Last night, the first episode of the new eight-part series The Paradise aired on BBC1. Word is that the BBC wanted to squeeze in the series before ITV got a chance to air their own shop-related drama, Mr Selfridge, due to be shown in the new year. Anyway, The Paradise is (probably rather loosely) based on the novel Au Bonheur des Dames by the French novelist Emile Zola. One may assume the novel has rather more substance than the BBC adaptation, and The Paradise is undoubtably fluff, but enjoyable fluff nonetheless.
(Joanna Vanderham as Denise Lovett.)
It tells the story of a young, innocent country girl, Denise Lovett (Joanna Vanderham) who comes to work as a salesgirl at England’s very first department store The Paradise (located in some unspecified Northern town in 1875), which has stolen business from her uncle’s haberdashery shop across the street. In the ladieswear department, Denise is under the supervision of stern matriarch, Miss Audrey (Sarah Lancashire) who demands that the young ladies in her care behave with the utmost decorum at all times. Denise soon clashes with a colleague, embittered shopgirl Clara, and catches the eyes of both Sam (who works on the drapery counter) and the owner of the shop himself, charming Moray (Emun Elliott).
If Moray had much common sense at all, he’d steer clear of a dalliance with a shopgirl, especially as he is relying on a hefty loan from businessman, Lord Glendenning (Patrick Malahide), the condition of which being that her marries Glendenning’s daughter, Katherine (Elaine Cassidy). Obviously, various romantic entanglements will soon ensue… And Moray has more than just romance on his mind: he is a modern man who intends for The Paradise to take over the world (almost). He plans a lavish sale to entice more customers and to persuade Lord Glendenning to approve his expansion plan. He is full of big dreams, and often chooses to ignore the more rational advice of his colleague and friend, Dudley (Matthew McNulty). I predict that Moray brushing away his friend’s words of caution may spell trouble later on…
The Paradise is nicely shot, with lots of pretty shots of the grand store and featuring several gorgeous costumes (lucky Elaine Cassidy!). The drama may not be ground-breaking stuff, but made good light evening entertainment. Will spiteful, and occasional drunk, Clara reveal the apparent secret of Moray’s wife’s death? Probably. Will Moray make advances towards Denise within the next couple of episodes? Most definitely. I look forward to next week’s episode.
(All photos ©BBC 2012.)