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.