Adapted from the novel by Emile Zola
My Rating: 4 Stars
Content Rating: 14+
Cast: Joanna Vanderham, Emun Elliot, Sarah Lancashire, Elaine Cassidy, Stephen Wight
A love story develops in a Victorian department store in Northern England. In series 1, Paradise shop owner John Moray sees potential in lowly shop girl Denise Lovett (Joanna Vanderham) and while working in his shop she experiences the romance, glamour, intrigue and power play of high society from behind its counters.
Fans of Downton Abbey rejoice! Here’s a period piece TV show with attractive people and lush sets and costumes where your favorite characters not only have good growth arcs, but they DON’T DIE.
I know, I didn’t think it was possible.
The Paradise follows the lives of the employees at the first English department store, which is lovingly called The Paradise. The show specifically circles the country born but ambitious, brilliant, and determined Denise, and the owner and equally brilliant John Moray. The store receives setbacks, goes through rough periods, changes owners, and yet Moray and Denise continue to make it as good as it can be, with the hope that it will one day be theirs and only theirs.
Theirs. Oops. Now you know it’s a romance.
This is one of those shows that I could watch just for the sets and costumes. Everything is so beautifully and so carefully detailed that they keep the audience’s attention as much as the plot does. But the story here is good too: all of the characters go through very difficult moments, and most come out the other side having learned a lot about themselves and moving forward as people. Sometimes it takes a while, but most make it worth it.
Denise and Moray are adorable, infuriating, and long-suffering. They are a couple to root for, and one to shake your fist at because they say and do dumb things. And yet, they are definitely adorable. Probably partly because they are very attractive people, but whatever. I’m not shallow.
And well, they’re just adorable.
I know I compared it to Downton Abbey earlier, and really, the main comparison is issues with social standings and class systems, and then it’s a period piece. All in all, the conflict is a bit simpler in The Paradise (there’s no World War to break up the drama in Ladies Wear), but it is still entertaining nonetheless.
Even the secondary characters have good character arcs. Clara, a girl who works with Denise in Ladies Wear went from my least favorite character to one of my favorites in one season. Katherine, a rich patron of The Paradise has an interesting growth that leads her from in essence childhood into true adulthood. Most of the cast is filled with likeable characters (except for the villains of course), making this charming show a joy to watch.
If you love period pieces, gorgeous 1800’s clothing, and somewhat forbidden romance, you will LOVE The Paradise.