tue 23/09/2014

The Paradise, Series Finale, BBC One | TV reviews, news & interviews

The Paradise, Series Finale, BBC One

Was there anything really to root for in this eight-hour adaptation of Zola?

The heiress and the shopgirl: Elaine Cassidy and Joanna Vanderham

The BBC has other things on its to-do list at the minute. However, once all the newly installed acting heads have been replaced by actual heads, and the matter of the ex-DG’s severance pay sufficiently chewed over by the Corporation’s bosom pals in the Fourth Estate and the Conservative Party, perhaps someone at TV Centre could get around to other business. The search, for example, for a costume drama capable of giving Downton Abbey a bloody nose.

It’s not been a good period for period on the BBC. Since the ladies of Cranford hung up their bonnets, Upstairs Downtairs trailing oodles of pedigree has twice stepped into the ring with Julian Fellowes’ lords and lackeys, and both times been carried out on a stretcher. The latest young contender ended its run last night. So what, after eight episodes, are we to make of The Paradise?

The first thing to say is that halfway through this first series a second was commissioned. No matter that after four episodes it was difficult to see quite where the whole enterprise was heading. Very loosely adapted from Zola’s novel about an expanding Parisian department store, the series initially meandered about like a confused shopper in several minds.

The viewers’ way in to The Paradise was Denise (Joanna Vanderham), a demure young assistant in the ladies' dresswear department, but for the first five hours she did little but keep her trap shut, work resourcefully and earn the trust of the store’s conflicted owner Mr Moray (Emun Elliott, pictured above right). Then in episode six, absolutely out of the blue, she announced her love for her employer. "I love you so I cannot remember my own name half the time," she claimed somewhat implausibly, before resigning her position and retreating to her uncle’s shop over the road to lick her wounds. This declaration put Moray in a bit of pickle. He has spent the entire series being pursued by the memory of his late wife and by heiress Katherine Glendenning (Elaine Cassidy), who is used to getting her way.

The Paradise is not the first adaptation to cast off from the source material and chart its own path. Nor is it the first to encounter resulting navigational issues. The long saga of Moray’s on-off relationship with the tempestuous and manipulative Katherine was drawn out quite as tediously as anything perpetrated on the long-suffering viewer by Matthew and Lady Mary Crawley. The difference was that, being equally unsympathetic, there was little encouragement to root for either of them. Part of the problem rests with Zola: in Moray, Elliott has had to bring to life a tricky obsessive-compulsive who seems not to know his own mind. The essential Frenchness of a character driven by complexes hasn't quite gelled with the cosy English light-entertainment setting. Meanwhile Cassidy’s heroine, initially no more than coquettish, has slowly mutated into a tiresome foot-stamping monster.

With a lack of sexual or romantic tension to raise the temperature, many of the pleasures of The Paradise have had to flourish in the margins. Sarah Lancashire as ladieswear figurehead Miss Audrey has turned in a deliciously subtle study of the middle-aged spinster petrified that life is passing her by. Last night her character, who had long since given up on romance, had her reward in the form of a reunion smooch with her old admirer. The pick of the staff was Ruby Bentall as gawky little chatterbox Pauline, who had a homespun retort for every situation, even her shrewish colleague Clara (Sonya Cassidy, pictured above left with Lancashire) still mooning after a brief dalliance with Moray. “It was one night, Clara, and it’s gone. So’s me milk teeth and they’re not coming back.”

But there were too many characters who, however much back story they were given to work with, simply didn’t amount to much. Matthew McNulty, thanklessly cast as a sidekick to Moray, had no inner life of his own. “Go home,” he was told in ep seven. “You have a family.” Who knew? The closest the narrative came to any sort of workable villain was the one-armed, gravel-voiced store henchman Mr Jonas (David Hayman), who took the concept of absolute loyalty to The Paradise perhaps a little too far by murdering a blackmailer. By the end of the series he seemed not to have paid for his crime beyond the loss of his much cherished job.

The Paradise’s eight-hour journey eventually resolved itself into an unequal tussle between love and pragmatism. Faced with a choice between a shopgirl and potential penury or a loveless marriage into untold wealth, Moray did the televisual thing and plumped for his mousy admirer. It says somewhere or other that the meek shall inherit the earth. They don’t tend to fare so well at the BAFTAs.

