The Paradise, Season Two (2013)

 
Reviewer: Charity Bishop

The first season of this program was charming and unexpected, a real treat as something different from the BBC than just another Dickens adaptation. While the follow-up contains delightful moments, it falls into a predictable format by retracing a lot of the high points of the previous season and ending on a particularly flat note.
  
Life has changed in The Paradise since Moray (Emun Elliott) lost his business by refusing to marry Katherine (Elaine Cassidy), the daughter of one of his richest and most influential backers. Katherine is now married to a former military officer -- the emotionally repressed and at times downright cruel Tom Weston (Ben Daniels). She fills her days taking care of his little girl, interfering in the business decisions at The Paradise, and wishing she'd made a different marital choice.

 

Miss Audrey receives a marriage proposal that forces her to make a difficult choice, and Denise (Joanna Vanderham) is promoted to a new position. Her brilliant ideas and natural business sense create a bit of a conflict with Moray, who is scheming to reclaim his business even if it means employing unethical tactics to do so. Then, there is the never-ending adventures of life in a busy London department store, from unexpected floods to potential investors and new tins of rouge.
  
In some ways, the show maintains its sweetness and also has some really great moments, such as when Denise has the idea to make over The Paradise into a haunted exhibition to accompany the sales of the latest popular penny dreadful. But unfortunately, it's hard to root for Moray and Denise’s romance to succeed. She's such an imaginative, likable, compassionate idealist that watching the unlikable and often selfish Moray treat her as property is downright painful. One can’t help wishing she’d chosen his mild-mannered, good-natured manager instead – except he’s married (a convenient plot device to explain why she chose Moray?). Some of the side characters are the same but others like Pauline have vanished without a trace (but she is replaced with another gullible, rather insipid but also very cute girl). Miss Audrey is written out to accommodate the actress having moved on to another show, and her absence particularly in a later episode when her husband is deathly ill is noticeable.

 

The scripts maintain their usual creative business ideas but but many of the new characters are very unlikable. It’s hard to like anything about Katherine’s bully of a husband, much less feel sorry for him in spite of his awful past, yet the ending makes it feel like miraculously, his personality is going to change and it’ll all be all right… except that he’s a temperamental, selfish, argumentative, vindictive womanizer who spends half his time trying to get the women of the Paradise into his bed, even if that involves blackmail. Then there's the annoying French saleswoman that pops in long enough to prove she’s a lesbian (… or maybe bisexual? By the end of the episode, no one knows) and really serves no other purpose other than to create controversy in Victorian England.
  
From the beginning, this show has suffered from a rash of unlikable protagonists, with the exception of Denise and, later on, Miss Audrey. This season continues the politically correct trend with the implication that men are all deeply flawed and their bad behavior must be tolerated while the brilliant, clever, and likable women are above such things. It’s pretty to look at, sweet when you take a bite of it, but rather insulting if you think about it too long.
  

  

Sexual Content:

A woman kisses another woman on the lips and tries to seduce her; she behaves flirtatiously toward many men and nearly convinces a married man to commit adultery with her; a main character is a philanderer who propositions women and tries to blackmail a woman into becoming his mistress. The new cook loves to spout innuendo and show off a lot of cleavage.
  
  

Language:

Occasional profanities.

  

Violence:

None worth noting.

    

Other:

Frequent social drinking. Superstition rages about an old pocket watch, which a boy uses to "hypnotize" another girl with (she's gullible enough to fall for it). Conversation about ghosts and hauntings.

 


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