Paradise Lost but it can be regained
Review: Beyond Paradise. Doesn’t matter if the sun shines: the fictional Devon town of Shipton Abbott will never have the pull of the fictional Saint Marie. It’s that Caribbean setting of Guadeloupe that has made Death In Paradise a 12 year long hit with viewers not the implausible murder mysteries.
But leave aside the spin-off comparisons and Beyond Paradise should be successful in its own right in the same way that Midsummer Murders is or Pie In The Sky was. It will however have to improve on last night’s opening episode.
Tall man in cramped mini or on child’s chair at the dinner table combined with ageist fart gags won’t cut the mustard. Nor will the implausibility of a town the size of Looe (in Cornwall, where the series is mainly filmed) having just one visible police constable for the size of population.
When DI Humphrey Goodman (Kris Marshall) literally drops in on his new colleague DS Esther Williams (Zahra Ahmadi) we know what we can expect from this bumbling approach to life. She introduces the new arrival to the police station’s pettish office administrator Margo (Felicity Montagu) and naive young PC Kelby Hartford (Dylan Llewellyn).
He has moved there with fiancé Martha (Sally Bretton) whom he met in Saint Marie and followed back to Blighty. They are living with her mother Anne (Barbara Flynn) in a grand lake or estuary side house while they set up home and Martha’s business.
With Death in Paradise the DI was always involved in a murder for which the possible suspects couldn’t possibly be responsible before that lightbulb moment in which he proved that one of them was indeed responsible. In Shipton Abbott the pattern continues.
Goodman, not content that a local woman’s accident was just that, an accident, for reasons that I won’t spoil here, sets about proving that skullduggery was afoot. The accident victim lives in the kind of house you can win in prize draws advertised on TV, bought from the proceeds of owning 15 ‘tat’ shops as her husband calls them with disdain.
As DI Goodman’s investigation continues, against a veritable crime spree of stolen cars he is introduced to a group of arrogant local businesspeople who hold the key to the not so baffling mystery.
The question is whether Devon, and a new focus on Humphrey and Martha’s personal life will hook viewers to the same degree as their Caribbean romance. All the ingredients of success are there. The cast is good; the premise we know; Humphrey’s personality we know, all we can hope now is that the scripts are good with just a splash more humour and little less Mr Bean.
But the cake is baked now so we’ll have to wait for a few more slices before we know for sure that it hasn’t sunk.