Death in Paradise

A solid performer with original leading man Ben Miller, Death in Paradise flourished under Kris Marshall to become one of the BBC’s biggest hitters. It’s the Genesis of cop shows, basically. But can it repeat the trick under new signing Ardal O’Hanlon, making the switch from Craggy Island to the somewhat more welcoming Caribbean arcadia of Saint Marie?

I’m sorry to bring up Father Ted so early – I know it was 20 years ago – but there’s just something about O’Hanlon’s face that makes it terribly difficult not to see this as Father Dougal Investigates. It’s the eyes, really – that permanently startled, Bambi stare that was as much a part of Dougal’s character as Frank Spencer’s beret or Nora Batty’s wrinkled stockings.

O’Hanlon plays DI Jack Mooney – a genial widower who takes six sugars in his tea and refers to the local drug gangs as “those fellas” – with the same guileless innocence. Except, rather cleverly, here it’s used as a cover for a pin-sharp intellect that lulls his suspects into a false sense of security, like an Irish Columbo. It’s a conceit that very much suits Death in Paradise – a knowingly old-fashioned, unsophisticated whodunit that plays out like a game of Caribbean Cleudo, complete with fuzzy flashbacks and all the suspects gathered in the drawing room for the big reveal.

For his first case, Mooney joined the Saint Marie police force (including Joséphine Jobert’s DS Cassel, with her long legs and oh-so tiny shorts) to re-investigate a historic murder and a wrongful conviction. Personally, I knew it was the husband wot done it the moment he claimed his wife was ‘away with work a lot’. She edited the local newspaper, you dolt!

With the killer banged to rights, it seems Saint Marie is in safe hands once again. As, indeed, is the show: O’Hanlon is never going to win any prizes for acting, but he’s a hugely likeable presence and, as long as the sun keeps shining and the bodies keep coming, there seems little danger of Paradise being lost any time soon.

TV extra:

 

Inside No 9

After a triumphant Christmas special, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearmsith’s pitch black comedy anthology returned with another deliciously dark playlet, in which a row over a restaurant bill escalated into high farce, before taking a handbrake turn and delivering one of IN9’s trademark sinister twists. Philip Glenister and Jason Watkins completed a quartet of fine performances, in a show that’s mounting a serious challenge to The League of Gentlemen as Pemberton and Shearmsith’s best work.

 

How to Survive the End of the World

Comedian Jon Richardson – ‘part-time pessimist, full-time fatalist’ – is so neurotic, he has a Fridge of Death, covered in newspaper clippings about all the things that might kill him. In this entertaining doc, he attempted to face some of those fears with the help of, among others, a competitive sausage-eater, a real-life Iron Man with a home-made ‘invincibility suit’ and an entrepreneur selling jars of air (‘a premium product’ in our polluted world, apparently) at £80 pop. How do you know when you’ve run out, though?


Published in Waitrose Weekend, February 23, 2017

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