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 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.
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 15 November 2012
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 10 November 2012
I really loved The Paradise. It was wonderful to be able to sit and watch a well made sumptious production without the often ubiquitous swearing, sex and violence. I am not a prude by any means but gentle programmes such as The Paradise, and Downton Abbey seem like a breath of spring. I am looking forward to reading the book because I am not sure a second series will be possible. Well done BBC this is surely a winner.
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 25 November 2012
This series was superb, gripped me until the very end. Cannot wait until the DVD of the series comes out. Superb viewing which could be watched by almost everyone in the family. The characters were portrayed really well, the costumes great, the location and staging was superb. Pity there wasn't more of this kind of programme. A+++
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!
on 26 November 2012
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.
© Copyright 2011-2013 Dreaming Under the Same Moon / Scribbles, Scripts and Such