Death In Paradise

Death In Paradise: New Dog, Old Tricks

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You’d expect a show as unashamedly formulaic as Death In Paradise to start feeling a bit stale, six series and three leading men in. I’ve often described the show as a sort of ‘Jonathan Creek in the Sun‘ though I’m not sure that’s fair anymore. Jonathan Creek shook off the trappings of “tried and tested formula” for a run of specials; Creek now has a wife, a posh country home and an office job. What’s missing now, however, is the charm. Creek worked because its lead was a magician’s ingenieur who lived in a windmill and solved bizarre locked-room mysteries, as a sideline, with a wisecracking investigative reporter. Now he’s a 50-year-old insurance salesman (or something) who only seems to solve puzzles reluctantly and with half the genius we’re used to. Shakin’ up the formula, in my opinion, didn’t work. Give me good old early-days Jonathan Creek any day of the week…

…which is, I suppose, a long-winded way of saying that it’s a good thing Death In Paradise still seems to be happy embracing the trusted formula. A group of supporting characters gather, we’re given a glimpse of their group dynamic. One of them is killed. Roll titles. Next, it’s time for our quirky UK DI-out-of-water to lead his team of Caribbean cops in a whodunitandwhy that involves secrets revealed, red herrings, dead ends and sunshine scenery. Then, like clockwork, the supporting cast are gathered at the crime scene so our hero can reveal the killer in monologue. It worked when Ben Miller was the boss in series 1 and 2, and continued to work when Kris Marshall took over for series 3, 4, 5 and 6. Now we have Ardal O’Hanlon steering the ship and it seems it’ll be given room to work going forward. The format is the star. We know what we’re getting and we love it.

Good, then, is the news that O’Hanlon is a brilliant replacement for Marshall. Tonight was the first “proper” case for DI Jack Mooney and he was wonderful. Tonight Mooney and the crew reopened an 8-year-old cold case, the murder of the local newspaper editor. I won’t spoil it – the whole series is available to revisit on iPlayer, with every series streaming on Netflix – but it still feels like the same old show. Six series in and the mysteries are as strong as they were at the beginning, the supporting casts as wonderfully “that him from…” as ever and, despite there being only three main cast members who have been with us from the start (Dwayne, the Commissioner and Katherine the bar owner) Honore Police feel like family. While most shows are trying to think outside the box, with varying results, Death In Paradise knows what it does works and works well. Ratings are higher than some of the BBC’s most beloved shows (Death In Paradise got almost double the viewers than Doctor Who last year, on average). It’s become a future classic in its own right. Not bad for a daft comedy drama that set out simply to be bright, exciting and fun. Tick, tick, tick. Bravo, Death In Paradise. Bravo.

It makes me sad that there’s only one episode left this series. But with the promise of more to come, I’m happy to wait for my fix of slaughter in the sun. Series 7, I hope, will be just as much fun as usual and, with Jack Mooney up front, I think the format is in safe hands. I can’t wait for more.

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We Love Death In Paradise (…And Doctor Who)

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While the whole world is speculating about who will be the next Doctor in BBC’s flagship show Doctor Who, it seems nobody was speculating about the replacement of Kris Marshall’s Humphry Goodman in Death In Paradise. That’s because they’ve already announced his replacement (only read on if you are happy to know who it is). The relationship between the two shows is tenuous at best, but I’d like to look at some things that Doctor Who could learn from the sun-drenched detective show.

Before its very first series aired the BBC publicity machine went into overdrive on what was promised to be an exotic and fun new detective comedy-drama from little-known writer/showrunner Robert Thorogood. The winner of the first Red Planet Prize, where “new” writers were able to pitch ideas to seasoned producers, Thorogood’s Death In Paradise warmed the TV schedules with its light-hearted Jonathan Creek-alike murder mysteries. Ben Miller’s Richard Pool was the hero, Lenora Crichlow’s Lily Thompson his young sidekick, or so it was billed in the run-up to the first episode. In fact, it transpired that Crichlow was the murderer all along and, though set up to be Miller’s Number 2, was sent packing at the end of the episode, with the prime suspect – mysterious Camille Borday, played by Sara Martins – joining as Poole’s second in command.

It took casual viewers by surprise, sure. But it came as an even bigger shock to those who had followed the publicity train in the lead-up to transmission. If Doctor Who were to pull a similar stunt with the introduction of a new Doctor minds would be blown. We’ll likely have a “special” announcement programme some weeks before filming begins, where some presenter will spend 40 minutes chatting to celebs about who they think might be the new Doctor, before revealing the new star of the show to a cheering audience of fans, all shown live on BBC One. But imagine if the first time we ever see the new Doctor is when Capaldi regenerates?! Imagine not knowing who he’ll be turning into until the very moment it happens? That would be insane!

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Tonight’s episode of Death In Paradise sees the team travel to UK for the first time in the show’s history. Swapping the sunny glare of Guadalupe for the bright lights of London is a decision the production team will not have taken lightly. We know – thanks to a BBC press release and an interview with Marshall in The S*n “newspaper” – that this will be the last series in which Humph chases killers in tropical climes. We also know that his replacement on the fictional island of Saint Marie will be DI Jack Mooney, played by Ardal O’Hanlon. Fans of the show will be as excited about this change of lead as Doctor Who fans will be about the forthcoming regeneration.

One more interesting thing to note is this: Doctor Who is currently pulling audiences of around 6 million or so viewers. Death In Paradise is drawing a whopping 8.7 million on average. While Doctor Who looks forward to a year off between show-runner Steven Moffat leaving and his successor Chris Chibnall taking over (although, fans won’t be looking forward to that rest at all) Death In Paradise shows no signs of needing a break just yet. Its sixth series continues tonight at 9pm on BBC One with the conclusion of this weeks’ two-parter landing the same time next week. It’s almost time for O’Hanlon to take the lead, heading up the only police force in the world with as many murders on its books as Midsomer.

I’m a massive fan of both Doctor Who and Death In Paradise. I’m excited to know who’ll pilot the TARDIS into the future. I’m exited to see what DI Mooney will be like. Ratings matter, of course. But the most important thing, for me as a viewer, is for both shows to continue thrilling me, as they do now. Despite a few missteps from both over the years, it’s safe to say that me and my wife Aimee will be there when we find out, from both, just what’s to come. We love Death In Paradise (and Doctor Who).

I’m No Columbo, But I’m Better Than Goodman!

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Well, it seems my talent for working out the who, how and why of the murders in BBC One’s wonderfully upbeat Caribbean murder mystery Death In Paradise isn’t waning. We just caught up on the episode from this latest series where the chef was stabbed and left in the freezer. I am proud to announce I worked out who killed him, how he was killed and the circumstances surrounding the murder within the first ten minutes.

What I love most about this show is how much it makes me feel like I could be a top detective if I wanted to be. It tricks me into thinking I should join the police; surely it’d be only weeks before they noticed my talent for sleuthing and fast-track me to quirky Murder Squad Chief. My gimmick – because all top murder cops must have one – would be something like “I’m always snacking” or “I’m addicted to Emmerdale”.

Death In Paradise is almost over (it may have already finished for all I know, we’re watching on a month’s delay on iPlayer) and I know we’re going to miss it when it’s gone. It’s not the grittiest or most challenging crime show but it is a hell of a lot of fun. It cheers me up and I always enjoy trying to workout “whodunit” before Goodman does. I hope they keep making it for years. It’s like a sun-soaked Jonathan Creek or something. We love it.