Bill Gallagher has written a Victorian period drama (1865),that is basically entertaining escapism. Country girl Denise (Joanna Vanderham) arrives at her uncle's drapery shop who promised her years ago that the shop would be hers, one day, and a job always awaiting. Little did Denise know her uncle had fallen on hard times due to the opening of a department store ('The Paradise') opposite his and other shop-owners, founded by the ambitious and seemingly ruthless John Moray (Emun Elliott). Denise gains employment there only to be put in her place by ladieswear supervisor, Miss Audrey,splendidly played by Sarah Lancashire.
Denise is bright, attractive and is quick to spot a sales opportunity, not always to her colleagues' approval but attracts Moray's attention to her potential and looks. He is ambitious and is being strangled by the attentions of the spoilt little rich girl Katherine Glandenning superbly played by Elaine Cassidy whose stoical father is a wealthy banker (Patrick Malahide). The cunning and dislikeable Katherine uses her father's financial position to push the handsome Moray into a promised marriage. Moray has secrets. He is kept on his feet by his best friend and confidante. The sinister Jonus (David Hayman) lurks menacingly in the background.
Characters Arthur and Sam add to life and humour in the department store with their own personal problems and loyalties along with other staff members. Despite Denise's attempts to help her uncle and his fellow independents, the stranglehold of the haberdashery ('The Paradise') is seemingly unbeatable. The horrid, deluded Katherine (wicked witch of the North) is not to be thwarted with her marriage ambition despite Denise's presence. There are interesting revelations concerning the characters' pasts. The intrigue sets in and the 'what happens next' factor kicks in fairly early in the eight episode series. The end is a cliff-hanger. A second series has been commissioned when I am sure more will be revealed of the main characters. Easy going, relaxing and enjoyable. Different from recent period costume dramas. More Sunday night than Tuesday, but watch this space. Viewing figures excellent.
on 19 August 2013
Set in an undisclosed location in the north of England during the 1870s, 'The Paradise' is a historically accurate period drama regarding Britain's first department store, and the lives of those people affected by it. From Mr Moray, who struggles to make his visionary enterprise thrive, to the small shopkeepers he has inadvertently put out of business, to the the wealthy Glendennings and humble employees alike. Everyone, including the side characters, are richly drawn and come to life. Especially Denise, who quickly proves adept at her position in lady's wear (much to the chagrin of Miss Audrey, the strict departmental head who Sarah Lancashire plays to such perfection, she steals every scene), and becomes something of a love interest to Moray. The tension there, I might add, is lovely, and plays a role in that series cliffhanger. Thankfully, 'The Paradise' has been recommissioned for a second series.
In addition to the character driven story lines, this made for a nice look at the class divisions in Victorian England, how the worlds of the working class and the nouveau riche differed so enormously, yet in the end were both equally plagued by very human problems. It was a treat to watch simply for the respect paid to the era, and truly, this was an absolute gem of British programming.
In fact, I would go so far as saying this is arguably one of the best BBC productions in recent years, with its lush attention to detail in spite of the more limited budget, the authentic sets, sharp dialogue and impressive costumes. I was beginning to despair that our friends across the pond would ever produce a period drama of such high calibre again, but I am glad to have been proven so wrong in that regard. Anyone who loves classic British television should find this wonderful series a pleasure to watch.
on 13 November 2012
The Paradise is an eight part BBC series based on the novel Au Bonheur des Dames by Emile Zola, about a daring entrepreneur, John Moray, pioneering in his management of a flourishing, sumptuous department store located in an unknown northern town- known as The Paradise.
The story begins when Denise, an impoverished but clever girl arrives in town. Slightly awkward and naive from a sheltered, rural upbringing, Denise hopes to stay with her uncle, a struggling dressmaker who has been unable to compete with the success of the Paradise across the street. Denise's uncle is unable to look after her, and, much to his chagrin, she is forced to seek work at The Paradise. She is placed in ladieswear and quickly her sharp eye and modern ideas get her noticed by Moray, and elicit both jealousy and respect in equal measure amongst the rest of the staff. The chemistry between Denise, played by Joanna Vanderham, and Moray (Emun Elliott) is natural and convincing, and they are clearly cut from the same cloth in terms of business acumen, if you'll pardon the pun. Then there is Moray's on-off girlfriend, Katherine Glendenning, a devious and controlling little coquette who wants Moray for her own, and whose father just so happens to have the financial power to make or break Moray's endeavor. Throw in a few flies in the ointment- Clara, a jealous but fragile colleague with an unhappy secret, Miss Audrey, a spinsterly superior desperate not to be usurped by Denise, and Mr Jonas, a Machiavellian henchman of Moray's and you have the makings of an excellent pot-boiler.
