“ Genre: Television - No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency / Theatrical Release: 2009 / Suitable for 12 years and over / Director: Tim Fywell;Charles Sturridge / Actors: Jill Scott ... / DVD released 2010-03-08 at E1 Entertainment / Features of the DVD: PAL „
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The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency TV series is based on the books of the same name written by Alexander McCall Smith. The show was originally aired in 2009 and was a collaboration between the BBC in the UK and HBO in the USA. The show can be classed as a bittersweet comedy crime drama. The show seems to deal mostly with themes of infidelity, forgiveness, patriotism and kindness to others.
There are 6 episodes in the boxset.
The 6 episodes are titled as follows:
* The Big Bonanza
* The Boy with an African Heart
* Problems in Moral Philosophy
* Beauty and Integrity
* A Real Botswana Diamond
Each episode runs for around 50-55 minutes and although there is a running theme throughout the series there are also specific plots unique to each episode.
The first episode shows The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency starting up and trying to drum up business and Mma Ramotswe gives the task of distributing fliers to a young boy called Wellington who seems to be homeless.
In Poison Mma Ramotswe goes undercover to find out who in a wealthy family is trying to poison the rest of the family. All is not as it seems though and it looks like someone's now out to poison our beloved detective herself. Also in this episode the detectives are asked to help a doctor whose patients keep dying on a Friday at 2pm each week.
The Boy with an African Heart tells of a woman coming to Africa from the USA to find her son who has been missing for 10 years and presumed dead. Mma Ramotswe has to investigate this heart-breaking case so the mother can find peace and move on with her life. In this episode we see Mma Makutsi trying to impress her boss showing that she's capable of being more than a secretary.
In Problems with Moral Philosophy the team are involves in a couple of cases included a car-jacking case where the wife of a man receiving a stolen car comes to the detectives saying she wants the car to be returned to its owner without her husband knowing she was involved. Mma Ramotswe is pretty shocked to hear from her old school friend who is now a police officer that the car was stolen with a young child in the back seat!
In Beauty and Integrity Mma Makutsi is given another real case to deal with and the case involves checking out the contestants for the Beauty and Integrity contest to ensure they really have integrity. In this episode a rival detective sets up locally and tries to outdo The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and show them up as amateurs. Will he succeed?
The final episode of the series has a blast from Mma Ramotwe's past turning up and causing her a lot of fear and heartache. Rra Matekoni goes all out to show his love for her though, much to the anger of his highly possessive and slightly crazy maid Florence.
Each episode starts with a bit of a plot then the opening credits are displayed with a cartoon-like graphic of a very large Mma Ramotswe standing by her desk drinking a cup of tea. I found the opening credits quite amusing as at first you think you're seeing the credits against stills and then suddenly you notice steam from the teapot on the desk and Mma Ramotswe wiggling her large hips twisting the globe on her desk and pointing to Botswana and the show's title appears on the globe "The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency".
For those who have never heard of The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series of books or the TV film or TV series; it's basically the ONLY ladies' detective agency in Botswana which is how it can get away with its claim to be No 1!
Mma Precious Ramotswe is played by the fabulous African American Jill Scott who is a Grammy winning singer-songwriter / actress. I felt she was the perfect actress for the role, she is naturally bubbly looking and has a fuller figure (although the way the character is portrayed in the books, Precious is made out to be rather obese, which Scott certainly isn't). Scott's facial expressions were amazing and she really brought the character to life for me. I understand she was one of the harder characters to cast for the show as they really were looking for someone with a fuller figure. It's amusing to know that Mma Ramotswe isn't a qualified detective but achieved her detecting skills from a book by a detective. It does quite help though that she has a clever mind and is very intuitive too.
Mma Grace Makutsi (played by Anika Noni Rose) graduated from the Botswana Secretarial College with a score of 97%, the highest score of any student from that college and she's very proud of this fact. One of the other characters actually calls her 97% rather than her name, which is quite funny. She's a very serious character and tries to hide her heartache at home (where she has a very ill brother) by throwing herself into her work. She strives to be successful as a secretary and is happy when partway through the series she is promoted to Assistant Detective. We rarely see Mma Makutsi smile and even when she does it's for a split second before her face becomes all serious and sensible again. Rose is known as a singer and actress and she really had to look bland for the character which was quite an achievement as she's quite an attractive woman in real life. Mma Makutsi wears rather large glasses and always dresses very conservatively and doesn't approve of women being flashy or wearing revealing clothing. In one scene Mma Makutsi's uncle (who is employed as a chauffeur) turns up in a presidential car to take her out undercover and she goes mad when she sees the flashy car with flags on it. "It is surveillance. I am supposed to be hidden. You may as well have come in an aeroplane" she yells at him just before he drives away.
Lucian Msamati plays Rra JLB Matekoni owner of the local car garage and Mma Ramotswe's love interest. He's a hard-working and very serious guy and is rather put upon by people. Msamati plays the role of Matekoni to perfection and is a very endearing character. His maid, Florence is a real nightmare of a woman, who barely does any work; yet he is unable to reprimand her, nor has he the courage to dismiss her from her post. The woman who runs the local orphanage is always calling on Matekoni to fix something or other at the orphanage and he always does so, often dropping whatever he's in the middle of to do so. Yet he never complains.
