Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Death in Paradise starring Ben Miller PREVIEW

Ben Miller makes a splash as DI Poole. Pics: BBC
Rating ★★★

BBC1, from Tuesday, 25 October, 9pm

Story:
Fun, laid-back detective inspector Charlie Hulme is found murdered during a party at a mansion on the Caribbean island of Saint-Marie. Because Charlie was a Brit, the local commissioner reveals that a cop from the Metropolitan Police in London is being brought in to investigate. Enter uptight, by-the-book DI Richard Poole…

The latest in the Sightseeing Crime Genre of cop shows is Death in Paradise, a light-hearted murder mystery series set in the paradise of the Caribbean.

Sightseeing Crime Dramas are those in which the scenery is as important as the mystery or characters, such as Midsomer Murders, The No1 Ladies' Detective Agency or Bergerac, where English villages, Botswana or Jersey are major stars of the show.

The Beeb has cleverly scheduled Death in Paradise for the UK’s usually bleak, wind-blasted autumn months when lush panoramas of the island of Saint-Marie will have viewers drooling.

Sun, sea and murder in Saint-Marie
This part of the production hits the spot with vast skies, turquoise seas and balmy beaches. The rest of the entertainment is pleasant, but not quite so stunning.

British policeman Charlie Hulme (a small role for Hugo Speer), who is stationed on the island, is found dead in the panic room of the local lord’s mansion during a party. For no very clear reason beyond neatness perhaps, it is decided a Brit must investigate the murder of a Brit.

Totally ill-at-ease and uncool, detective inspector Richard Poole is flown in from the Metropolitan Police, the gag being that he hates sun, sea and sand.

Richard Poole and Camille Bordey (Sara Martins)
Ben Miller as the stiff-necked copper
The series – it’s an eight-parter – goes against the stereotype of having the local cops being slackers, with Dwayne, Lily and Fidel usually ahead of Richard in efficiency, even if they’re bemused by how stiff the black-suit-and-tie-wearing inspector is.

Ben Miller raises the occasional smile as the clever but slightly anal cop, such as when he asks his boss back in London to sort out the tangerine he’s left in the top drawer of his desk.

Once we’ve had a bit of fun at Richard’s expense, the show effectively becomes Poirot in Paradise, right down the detective’s grand reveal at the finale and virtually all the characters not being who or what we thought.

The problem with this Anglo-French co-production is that something goes missing in translation and it’s just not as amusing as the premise suggests it could be.

‘Is it always this hot?’ Poole asks his sergeant. To which she replies, ‘No, sometimes it’s a lot hotter.’

Maybe as the series finds its feet it will get a lot funnier. Otherwise, it’s a whodunit by the beach that's not so hot.

Cast: Ben Miller DI Richard Poole, Sara Martins Camille Bordey, Danny John-Jules Dwayne Myers, Gary Carr Fidel Best, Leonora Crichlow Lily Thompson, Hugo Speer DI Charlie Hulme, Don Warrington Selwyn Patterson, Sean Maguire Marlon Collins