Thursday, March 26, 2009

'The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency' review - Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I review HBO's "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," which I really liked:
"Can I ask why a fine woman like yourself wants to become a detective?" a man inquires of Precious Ramotswe, the heroine of HBO's delightful new mystery series, "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency."

"Because I love my country Botswana, and I love Africa, and I want to do good with the time God has given me," Precious explains, elegantly summing up so much of the show's appeal.
You can read my full review of "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" here. I'll have some kind of separate post after the two-hour pilot airs on Sunday night. Not yet sure how well the show's going to lend itself to weekly blogging -- especially since the following Sunday brings the return of "In Treatment," another show I'm trying to figure out how to deal with this year -- but I look forward to seeing what other people think of it.

And since the pilot and several episodes have already aired in England, let me remind you of the spoiler rules, which come up a lot with "Doctor Who": no spoilers of any kind are allowed about episodes that have yet to air here in America. If someone wants to say, "Oh, I really liked this," that's fine. If someone wants to talk plot details, that's not acceptable.


Anonymous said...

I saw the pilot because it aired in the UK last year and I really liked it!

Anonymous said...

"we follow her home in the second episode and see that she's supposed to be mannered, that the prim, uptight persona she displays at the office is a deliberate -- and often very funny -- act."

Um, wouldn't this qualify as a spoiler?

Alan Sepinwall said...

No, because I don't say why.

An advance review has to tell you something about what happens in the show. And after being a little troubled by Rose in the pilot, I was reassured by the second episode and wanted to mention that.

Alas said...

Meh. The pilot was ok and after that I wanted to watch and enjoy but it never got better... But I also never enjoyed Party of 5 either... Alas.

Oaktown Girl said...

I've been looking forward to this since first seeing the promos for it on HBO, and I'm glad to see that you liked it, Alan.

That Blackadder's Richard Curtis is involved even makes me want to watch it more.

Matthew said...

Idris Elba is in the pilot? I watched the pilot last year when it aired in the UK, but that would have been a month or so before you started The Wire rewatch, so I'd never seen him before and had no idea who he was. I think I'll pull out my recording of the pilot and rewatch it.

As for the series itself, having seen a couple of episodes, it's not ground-breaking television, but it has genuine warmth and is one of the most purely enjoyable shows I've seen in a while.

One small point, Alan - you seem to think the secretary's first name is Mma. I think that's actually the Botswanan equivalent of Miss or Mrs - certainly Precious is also referred at times as Mma Ramotswe.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I realize that, Matthew. Her first name is Grace, which comes up in one of the early episodes (maybe even the pilot), but virtually everyone calls her Mma, where other characters are alternately referred to either by more formal titles or by their actual names.

Matthew said...

virtually everyone calls her Mma, where other characters are alternately referred to either by more formal titles or by their actual names

I hadn't thought about it until you pointed that out, but you're absolutely right.

Alan Sepinwall said...

It's like she's Mrs. Peel on The Avengers or something. Mma just becomes like her first name.

FAye said...

I really resisted this in the UK so far, as i've always found the idea of a white man writing about twee African lives and cutesy black characters all a bit neo-colonial - didnt help that the books fans in the store I used to work at were often posh ladies of a certain age who were always a bit patronising about the characters and their 'charm'.

But on the strength of your review and with my aerial blown off my roof and not able to watch normal TV I visited it on the BBC's iplayer and surprised myself by really liking it. It is all a bit twee at points, but the women have a core of strength, and it runs along nicely and had nice bits of funny at points.

At times it was all a bit 'heritage Africa' with pointless sweeping crane-shots at sunset and the like, to be expected maybe from Charles 'oh look at the pretty house' Sturridge, who did the 80s Brideshead.

But I will say i'm glad you made me take another look