TV Review: The Paradise

TheParadiseby Brad Nelson   7/10/14
A light series from the UK that may be perfect for those who enjoy dining on Upstairs Downstairs, Masterpiece Theatre, and Downton Abbey. Anglophobes need not apply. But Anglophiles will find something to like.

A cast of interesting, but sometimes lukewarm characters, inhabit this series about England’s first department store, The Paradise. Emun Elliot plays Moray, the dashing capitalist and owner of the store. His costar is Joanna Vanderham who plays one of the young and especially pretty shop girls, Denise.

In this universe of pretty things and proper ladies you find the always-cheerful shop boy, Sam; Clara, another pretty shop girl who is the scheming foil of Denise; Jonas, the stern and mysterious one-armed man who is always watching you; Katherine Glendenning, the head-case love interest of Moray and whose father is a financial backer of The Paradise; Dudley, who is Moray’s friend and right-hand man, and last but not least is Miss Audrey, the proper and past-her-prime spinster who keeps charge over the younger girls and whose very life is her career.

None of the drama or stories here are particularly unique. But for light fare that does not insult and is not vulgar, you will at least get mildly wrapped up in the characters and stories with time.

The strength of the show is more in the antagonists than protagonists. Denise, somewhat blandly acted, is young, smart, ambitious, and willing. Moray (the owner of The Paradise) holds his own as a thoughtful, intelligent, and hard-driving businessman. He’s generally honest, charming, and a good leader. But neither can hold this series on his or her own.

The meat of the series is contained in playing off of the fussy and somewhat dour Miss Audrey, the ever-lurking and dangerous-looking Jonas, and especially the nut-drivingly spoiled headcase of a rich lady, Katherine Glendenning. If you are like me, you will be yelling at the screen “Moray, run as fast as you can from her and marry the cute young blond, Denise.”

Maybe he does. I’ve watched only the first season (and I believe this show is still ongoing). Don’t expect too much and you’ll enjoy it. It’s certainly a fine and enchanting British period piece full of interesting costumes and props. Most of the episodes end on a feel-good note, which in this day and age is somewhat refreshing.

Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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10 Responses to TV Review: The Paradise

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    My attitude toward Britain is rather ambivalent. It’s very easy to become staunchly Anglophobic, particularly when reading about the behavior in World War II of Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery. On the other hand, I’ve read and been influenced by a lot of British books. British TV, not very much. The main thing I ever saw on Masterpiece Theatre was I, Claudius, which led me to the books by Graves (the second book, covering Claudius’s own imperium, is Claudius the God). I did see the Masterpiece Classics version of The Thirty-Nine Steps a few years ago, which followed the original novel much better than the highly entertaining Hitchcock movie.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      You’re talking to someone who absolutely loves the movie, Gosford Park. For most people, that would be the equivalent of watching paint dry.

      But for me it’s a chance to see an exquisite period piece with truly outstanding actors such as Maggie Smith and Hellen Mirren. I believe that it takes a sense of curiosity and appreciation for that which came before our time to enjoy these types of movies. If all one is looking for is to have one’s brain cells giggled by kinetic mayhem (or simply shocked by kinetic vulgarity), then The Paradise is not for them.

      But if you’re looking for a little subtle culture and harmless (perhaps even instructive) entertainment, you could do worse than this series.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        If your interest is simply the realization of a historical milieu, then I would recommend Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s vampire novels that started with Hotel Transylvania about the Count Saint Germain of mid-18th Century Paris. They have a modest amount of action with a lot of historical setting (though not English).

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        As an Anglophile and one who appreciates period pieces when they are well done, I agree that Gosford Park was a good movie.

        I believe I have seen one or two episodes of “The Paradise” and while it was a well made, they didn’t “speak to me”, to use a phrase.

        I have seen several episodes of the Selfridge series as well, and the series didn’t “grab me” either.

        Perhaps it is because I worked at a number of department and clothing stores in my teens and early twenties, but movies about haberdashery do not interest me very much.

        There was certainly little romantic about working in such places. But I did meet a couple of nice girls while working in these places so that part rings true.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          It could be that the series is a bit too wholesome, Mr. Kung. A little more sex and skullduggery might have served it well. But as it is, I find it watchable.

  2. Rosalys says:

    I am an Anglo/historical romance/mystery-phile and I love all these Masterpiece Theater things! Well, most of them; there are a few modern day detectives that I just couldn’t get into. The Paradise is sort of Selfridge light but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sadly, it ceases at the end of its second season – when I feel it was really beginning to get good. Miss Glendenning is indeed a spoiled brat, but her costumes are beautiful and that is part of the real pleasure of watching these historical dramas.

    I love all things Jane Austen, and Charlotte and Anne Bronte (Wuthering Heights I’m less fond of so I’m afraid Emily doesn’t make the cut!)

    And I loved Gosford Park too, Brad.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      That reminds me, I used to watch Mystery at least on occasion, which is how I first encountered Peter Lovesey’s Sergeant Cribb novels.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Excellent. Another Gosford Park refugee. That’s how I feel about such movies because I have no right (even when I don my Snob Cap) to expect others to like such a movie.

      But I did like that one and have watched it about three times. It’s out of the mainstream enough that I can’t blame anyone for not liking it. If someone doesn’t like it, I won’t call you a person without taste.

      But if someone does like it, it does likely mean that they have an appreciation for certain themes and characters that our culture has all but given up on — or is even capable of understanding.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    The last two episodes of season one petered out substantially. The writers began doing what I call the “puppet master syndrome.” Instead of staying true to character, they simply stuff words into the characters’ mouths, usually in the service of plot gimmicks. Although this was never a totally riveting series, it did decline in the last two episodes.

    But I still look forward to seeing at least a few episodes from the second season. The first season ends (spoiler alert, but this hardly seems to matter given the obvious lay of the land) with Moray apparently ditching Miss Glendenning on their wedding day and embracing Denise. And in these scenes, Joanna Vanderham (Denise) shows her lack of range. Has a vampire sucked all he blood our of her? If she was in the Twilight series her coldness or aloofness might make sense. Emun Elliot (Moray) isn’t particularly believable as the ambivalent groom either.

    Some have said that Moray’s best friend (Dudley, played by Matthew McNulty) would have been better in the lead. And although I find Elliot good in his role as the ambitious and romantic (in terms of business ventures) capitalist, he’s less convincing regarding the relationship scenes, either with Denise or Miss Glendenning.

    And poor Miss Glendenning, played well by Elaine Cassidy, has words and situations stuffed down her throat in these latter two episodes. I wonder if the initial writers of the show moved on and left some of these later episodes to the second or third tier writers.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      An interesting (?) literary example of this comes near the end of The Number of the Beast by Robert Heinlein, in which a convention being organized by his viewpoint character Lazarus Long has a trap for critics — a group that Heinlein abhorred, but which Long had no such reason to dislike. I gave up reading at that point even though I was almost done.

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