Monday, June 6, 2016

Death in Paradise

Ben Miller as DI Richard Poole.
Premise: When Detective Inspector Charlie Hulme is murdered on the Caribbean island of Saint-Marie, DI Richard Poole is dispatched from London to solve the case. Poole (Ben Miller) does such a good job that the local police commissioner arranges for the new DI to remain there permanently--much to Poole's dismay. A fish out of water, Poole has to cope with the blistering heat, a lizard that's moved into his small beach-front house, and his initial inability to get a good cup of tea on the island. He is assisted in his murder investigations by Camille Borday, a sharp detective sergeant, and officers Dwayne Myers and Fidel Best. There are numerous changes in the cast during the series' run, with only Danny John-Jules as Dwayne remaining a regular. Camille's mother, Catherine, runs the best bar in town and apparently serves the only decent cup of tea. There's an established format to each episode of Death in Paradise: a murder occurs prior to the opening credits; Richard has an "aha" moment near the climax; and, in true Hercule Poirot-style, all the suspects are gathered for the unraveling of the crime and the identification of the killer.

Running Time:  60 minutes (40 episodes).

Status:  There have been five seasons broadcast between 2011 and 2016. The first three seasons of Death in Paradise are available on DVD in the U.S. The fourth season will be released in July 2016.

Production Notes:  Saint-Marie is a fictional island that's about 63 square miles in size. We'd guesstimate it ranks second in murders per capita among all British TV detective series (Midsomer County in Midsomer Murders is still easily #1). Ben Miller, who played Richard Poole during the first two seasons, left because it required him to be away from his family too much. Miller previously starred in the enjoyable sci fi series Primeval. Two of his Primeval co-stars, Hannah Spearritt and James Murray, appeared as murder suspects in a season 2 episode of Death in Paradise.

Our Review:  Death in a Paradise is a breezy, entertaining series with stunning Caribbean scenery. The first two seasons with Ben Miller are highly recommended; his portrait of the socially-awkward, straight-laced Richard Poole is funny and endearing. Given the limitations of a one-hour running time, some of the murder plots are rather ingenious. Unfortunately, Death in Paradise goes flat with Miller's departure in the third season. Kris Marshall takes over as the clumsy, slightly goofy Humphrey Goodman. Marshall is likable, but his character never really clicked with us.

Grade:  B. (The first two seasons with Miller are a B+.)

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