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Darling Period Piece [Pilot Review],
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This review is from: The Paradise [DVD] (DVD)
When it comes to gorgeous costume dramas, the British know how to make `em and do it well. There have been dozens of them that enchanted American audiences and several have even ended up in my collection. This is one of their recent endeavors and sadly, I think it shows the wear of writer's who have already tried this premise.
From a small village into the bustling neighboring town walks Denise (Joanna Vanderham). She's a simple country girl whose innocence is obvious to everyone upon meeting the blonde-haired beauty. It was always the plan between her family and her uncle (Peter Wright) that she'd one day work in his small shop. That day is now. Surprising her uncle, he informs her at her arrival that business isn't good and as a result, he is unable to take on an assistant. Wide-eyed with wonder at the town's bustling prosperity, Denise applies to the large department store across the way, The Paradise. Her uncles 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 the lady's department. Though the woman is a stickler for propriety and rules, something about Denise inspires her to hire her for a probationary period.
The store's ambitious owner is in desperate need of capitol which pushes Moray (Emun Elliott) to request a loan from the wealthy banker whose daughter he is 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. Though kept under the strict rules of Miss Audrey, Denise cannot help speak her mind and captures the attentions of the charming Moray. A suit she may be wiser to ignore.
Having never heard of this series prior to another blog post I read, I was immediately delighted to discover more than one thing about it. Firstly it guest-starred Olivia Hallinan, star of 'Lark Rise to Candleford' and then I found that it was also created by the same man, Bill Gallagher. Unfortunately, I think this BBC program suffers from the pre-cursor of `Lark Rise' - there are far too many similar plot devices used and it made me sad to note its lack of originality (save for its setting). Don't mistake my tone for dislike of that delightful hamlet of a series, in fact it was a wonderful family show that ended all too soon and one that my friend (you know who you are) can attest to my written tomes (in length), raving (positively so) review. It takes no more than a matter of minutes to draw a handful of similarities between the two series and that doesn't stop even spilling into the second episode.
Opening, the series has promise. I was swept into Denise's world (what a pretty, enchanting one it is!) and appreciated her sweet innocence, a rarity in entertainment today but the dynamics and relationships fall flatter than they should. I immediately liked Miss Audrey and the adorable Pauline (Ruby Bentall, ironically also of 'Lark Rise to Candleford' fame) but was a bit put off by Moray. Hopefully watching the entire series will clear my mind of any lingering suspicions of his character because really he gave me no reason to distrust him, I simply felt like he may be a bit of a con man though I was pleased with his moral character when he stands up for one of his workers accused of impropriety. But then, I am getting ahead of myself as that doesn't happen in the pilot! Back to this episode: I haven't watched enough of the show to necessarily root for Denise and Moray's "someday" romance but his demeanor makes it easy to believe he would take advantage of her and leave her broken-hearted. That is a possibility I would not wish on her.
Irrespective of the cues he took from his series prior to this, I cannot help but compliment Gallagher on his ability to snag our attention with Moray's shadowy past or the motivations of Catherine. The script in both regards was interesting. The costuming however left something to be desired for my cinematic tastes but there are pretty patterns and accessories. The Paradise has already been ordered for a second series, and if I had one thing to hope for it, it would be that it would distance itself from some of its predecessors because it's a sweet trip back into yesteryear.
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