That was awful.
I believe the moment that really did it for me was Sarah Lancashire shrieking like a banshee “haberdashery! Haberdashery!” It wasn’t the first or last thing she shrieked, but it was conclusive evidence that I was not watching a work of brilliance. I wasn’t even watching a work of Downton Abbey. The script is awful, the cast inexperienced and what little plot there is was predictable.
The characters are all cliché and caricature. Our heroine is a wide-eyed, innocent country lass who turns out to be a born sales-girl and immediately attracts the attention of the owner of The Paradise, John Moray, who is all sculpted facial hair, charm and big, daring idea. Our heroine’s boss is the aforementioned banshee, Moray’s right hand man is endlessly explaining to the audience why Moray’s ideas are so risky and his left hand man is a straight rip off of Harry Potter’s Filch, right down to the greasy hair and creepy stare. The shop staff are rounded out with cheeky Pauline, bitchy Clara, flirty Sam, and chirpy young Arthur who was born in the shop and natters incessantly. Meanwhile Moray is chasing after Lady Katherine, or rather he is chasing her father’s investment and Katherine is shamelessly throwing herself at Moray armed with snobbery and heaving bosoms.
The script is utterly abysmal, thudding along with all the grace and elegance of a drunken elephant wearing a lace bonnet. It’s like it was scribbled out one evening in a pub, patched together from clichés. It’s possible that a better cast might have been able to salvage something, but there’s no subtlety to the delivery – everything is melodramatic gestures, lingering pauses, deep sighs and eyebrow acting.
The only part of the show that worked was the production design, the costumes and sets are lovely and each shot is beautifully lit. It’s just a real shame that absolutely everything else about it feels like an amateur dramatics production. I did wonder for a little while whether the producers were actually trying to make some sort of cheesy parody, but I had to conclude that it was just accidentally rubbish. The Paradise highlights just how good Downton Abbey is, because the two shows are very similar, but while Downton generally pulls off the melodrama The Paradise falls completely on its well bustled behind.
The Telegraph – “And while the women occupied themselves by coveting silk gowns and rich husbands, the men had a much manlier task – delivering laughable hyperbole with a straight face.”
The Huffington Post – It’s lack of subtlety means it’s no Downton, but The Paradise sits happily snuggled on the challenging spectrum somewhere between Midwife and Parade’s End with everyone acting their socks off