Pros: The main characters are all strong, with good performance from the five or so Lark Rise to Candleford stars, as well as Emun Elliott and Stephen Wight (who some may have seen in a very different series, Threesome- it was quite a shock to see them in this with different accents and behaving themselves!) Elaine Cassidy as Katherine Glendenning is deliciously sly and spoilt. Sonya Cassidy as Clara is captivating and nearly steals the show in many of the shop scenes, and Ruby Bentall generates a lot of the humour as the lovable and dependably calamitous Pauline, a role not too dissimilar to her role as Minnie in Lark Rise.
This is a beautiful, luxuriant series to watch- the corsets, feathers, silks, chandeliers etc are every bit as seductive to the viewer as they are to the female customers, and the modern concepts of visual merchandise, spending incentives and customer rewards are all targeted towards female customers in a way many modern shoppers would recognise, but presented in a world of opulent, sitting room-style shop decor the likes of which one can only dream of now, although I'm sure much has been borrowed from the traditional style of shops such as Liberty's. I also liked the way the French names in Zola's novel have been transposed in this production- luckily most of them have English variants.
Cons: The screenplay can be excellent, but then it lapses into twee, hammy and unintentional hilarity in the same way in which Downton Abbey is afflicted: 'dawdling is a sin, girl!' Also, even though the series is eight episodes long and the tensions simmer along, surprisingly, a crescendo of tension is barely built up to in the final episode before it ends all slightly abruptly and with fairly little explanation. One of the main pot-boilers, a mysterious disappearance, all but limps lamely away towards the last twenty minutes of episode eight. The story is just about concluded, but in a rushed and unpolished way, which was something of a disappointment for me. There were certain characters who you wanted to see what happened to. Perhaps if the BBC commissions a second series, this would not matter so much. I certainly hope they do- the ending opens up new possibilities for the plot and character development.
on 30 October 2012
I absolutely love period dramas and The Paradise is definitely one of my favourites. It has been compared to Downton Abbey, of which i am a fan, but i feel it is a little unfair to compare them as The Paradise is more similar to a light hearted period drama like Lark Rise To Candleford than a serious drama like Downton. From the first episode i could not wait til the next, the cast are fantastic especially the two main leads. The Paradise is perfect for fans of period romances.
Wonderful Victorian period drama, set in the exciting world of Britain's first department store. Expect romance and intrigue, superb acting, sumptuous sets and splendid costumes but this series is so much more.
Harking back to a different era 'The Paradise' emerges as a new way of doing business threatening to swallow the small businesses surrounding it, what is new and interesting is the way shopkeepers are portrayed as individuals at risk of losing their identity and purpose and not just their livelihood. Across the road from 'The Paradise' are the premises owned by Denise's uncle, Denise soon emerges as a central character quickly embroiled in the world of 'The Paradise' after her uncle is unable to provide her with employment. Her youthful enthusiasm for the opportunities presented by 'The Paradise' contrast with her uncles bitterness and resignation. It soon becomes clear it is not just a case of mass commercialism outpacing the small businessman, as the shopkeepers reveal they are hampered by their own petty jealousies and limited imagination.
And The Paradise' is not yet the department store of the future, the enigmatic owner and his manager know each and every employee and appreciate the role they play in the success of the store. Employees live on the premises and in return for their loyalty can expect respect and support. It's almost (but not quite) a very big, happy family. The store is nothing like the department stores of today, goods are hand-picked much as they would expect from today's independent stores and the customer can still expect a very personal shopping experience.
