10 January 2015

TV: Death in Paradise IV.1

January is shaping up to be quite a month in the world of television. Inside a week we've had the triumphant returns of Benidorm, Broadchurch and now Death in Paradise. Yes, the sunny BBC crime series with the best theme in the business (You're Wondering Now originally performed by The Skatalites fact fans) is back, and returning on my birthday for the second time.

There's always a bit of a caveat with these types of programmes that you have to suspend your disbelief somewhat, regarding the sheer number of murders. However writer/creator Robert Thorogood seems to be able to keep coming up with different and interesting premises that make you forget any doubts you might have (which are not an affliction of this reviewer anyway).

The opening episode of Series Four concerns a seance at a family-run rum distillery, and is a most pleasing exercise in misdirection. It seems Thorogood has been taking notes from executive producer Tony 'Hustle' Jordan. Both are excellent at covering their tracks whilst still providing a logical, satisfying explanation. I was convinced here that the murderer would have used Elias' hands to make it appear that everyone had stayed in contact the whole time. Beyond that I really had no idea who it could be. These shows rely so heavily on the characters involved, so it's the writer's grip of them that is most commendable here, weaving a world of history and deception with just a few words in the way Robert Holmes used to. Real people are complex, and Thorogood's scripts exemplify this.

The regulars are all as enjoyable as ever, and still a major selling point of the series for me. I'm glad Kris Marshall is playing down Humphrey's eccentricities this year. They were amiable and endearing last year but it's only natural that as he settles into his new life he becomes more at ease with his surroundings (indeed, the actor himself now resides in Guadeloupe for much of the year - his daughter's even enrolled in a school there - so perhaps it's art reflecting real life). Although it could be said he's still just playing a more scatter-brained incarnation of Ben Miller's original lead Richard Poole, it's enjoyable enough not to matter. With the comment to Sara Martins' Camille about British people not telling others how they feel, I wonder if the seeds of a series arc have been sown.

In other news, Josephine Jobert joins the team in two short scenes as Sergeant Florence Cassell, replacing Gary Carr's Sgt. Fidel Best. It looks like there will certainly be some chemistry between her and Danny John-Jules' Dwayne (even if only one-sided) and I look forward to seeing how that progresses. Having another female lead is a good move in my opinion if Don Warrington's brilliant Commissioner is to be making more regular appearances (something that can only be welcomed). I'd like to see a bit more development for Dwayne this series too, perhaps leading a case. John-Jules and Warrington are an electric pairing, I'd love to see more of them together.

This is an undoubtedly strong opening story, and I can't wait to see where this series goes next. In particular, Jobert's addition to the team dynamic will be interesting. Four series in, Death in Paradise thankfully shows no signs of a drop in quality as yet, but with such strong creative forces behind it (including an inventive score from Magnus Fiennes), success is almost guaranteed.

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