sat 13/07/2024

The Paradise, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

The Paradise, BBC One

The Paradise, BBC One

Emile Zola made into soft soap in TV adaptation

Emun Elliott is a shopkeeper with ambition - and a past

It's a reasonable assumption that Emile Zola would never have guessed his novel Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies' Paradise, part of the Rougon-Macquart series) would be the inspiration for a BBC costume drama. And it's an even safer one that he would have barely recognised his 1883 novel, an acute observation of capitalism and bourgeois life in mid-19th-century France, in Bill Gallagher's adaptation The Paradise.

Gallagher, who wrote the equally soapy Lark Rise to Candleford, has relocated the action from Paris to an unnamed city in the North-East of England, presumably Newcastle, where the smart and ambitious Denise Lovett (Joanna Vanderham) arrives from Peebles to work in her uncle's drapery shop. But his business is suffering after the opening of The Paradise, a large store opposite his, and he cannot afford to employ her.

So Denise crosses the road and seeks work in The Paradise's ladieswear department, overseen by the formidable Miss Audrey (Sarah Lancashire, pictured right), who insists her young ladies (who live on the premises) are in bed by 10pm, and who will dismiss anybody not toeing the line – such as being caught in flagrante with a male colleague, as Denise's predecessor was.

The wonderfully glamorous Paradise opens Denise's eyes in more ways than one. In last night's opener of an eight-part series, we saw that she is an astute young woman with ambition, and in the store's dashing owner, John Moray (Emun Elliott) she sees both someone to emulate in business terms who also happens to be a bit of a hunk.

The success of Moray's trade lies in persuading ladies to buy things they don't necessarily need - “There is a weakness in women that must be exploited to the advantage of business,” he says - but he saves the real sweet talk for the money men. Moray is a risk-taking capitalist, but with other people's money, and much of the first episode was concerned with him getting a loan from the banker father of Katherine (Elaine Cassidy), who is besotted with him but whose ardour he does not return. After the two men shook on the deal, Katherine was jettisoned.

But Moray is certainly a ladies' man, as all the young female assistants swoon over him and we learned that he has had a relationship with one of them, Clara (Sonya Cassidy, right in picture with Vanderham). He's also a man with a past, as his first wife died “in an accident” - unexplained - and the spiteful Clara, who immediately saw Denise as a rival, knows something about it, which in a drunken moment she threatened to reveal. Hmmm.

Elliot doesn't convince yet as either a self-made man or as an homme fatale and some of the minor roles are played with parodic gawd-love-a-duck simplicity (but that's the script's fault, not theirs), although Vanderham, with little to do so far but appear country-girl innocent, shows promise. Lancashire, meanwhile, looks set to give good value with a quietly comic turn as the stern but goodhearted Miss Audrey.

The Paradise, which has been comically likened to a Victorian Sex and the City (some hope), was rushed to our screens when the BBC got wind of ITV's Mr Selfridge (about the owner of the UK's first department store, due on the network when Downton Abbey finishes its run). The corporation noticeably haven't pitted The Paradise as a Sunday-night rival to the upstairs-downstairs drama even as it enters dangerously jumping-the-shark territory in its third series. By comparison with the still ravishing-looking Downton and the BBC's sumptuous Parade's End, The Paradise is Primark to their Harvey Nichols.


Good start tho. It has a lot going for it - great clothes, feel good era, main actors and actresses convincing. I think (and hope) this will be a hit.

Both I and my husband have watched the second episode of The Paradise and found it extremely enjoyable. Cannot wait for next week we believe the story line will deepen.

I have just started watching, wow! Really appreciatiating such good, crafted, intimate drama BBC comes to form, you are so great at this. All the acting is it so convincing & mesmerising, love it. Zola adapts well to British TV & life. More of this quality

Well, it has really developed now. Enjoyed the Paradise first episode, but 2nd and 3rd were great! I'll be watching the whole series.

Really enjoying this series, it is a feast for the eyes especially Emun Elliot. Yum !!

Loving The Paradise! Does anybody know details of the artwork (episode 3, 35 minutes in) on the wall in Mr Moray's study. Lady in a pink dress. I would love to know who painted it and try and order a print. Thank you.

