If you’ve been keeping up with the latest BBC1 period drama The Paradise, you’ll no doubt have fallen in love with not only the enchanting love story and dynamic characters, but also the old worldly Victorian setting. The news that the series is to be renewed by the BBC for a second series is like waking up on Christmas morning to find that one present you’ve been wishing all year for.
The story centres on the youthful, beautiful, bright and ambitious Denise Lovett (Joanna Vanderham) who, after arriving in a northern English town, begins working as a salesgirl in the ladies wear section at the first high-class department store, The Paradise. Denise ultimately catches the eye of the charismatic, kind and equally ambitious yet grief-stricken John Moray (Emum Elliot) who owns the store. The story follows Denise as she struggles to make her mark in a man’s world, where social structure defines who and what you are.
The Paradise is a pure delight, a costume drama series full of charm and intelligence, adapted from the French novel Au Bonheur des Dames by Émile Zola. With just 8 episodes, the series manages to maintain a pace that moves quickly enough for the story to effectively move on, though not so fast as to rush the unhurried pace that was so pertinent to the Victorian era. It transports you to a simpler world where the department store was still a thing of wonder. If you don’t find yourself wishing to be a part of The Paradise you’ve missed the magic of it all. I for one feel nostalgic for an era I’ll never experience and yearn for the elegance and exclusivity that prevailed during the 1800s; naturally I see my 19th century self as being wealthy enough to shop in upmarket department stores, of course.
Unlike many period costume dramas, The Paradise doesn’t seem stuffy or dated; it feels like a modern story told through the eyes of an old world. Denise is a modern woman, motivated by a wealth of ideas rather than money and she’s willing to work for what she wants. The love that develops between her and Moray is a merging of two hearts equally matched in every way, and it’s part of the reason why the series is so captivating.
The Paradise has a gifted ensemble cast who carry the episodes along with humour, romance, history and drama. It’s absolute TV heaven for both period television lovers and old fashioned romantics. My only gripe is that there aren’t more episodes to grace our screens this year.
The final episode in the series airs on Tuesday 13th November (9pm BBC1), with a second 8 x 60 minute series in the pipe-line for next year.