Underlying the happy comradeliness of 'The Paradise' are the class divisions of Victorian Britain where our owner (Mr Moray) is divided between the need to secure the financial future of his dream to expand and his own personal happiness, as he seeks the support of the gentry to 'bankroll' his ambitions.
I enjoyed the first series immensely, this is nothing like Downtown Abbey or Larkrise to Candleford and should not be judged against them. Can't wait for the second series...it's not just for the women, my partner as just as keen as I am.
on 10 May 2013
I watched the series on TV and loved it. However, when I went back to it, there were moments that made me cringe watching it again such as the scene with Moret and Catherine having dinner. At times like that it does come across as a little cliched, but in spite of these odd (and fortunately few) moments I think it is a great adaptation of Zola's 'The Ladies' Paradise'. After watching the series I went off and read the original novel, and it was interesting seeing how they had adapted the story for the screen, but be warned, do not expect a faithful reproduction of the novel.The characters in the novel are a lot less likeable than those portrayed in the series. In spite of this I still think the series has merit, and I particularly liked how it was set in a town other than London or Paris which demonstrated how the industrial revolution, the mass-production and beginning of a free market affected Europe as a whole - even cities so fair up north that normally get overlooked when period dramas are made. (Most of them seem to be set in famous cities).
on 6 September 2013
I didn't want to like The Paradise. I really didn't. It was implausible and bore no reference to the original novel by Zola; it had endless continuity errors - Emun Elliot's hair seemed to change in length and style practically from scene to scene - and if I'm honest, I really didn't like the characters, and yet I kept on watching... And watching... And by the end I was near to shouting at the screen 'Don't marry Elaine! How can you marry Elaine?!'
I really wouldn't say that I'm a sucker for a romance and I'm incredibly picky about my period dramas - adore BBC's Pride & Prejudice, hate Downton - but there was something about this series that really drew me in.
Will I admit to my friends that I enjoyed The Paradise? No.
Will I watch it again? You can bet your bottom!
on 28 July 2014
The Paradise is the highest quality drama shown in recent years in the U.S. by PBS. Its story lines, writing, acting, character complexity, dramatic intensity, romance, humor, and soundtrack surpass those features in the next-best recent comparable shows, Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge. This became more evident to me upon repeat viewing of my Season 1 DVD. The Paradise is at a higher artistic level. It is enthralling and addictive. Nearly all the other current and recent PBS dramas and murder mysteries rate far below it.
I'd like to point out two of the features, which some viewers may not have fully appreciated:
The soundtrack: Composer Maurizio Malagnini has created music that incomparably excels that in any other drama program I've ever seen. "...the lush beauty of the visuals and the incredible production values were a phenomenal source of inspiration for the music," he wrote.
It is of superior stature in the realm of recent-year music -- splendid and innovative, with enchantingly beautiful, sometimes jaunty, original melodies, and strong emotional content. There is fine matching of the musical character to the variety of on-screen activity. The score won a prestigious award, and a wonderful CD has been made which provides a spellbinding listening experience (with or without reference to the show). The music could have been played louder in places on the show.
The humor: Unlike the other two mentioned programs, The Paradise Season 1 offers numerous and various funny things. Perhaps they should have included a laugh track (just kidding!).
The story seems unfinished and should continue beyond Season 2 at whose end remain manifold opportunities for the creation of incidents and episodes and for the further development of The Paradise saga.
The cancellation after Season 2 is an affront to its many devoted (and donating) viewers, and a dereliction of the public service obligation of public-funded, nonprofit, TV stations to keep their program quality as high as possible and continue an unfinished program to a satisfying conclusion.
So, armed with several reasons to continue the series, I'm writing PBS, Masterpiece, and the BBC to urge them to heed the many passionate fans of this great program who want to see more, a Season 3 at least.
on 6 December 2012
It is for productions like 'The Paradise' that makes me love the BBC all over again. It is a great production that keeps to the original book enough yet with a wonderful British take. I really love the drama and pure escapisim of the storyline. The actors performance are fantastic and are so believeable. I hope there will be many more productions of this sort from the BBC as it makes television worth watching. This is by far my most favorite period drama ever.
on 21 November 2012
This is just the tonic for those dark Winter nights. Sweet, elegant and stylish. An absolute treat - can't wait for season 2!