Whilst I have never been a fan of Downtown I am absolutely loving "The Paradise". It is getting better with each episode. I love the costumes, the sets and the acting. I hope they will announce a second series soon.

Too bad about the balloons, they werent invented until 1920! Apart from that, great.

If you're going to be pretentious, it's best to get the grammar right. > Femme fatale > Homme fatal (no 'e' - it's masculine, believe it or not)

who composed the music for this series it is very good

I hear it is maurizio Malagnini and the theme song is entitled great empress #14. I'd like to know where I can purchase it.

This was an amazingly seductive, intelligent portrayal of Victorian industry and social interactions. The acting was superb and the 'budget' set believable and gorgeous. I lost myself in it's world and will be lost now it has come to an end. A sequel please, if Emile has not the material please ask of me the events that might follow for I will prevail of you a script most handsome and indulgent that it might satisfy the most descerning of viewers for 2013. My bbest wishes kind sirs.

Fabulous series wonderful to watch grew with each episode . Slow development teasing and tantalising would they won,t they? . The lead actors playing their parts believingly, especially the tortured and desperately sad male lead holding back a longing for female love once again despite being driven commercially. In addition it gave an understanding of the early development of commerce at that time. Can't wait for the next series BBC bring it on as soon as poss.

Not a "Primark" to Downton's "Harvey Nics" whatsoever! The Paradise is a much more compelling and visually sumptuous drama. Whilst Downton is losing viewers due to bad plot decisions and the increasingly hum drum now-what-shall-we-do final episodes, The Paradise is tantalizing every female viewer above the age of twelve. And it even 'dares' to satisfy us with some happy endings. (Thank you!) I cannot wait to see what direction it will take next season. Will it be a story about Denise and Moray as a couple against all odds? Or will he marry Catherine and prolong the sexual tension? Either way I am hooked.

Veronica Lee was spot on with her early review - It is Primark, soapy. It has a banal script, and unbelievable story lines - the very antithesis of Zola's detailed and gritty and true-to-life account of the coming of department stores. Zola is not only turning in his grave, but is starting several legal actions as I write. Why call it The Paradise when nothing in it (but a few of the same, or near-same, names) bears any relation to Zola's story. Oh, and the clothes, great are they? straight out of a kid's colouring book, I would say, certainly not a history of fashion book. A mockery of the BBC's proud tradition of costume dramas.

How negative and critical you are, if thats the way you felt you didn,t have to watch it. It is obvious to me you missed the sensual understanding of the revised plot. Perhaps you are a blood and guts viewer, I am not.

