"The Paradise" (BBC TV Services 2012 – 2013)

4 Kernels

Stars:  Joanna Vanderham, Emun Elliott, Stephen Wight, Elaine Cassidy

If you didn’t find what you were shopping for at Selfridges, there is another store in town – The Paradise.  It seems audiences are fascinated with shopping habits in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Now streaming on NetFlix, you can watch or re-watch the eight episodes to get ready for season two, which has already aired in the U.K. (I’m assuming it’s coming to the U.S.)

Unfortunately, it wasn’t renewed for a third season, no doubt because of the tough competition from Mr. Selfridge. After reading the synopsis and spoilers for Season 2, it sounds like the story came to a slow death in viewer numbers.

Not as grand as the other store on PBS, The Paradise is owned by the charismatic Moray (odd name). Widowed, mysterious, and an ambitious businessman, he quickly swoops you into the season. Engaged to the very snobbish  Katherine Glendenning (where do they come up with these names?), who has apparently lowered her aristocrat standards and fallen in love with a less than acceptable man in daddy’s eyes, Lord Glendenning.  Nevertheless, she wants what she wants, and the Lady will not be denied her handsome businessman as a husband.  In fact, as the series progresses, she is almost to the point of delusion on that matter.

Of course, like any other love triangle, one must have a third in the mix – introduce Denise.  She’s a pretty girl from the country, whose poor uncle lives across the street from The Paradise scraping out a meager living from dressmaking.  When she shows up on his doorstep, she discovers that he is unable to support her arrival. She walks across the street and is hired in the lady’s garment section.  Young and impressionable, she quickly falls for the dark and handsome Moray.  Her affections grow, and he reciprocates, even though engaged to Lady Katherine.

It’s obvious Moray is only using Katherine for the connections and money that daddy can bring. There isn’t an ounce of romance or spark of attraction.  In fact, he appears to be in anguish when in her presence. At the end of season one, he faces the difficult decision whether to go ahead with the wedding or not.  Of course, there are all sorts of small sub-plots with the characters, that weave in and out of the main storyline.

As far as value, I didn’t find it as engaging as Mr. Selfridge.  Moray doesn’t come across as the gregarious lover of life like Harry, played by Jeremy Piven.  In contrast, the owner of The Paradise has an intense and dark character, with a questionable past regarding his deceased wife. The other characters don’t draw you into their lives with that much interest either, compared to other shows. I just didn’t find the series as charming as I hoped, but still enjoyed the fashionable ladies of the day and their hats.



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