and Richard going “That’s just so French!”) – the program was created as a joint British-French venture, hence why they probably play up on it.
Some people do question the popularity of the series (regularly getting around 6 million viewers in the UK – out of a population of 60 million), but I can see the reasons for that.
Firstly, despite the murders, it’s basically light-hearted, there’s no swearing at all and the comedy just lightens the mood, so it’s very family-friendly, and a lot of people are watching it partly for the whole “will-they-won’t-they” aspect between Richard and Camille.
Another reason for it is because the BBC scheduling team have been clever with when they’re doing the first broadcasts, with it taking place in late autumn, middle of winter, that sort of thing. As the series is filmed in the French territory of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, there’s that aspect of just seeing the sun and the sand and the sea, and the beautiful ladies and just dreaming about being there. That’s a very attractive prospect for anyone in the middle of a British winter, which is typically gloomy and drizzly, basically.
Okay, Richard’s a sun-hater and complains about the weather – even though he contributes to the discomfort by insisting on wearing a suit and all that – but honestly… When I was watching it, I was so thinking I would love all that sun and everything. I’d probably need a year or so to adjust to the temperatures, obviously (When I visited Heavenly in Las Vegas, we both agreed that the best time for me to come over was clearly going to be late autumn or early spring as if I went in the middle of the summer, I’d be melting the whole time I’m there! *heh*) but once I’m more used to it, I would be so loving it, I guarantee you. Far better being somewhere where there’s lot of sun than having to put up with gloomy weather and drizzly rain and the chill that we get and all that – especially when sometimes it just gets so dark in the winter that you’re basically switching the light on before 3 in the afternoon.
(As an aside, I would like to point out that I’m probably not your average Englishman… I have a natural revulsion to things like hankerchiefs on heads and wearing socks with sandals and the like… But I’d have to admit there are probably a couple of things that Camille would be saying “You are SO English!” at me!)
With regards to the murders, it does reminds me very much of the Agatha Christie style of working, it can be a little bit convoluted and the way that Richard works and somehows realise how it happened being likewise, but just like the Agatha Christie novels and adaptations, it just somehows clicks.
And in the end, I wasn’t actually watching it for the murders, I was more watching it for the human aspect of it, with Richard and Camille and the other people in the force (Dwayne played by Danny John-Jules, Fidel, played by Gary Carr, and the police commissioner, Selwyn Patterson, played by Don Warrington) and Camille’s mother, Catherine, played by Elisabeth Bourgine – especially the way Richard will insult Catherine on occasions (the chicken soup description is brilliant).
So, what would I be giving it? Well, let me stress this: If any of the factors weren’t present, it honestly wouldn’t be anywhere near as good, and the murders and all that aren’t the best. But like I said, you don’t end up watching for the murders, but for the human relations, seeing what’s going to happens between Richard and Camille and so on. (Having said that, it has been announced that Ben Miller is to leave the program sometimes during Series 3, and another person, Kris Marshall, is coming in as a new detective called DI Humphrey Goodman. It’s always a bit of a concern, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that I thought he was all that good at – but then “My Family” was a pile of excrement so that may have been a contributing factor – but unlike some people I’m not going to dismiss him out of hand.)
For some reason, it just all works. It shouldn’t have, but it really does. 5/5.