Although this series does have a hook to it, there are anomalies and confusions that are very odd - almost disturbingly so. To start with the good, though: Denise is played very well - there is a three-dimensional quality to this actress that is lacking in most of the rest of the cast. Moray's 'old friend' is also good, and entirely convincing. Miss Audrey is slightly bizarre, and weakly comical. Jonas (a strangely cliched name for him - not sure why) is also convincing, if not a little hammish, but seems to have come out of another author's book. The rest are lumpy - not in themselves, but when you put them all together. There is a lack of cohesion - why, for example, is Clara so vicious, still after the rapprochement with Denise over her understanding of Clara's heartbreak with her child? Women don't work like this. If they are rivals, then one supports the other and that other accepts it, from then onwards they tend to work together. And then the other girls, the orphan Arthur ... they all seem oddly rootless and slightly incredible. I don't believe it is the fault of the actors at all ... I think this is all to do with the script. Having said that, there are two casting decisions that I find unconvincing, and they are leads, which is always a worrying thing. Moray isn't quite as attractive as he needs to be, and he also ends up with patronising lines which don't sit with his age in relation to other characters. Then there is his 'merchant' status - not a gentleman, and yet entertained by the gentry and fawned over by a wealthy noblewoman. All rather strange. How did they even meet socially? It doesn't quite add up. Then throw in the melodramatic plot line of 'the fate' of his wife - 'was it an accident?' - this has been so over-egged - a surprise it wasn't the talk of the town - and for sure it will be in a future episode. I can even see the planner. 'Hmm, shall we put 'the truth about the accident' in Feb 13, or March?' ... And then we have Catherine. I really don't mean to be unkind, but although she is a perfectly nice actress, she is quite plain, and this just doesn't make sense. What confuses is that she dotes on Moray, he appears to entertain her, but we think because he is (a) slightly sleazy and would any woman and (b) wants cash out of her father. Then when she suddenly and abruptly, almost out of the blue, decides to 'try it out' with another suitor, the, we are told, goes into a black depression because although he can't 'give' any more as is haunted by the loss of his wife, he misses Catherine and needs her back. And yet ... he seems infatuated with Denise. He happily snogs Clara. And he even frequently strokes the hand of Miss Audrey. None of it adds up. This isn't the behaviour of a real person. And a man of 30-something, as he appears, wouldn't be stroking the hand of a female employee of 50-plus ... probably not nowadays, let alone in 1870 ... it is all very odd. So if he was only tolerating her for the hope of the cash (because she was infatuated and rich, but plain - which kind of made sense), then why was it that suddenly he wasn't marrying her because although he wanted to, he was haunted by his wife? Either he wants her or he doesn't ... but in this script, he seems not to want her, and then sort of maybe to want her ... it just isn't coherent emotionally. And don't get me started on the contextualisation in terms of location/accent/period ... I almost switched it off in the first 20 minutes, with that medley of faux-accents ... Scotttish, not-very-well-done Newcastle, a touch of Yorkshire, posh-with-Scottish-undertones (Moray) ... I mean. Who is in charge of all of this? Should Miss Audrey's department be in such disarray, someone would have something to say about it. And tell me: how can it possibly be, architecturally, that you have the grand and dazzling facade of The Paradise just over the street from Denise's uncle's dismal Dickensian hovel? It surely doesn't work like that ... a building like The Paradise would be on a street with other similar buildings, and Uncle's place would be down a shambles somewhere, in the dark. It is very artificial. It is rather peculiar. It is not convincing, but still Denise is very good, and the rest are compelling enough that yes, I have been hooked. It keeps disturbing me, though, and it needs to be fixed in time, place and accent. And when I saw the Zola reference, that explained some of the set pieces that were entirely unconvincing, such as the behaviour of the girls at the 'Gentlemen's afternoon' .. it was all French, wasn't it?

This was a sumptuous, beautifully crafted and well presented drama. I was beguiled by the beautiful sets, social and character interactions and rich atmosphere which graced the screen from the opening titles. Moray - the self made man, emotionally troubled who leaks affection in an attempt to fight his demons, finds his life increasingly manipulated by those around him. The gorgeous entrepreneurial Denise, with that perfect soft Peebles accent, fights to quell her own emotions as she exercises her acumen for business against the intolerances of society and the workplace. Add the microcosm of characters and great script and we had accurate portrayals of sacrifice, retribution and wit. The comparable merits of the book appear to have confused and even hindered some of the viewing pleasure. Enjoy the book, then leave it on the shelf and sample the delightful wares offered up by this deeply entertaining series.

I can only say that I loved this TV show! And I'm glad to read that a second season will follow. Can't wait!

This seems to be more dramatic than Lark Rise and the characters aren't as developed. If you quoted several lines I'm sure it would be difficult to say who spoke them. I seriously dislike Downton Abbey because does anyone ACTUALLY have a good day. I would have left Downton years ago. Maybe it's because I'm from a 200 person village that life in Lark Rise seems more realistic for me than "The Paradise". It would be nice to smile at an unusual character flaw. The most interesting people in life have unique ways of expressing themselves. Something I enjoyed immensely in Lark Rise(and some of those characters I swear were written after people I'd come in contact with). It's nice to see simple problems in life. When I watch these dramas I wish they could have simpler problems. Like my problem of my cake I took to a dinner was uneven because my floor is uneven. Now THAT would have happened in Lark Rise.'s nice to see them resolved and to laugh at people who are like us. I would like to see the Paradise with some simpler problems, that perhaps have humorous and not so dark and spirit-dampening endings.

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