Kris Marshall and Sally Bretton star in BBC1's Death in Paradise
A show like this one has a natural tendency to be predictable. Even the title tells us what to expect, after all.
The last couple of weeks, however, have seen a sharp breeze of change blow through the cosy island crime classic culminating in what, by ‘Death In Paradise’ standards, could almost be called a shock.
With the format already shaken by a trip to the grey, cold streets of London, the mix was stirred further by a mid-season change of personnel.
Lovelorn detective Humphrey Goodman (Kris Marshall) finally found the courage to declare that paradise was wherever his theoretical girlfriend Martha happened to be.
Death in Paradise is drilling deeper into the characters and the feelings
Since Martha (Sally Bretton) was running a bistro for fund managers somewhere round the back of London Bridge, that was where Humphrey wanted to be, too.
This cleared the way slickly for his London-based colleague, DI Jack Mooney (Ardal O’Hanlon), to take a much-needed break on the island of Saint Marie, where we can all guess what might happen next. (Speaking of which, does anyone know if Saint Marie is on Mr Trump’s no entry list? It ought to be, with those murder stats.)
There’s always a sense that the visiting sleuth job on this island is reserved for people whose souls need healing. The first incumbent was an emotionally crippled loner.
Death in Paradise's format was shaken by a trip to the grey, cold streets of London
The second, reeling from a sudden divorce. DI Jack, probably the wackiest of all signings, flew out with his grown-up daughter, and a bereavement in his recent past.
Whilst cracking the case (which, in another novel touch, spread over two episodes and two countries) he told Humphrey that he’d lost his wife a year ago. His daughter later said it was just a month, and that little detail hinted at a change in the depth and direction of the show.
Elsewhere, the outfit’s carefree charmer Dwayne (Danny JohnJules) was telling his estranged father just how much his absences had made him suffer, in the kind of scene that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a ‘serious’ drama.
British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley has been a series with a serious point
I’m not suggesting, or hoping that this pleasant saga will go all serious, but perhaps it is drilling deeper into the characters and the feelings in order to keep on serving up that weekly slice of paradise.
“History,” one of the kids in Alan Bennett’s play ‘The History Boys’ complains.
“It’s just one b** thing after another,” and rather too many documentaries carry that classroom approach over onto the screen.
A welcome exception is British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley (BBC4) which, in spite of the rather wacky title, has been a series with a serious point.
History isn’t a series of dates, but a series of people describing them, in the process omitting, amending, supplementing and twisting.
Lucy Worsley wearing Empress of India Medal
The final episode shone its spotlight onto the British Raj, whose history spun a free-for-all by licensed British pirates into a selfless welcoming of impoverished Indians into the bounties of Victorian rule.
Happily, for the purposes of television anyway, nothing summed up the difference better than two paintings, a hundred years apart.
In the first, from the 18th century, Britannia is loading up on booty, delivered by a stream of subservient natives, while her pet lion licks its lips.
In the second, from the 19th, a young Queen Victoria is handing out gifts to her dark-skinned subjects. History, eh? One blooming whopper after another.