It is amusing that the 3 main characters all call each other by their titles and surnames, such as Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi (with Mma being pronounced just as "ma" and Rra Matekoni (with Rra being pronounced as "ra"), the titles meaning Mr & Ms respectively. The characters in the show are all quite formal and aside from BK the hairdresser and the children at the orphanage, everyone is addressed as Mma or Rra which I found quite quaint. I also found it amusing that Mma Ramotswe likes to drink "bush tea" and sometimes Mma Makutsi finds this quite frustrating as she feels life's problems cannot always be solved with a cup of tea.
The series is set mostly in Kgale Hill in Botswana where the agency is based. Near The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is the Last Chance Hair Salon run by BK (played by comedian Desmond Dube) who's openly gay but it is never openly mentioned that he is gay which is quite amusing. He's a good friend to Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi and often tries to help them out when he can.
Another recurring character is Mr Patel (played by Harish Patel) who owns a clothing store. Mr Patel is rather severe and he hires Mma Ramotswe to follow his 16 year old daughter as he thinks she has a secret boyfriend which doesn't fit in with his plans to arrange her marriage when she turns 20.
The scenery was beautiful and the location shots were done beautifully. Along with the amazing music for the show, it all added up to making me as a viewer want to visit this lovely place. Some of the places in the show had quite amusing names such as "The Go-Go Handsome Mens Bar" (which wasn't just for men and was actually a night club), "Judgement Day Jewellers" and "Satisfaction Guaranteed Detective Agency, Entrust Your Affairs To a Man".
I think it's a shame the series wasn't continued after series 1 as it's a very watchable show and there aren't that many shows I can think of set in Africa. This show portrays Africa as a homely place with people caring for each other, even if they show it in some strange ways, it's all very endearing. Sadly the viewing figures were not high enough to a second series to be produced.
I understand there have been talks of making further books in the series into TV films but nothing has been set in concrete yet. I, for one, will be looking out for these should they actually be produced and having read one book in the series so far, I'm keen to read some more.
Mr Patel (on finding his store broken into): As for you, why not just put up a sign, "Number one riffraff assembly point"? Where you get detectives, there you will find crime.
Mma Makutsi: The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency dedicates itself to the righting of wrongs.
BK: Me, too. Bad hair leads to depression, sometimes to violence. I think the entire world would benefit from a day off at the hairdresser's.
Jeweller: Ah, you are a fortunate man. Not every man can find such a cheerful fat woman to marry. There are many thin, hectoring women around today, huh?
Rra Matekoni: Before I met her, I was resigned to loneliness. Now I cannot be happy without her.
Mr Patel: Press your case. My wife was very disinclined to marry a shopkeeper. My campaign was targeted and effective. Show drive. Show ambition. SatNavs. Hi-tech equipment.
Pushy woman in bar: JLB. It is a good name, Initials are mysterious. I do not want you ever to tell me what they stand for. Will you promise never to tell me?
Rra Matekoni: Okay
Woman: Okay? More initials! Ha! You are the strong silent type. That is clear.
I'm happy to give the show a strong 5 out of 5 stars. It would have been nice if there were more episodes in the season as I was left wanting more after watching the 6 episodes in the series. It's also a shame that there were no DVD extras in the set. Even though the show is rated as a 12 certification, there is no bad language or nudity and I personally felt a PG rating may have been acceptable.
Starring: Jill Scott, Anika Noni Rose, Lucian Msamati, Desmond Dube
Guest stars/supporting cast: Harish Patel, Paterson Joseph, and Colin Salmon
Writers: Nicholas Wright, Robert Jones
Directors: Charles Sturridge, Tim Fywell
Duration: 350 minutes
DVD details: 2 discs with 3 episodes each, English subtitles
I'm a sucker for a detective program, that's everything from TJ Hooker through to Midsomer Murders and even the CIA documentaries you find on the Discovery channel. A program that recently tickled my fancy was the Botswanan based detective series The No.1 Ladies Detective. It is based on novels by Alexander McCall Smith but I can't say I've read them so wouldn't like to compare.
The First series is made up of a long pilot episode followed by 6 1 hour episodes, from the titles you know you are in for a cheerful, colourful and vibrant program, it makes a pleasant change from the glum urban British environs of say Taggart.
The main recurring characters are very strong and well acted, they are all very likeable as well, which definitely helps when watching it. I've never been to Botswana but I found the accents pretty convincing and only realised at the end that much of the core cast were in fact Americans.
The sprinkling of Tswana, scenery, local customs and superstitions make the program interesting in itself but they also act as a background for crimes and misdemeanours that make up a whole unique array of cases that are unfamiliar to the armchair detective/tele viewer.
Mma Ramotswe leaves the countryside after her father dies and decides to follow her dreams, she sets up a quaint detective agency in a relatively nice area of Gaborone next to a hair salon ran by the extremely obviously homosexual BK (played by South African comedian Desmond Dube), she soon hires a secretary in the form of Miss 97% - Mma Makutsi, a stroppy, efficient woman who is easily upset and not in the usual mould of an African secretary.
Before Mma Ramotswe even steps foot in Gaborone, there's signs of a love interest with gentle mechanic widower JLB Matekoni, if you watch the whole series, you'll notice the roles of the duo's house maids getting stronger as well.
The dialogue between characters is often very humorous, the cases are intriguing and there's usually a few running simultaneously, even if some of them are rather small and generally meaningless, they still have something to add to the episode.
In the 5th episode a rival detective agency sets up shop, the motto is Ex CID, Ex New York, Ex cellent and the detective is none other than "Johnson" from Peep Show, playing a similar role in fact as an ambitious, ruthless character who is quick with words.
This series is definitely worth watching, it brings something new to the detective table and is rather joyful.