Follow Jasper Rees on Twitter

With a lack of sexual or romantic tension to raise the temperature, many of the pleasures of The Paradise have had to flourish in the margins

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Love it! Hope there will be

Love it! Hope there will be one more season.

I eagerly await season 3 of

I eagerly await season 3 of The Paradise. Hope it will not be long. Love it.

I, for one, loved the series.

I, for one, loved the series. I'm fond of Downton also and appreciate that any period drama is a huge undertaking. The Paradise and it's characters were entertaining and the underlying development of the story of how commerce was changing as society was about to undergo major change is intriguing. Keep up the good work, BBC. You do this much better than we do from Hollywood.

I agree with the 95% above

I agree with the 95% above that this BBC production is one of the best made film adaptations based on a novel - a very complex novel! If you compare this movie series to the Great Gatsby, there is no comparison. The BBC, unlike Warner Bros, did not as usual see it necessary to compromise to "mainstream or Hollywood" trashy values with sexy 2013 runway clothes and exaggerated jewelry, or digital fake props - the BBC invested in true to period set design, true to period mannerisms and subtle expression rather than cotton candy artificial "flavorings" to appeal to those with less than an education in culture or fine literature. Perhaps the London critics who bashed this as "daft, dreary, dull, boring" should sign up for night coursed in classic literature to understand the nuance of an unspoken thought. All the actors gave their all and did an A++ job in their performances that required great skill. Perhaps even the agents, producers, actors could actually learn something here about real acting rather than infusing overt sex, graphic violence and simple plots into their "daft, dreary, dull and boring" billion dollar productions. Thank you BBC for great drama!

What a strange critic not to

What a strange critic not to like 'The Paradise' he appears so cloned to the modern era that anything beyond that he is unable to comprehend.

Here here! Refreshing

Here here! Refreshing series, refreshing rebuff to the comments!

I often wonder whether

I often wonder whether critics actually watch the programmes they are commenting on. This critic said there is "a lack of sexual or romantic tension to raise the temperature". Did he not notice Clara's constant efforts to get back into her employer's bed, or the building tension between Moray and Denise, or even the stalking of Moray by Katherine? Some dramas don't need to depend on explicit sex scenes, unsubtle innuendo or bad language to succeed. This series compares with the BBC's Pride and Prejudice - it has tightly-reined emotions, well defined characters and good acting. I agree that the ending wasn't very subtle (I really thought there was another episode), but I found it very enjoyable and will definitely watch the next series.

what a great series, I loved

what a great series, I loved every bit of it. hope the next series won't be a long wait!

Great acting and superb cast

Great acting and superb cast perfectly matched to their characters. Even their expressions seemed to match Victorian Britain. A true picture of Victorian England. Those who expected more "sexual tension" should remember that it was not set in 2012 but in a society where female ankles were considered risqué . I have not seen Downton Abbey but can only imagine the Paradise script writer's intention is not to appeal to the masses for high ratings. I hope results from the BAFTAs will reflect on this.

Have we been watching the

Have we been watching the same programme? This review hits the nail on the head and echoes other reviews. Paradise manages to be both daft and dull. Disappointed in the BBC. Apparently ITV have a far juicier version about the Selfridges store in London that should be coming out soon. There was a huge piece in Grazia on it and it looks really exciting. Perhaps this will give Downton a run for its money?

The Paradise is a wonderful

The Paradise is a wonderful show, it's romantic and adventurous. How anyone could claim the show is daft I don't know.

Absolutely outstanding acting

Absolutely outstanding acting ! I've really enjoyed The Paradise brilliant story loved every minute can't wait for the next series thank you for such a brilliant series :) shame about ending wish there had been more time like an extra half hour as finished very abrupt but overall fantastic.

Amazing escapism, bravo to

Amazing escapism, bravo to the BBC for backing this programme. Excellent acting, excellent characters - I really do despair at some reviewers and their pretentious drivel. This was something to celebrate, right up there among the best TV of 2012. Roll on eight new episodes. A total triumph.

I loved everything about the

I loved everything about the paradise! Acting superb great cast ! I can't wait for second series. DVD on my wish list :) well done to everyone involved. Tuesday nights will be a bit boring now. Miss mr moray lighting up our screens.

