TV Review: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

>> Sunday, April 26, 2009

I come into this show knowing nothing else but the fact that Jill Scott plays the main character and I love me some Jill, so I started watching it and it turned out to be a pretty good show.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is based on Alexander McCall Smith's best selling novel about a well meaning and capable woman opening her own detective agency. Mme Precious Ramotswe (played by Jill Scott) is such a woman. After her father died in Botswana, he left her 180 cows, she had followed her father all her life learning the ways of Africa by observing, memorizing and studying logic. After taking care of her father until his death, she sold those cows and opened up a detective agency aiming to do good by solving people's problems.

Along the way, she met a kind-hearted car repair mechanic (played my Lucian Msamati) who soon developed into a romantic friendship, a capable but stuck up secretary (played by Anika Noni Rose of Dreamgirls' fame) and a flamboyant business neighbor hairdresser (played by Desmond Dube of Hotel Rwanda's Fame.) The whole series starts with one 90-minute full-length movie and continues with 6 hour-long episodes available on HBO and BBC.

The whole series is not as vengeful as regular crime fighting TV series in America. The point is not as much as punishing the criminals as it is to do what's right and to do that one must understand the circumstance of the story as a whole. Stories of Batswana (people of Botswana) and the Batswana culture are skillfully told through each case. How people lives out their lives, the plains, faith and superstitions, orphans who lost their parents to AIDS. While viewers are transported to a foreign land full of interesting artifacts and wildlife, the basic value system of right and wrong is pretty much the same. The stories themselves are intriguing because of this simplicity, at times they are like fairytales where no bloodshed or murders are ever involved and by the end of each episodes, everything will be solved by the do-good lady. It's very Disney somehow.

And it is true that this is a pure fantasy. While the author of the book series is African born, his dialogue seems to be natural on his best-selling novels are found to be unutterable by the locals. But all in itself, it has fabricated a world so perfect, beautiful and balanced that we can get lost in the accent, food, fashion, culture and wildlife that it presents.

My main complain with this show is that by the end of episode 6 there are some loose ends that are still left hanging as if the show was meant to go for a few episodes longer but got chopped due to unforeseen reasons. I understand that Jill just had a baby boy and I wonder if that has anything to do with it or maybe they had caught up with the author's book since it seems each episodes are composed of multiple stories. I sincerely hope the TV series could resume sometimes, it's a good show and it deserves a place on TV.

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