I think The Paradise is much

I think The Paradise is much more enjoyable than Downton Abbey - it looks better, is written MUCH better, and the lighthearted quirkiness saves it from being a stony colourless grim affair that is Downton. The only real criticism I have is that this finale wasn't very satisfying at all. I get the feeling an editor was called in at the last minute to transform what was originally an actual 'end' into a cliffhanger for an unanticipated second series. It was nothing like the preceding 7 episodes. It seemed badly scripted and even confusing. Hopefully they can recitify it with a worthy second series.

A superb series which does

A superb series which does not justify the many critical reviews. The chemistry between Moray and Denise was well portrayed, and both should be congratulated on excellent performances, which kept me hooked. Tuesday evenings will not be the same, and I await the second series eagerly.

So disappointed that this was

So disappointed that this was the last episode, i was convinced there was another to come next week until reading here! Mr Rees comments on the "lack of sexual or romantic tension", are unfounded, the subtlety of the passion between moray and Denise was indeed exquisite, and refreshingly not 'in your face'. Another series PLEASE.

It was thoroughly

It was thoroughly entertaining & the acting was very good. It made a refreshing change from the usual foul mouthed, sex or violence filled dramas that commonly pollute our tv screens (usually due to a lack of imagination in story lines!) this was possibly one reason for those that criticized it - in other words, not sordid enough for our modern world! Something a little innocent and feel good, very refreshing. Keep it up, Bill Gallagher!

The Paradise was brilliant, a

The Paradise was brilliant, a superbly crafted series. The sets and the costumes were fantastic. The writing and the acting were superb. I loved it from beginning to end. It is a masterclass lesson from BBC on how to produce well crafted and charming period drama on a modest budget. Well done BBC! Thank you so much for an amazing series and looking forward to the second one.

Have you ever read Zola's

Have you ever read Zola's novel? Actually, Moray (I mean Mouret) perfectly knows what he wants. He may be "a tricky-obsessive-compulsive", he still knows his own mind far more than Moray-Elliot does. Of course he is not driven by complexes. Mouret desires Denise, enjoys other women's company, is the unique leader in his shop, and what he values most is his freedom as a young man. Quite simple actually! In the Paradise though, Moray is far more troubled. He constantly hesitates between two women, two men (Dudley and Jonas), and he never takes a decision on his own. Nothing to do with Zola's character! I do believe the real problem is the writing of that show. So please, don't blame Zola on that ground.

I was really disappointed by

I was really disappointed by last night's final episode. It was as if they'd got too many ends to tie up in too short a time - I kept looking at the clock to see how much time was left. I'm glad it's been recommissioned but I felt last night's script really let the show and previous episodes down. I will tune in to it again next series but hope it improves.

I very much enjoyed the

I very much enjoyed the series. I too thought the ending was too rushed, but overall a great series where i couldn't wait for the next episode each week.

Interesting points but i'm

Interesting points but i'm afraid I'd have to disagree. For a first series, I think it did very well, laying the groundwork for a number or series to come. I was hooked from the very start, I think it was clear to the viewer that a love story was building between Moray and Denise (e.g my little champion) and there are a number of other plot lines venturing into many different areas for the viewer to look forward to.

Think the writer of this

Think the writer of this article is purposefully trying to be contrary so as to get many comments (the bar by which many writers are unfortunately measured by these days.) Really one would have to be quite emotionally dysfunctional to not see the admiration, respect and love growing through the Moray and Denise. The spoilt rich kid had already shown herself to be evil, Clara too. I suppose the only real surprise was Miss Audrey and Uncle kissing but within the realms of period drama, considering the wedding fever, it was acceptable. Not being a spoiler hunter I was unaware that last night was the final episode until the credits rolled immediately after the public kiss which I found to be a clear indicator of too much 'oh what happens next' for it to be on our screens again next week. Can't wait for series two! Though there's a lot there to build upon, maybe we'll have forgotten some of it by the time it returns to our screens. Hurrah for the BBC!

I thought the paradise was

I thought the paradise was wonderful. The ending perhaps not well written, but overall it captured my interest.

I have followed each episode

I have followed each episode with anticipation. Loved the whole presentation and complex individuals. Played the last moments over and over again just wish we could have just one more episode as I dont like unfinished endings. Maybe we can look forward to another series ?

Another season has been

Another season has been commisioned! :D

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