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Palm-fringed Mystery

Posted by Caribbean World Magazine on 14 October 2021 | 0 Comments

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14 October 2021

How the BBC series Death in Paradise, filmed in beautiful Guadeloupe,has become one of TV's biggest hits 

When it debuted in 2011, few could have ever imagined its success. Yet Death in Paradise has become a BBC phenomenon, licensed to more than 230 territories today and often the best-performing drama on the BBC; its most-watched episode pulled in more than 9 million viewers, with an average of 8.14 million weekly viewers in the last series, ranking it at the top of the most-watched programmes of the day. 

Death in Paradise was not embraced by the critics, who derided it for its easy-viewing style. Even now, 12 years since it’s debut episode, it rarely scores highly with TV pundits -  yet consistently pulls in ratings bigger than flagship BBC dramas on a modest budget. 

It has a loyal legion of TV viewers who adore its instantly recognizable C-list cast and ludicrous who dunnits, helping Death in Paradise to spawn a lucrative book series, and significantly increasing tourism in the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. It follows the efforts of a bumbling, eccentric expat detective to solve a murder on the fictitious Caribbean island of Saint Marie.  Fourdifferent actors have played the role in total, with British Ben Miller the first, followed byfellow Brit Kris Marshall, then IrishArdal O’Hanlon with British Ralf Little in the job. They are supported by a small force of island police officers with a starring role throughout each series given to a bright green CGI lizard called Harry - who has something of a cult following. 

Viewers can now access the entire box set via BBCiPlayer, including Christmas specials. Not bad for a TV show that has been so mercilessly savaged by the critics. Murders in exotic island location are bloodless and free from gore, and almost impossible to solve - yet the detective in Death in Paradise manages to tie each case up in a stroke of genius. There hasn’t been a rape, or any sexual abuse, on Saint Marie and viewers rarely see the fatal blow. Characters have been shot, strangled, thrown to their deaths, bludgeoned, electrocuted, drowned, stabbed with an ice pick and poisoned with the toxic sting of a puffer fish. Predicable? A little, but that is undoubtedly part of its appeal.

Creator Robert Thorogood is not your typical BBC screenwriter - he was 35 years old, with no screen credits, who had been trying and failing to bring a script to TV for 15 years when his idea was accepted by Red Planet Pictures, the production company that makes the show, in 2008.Today the family show, set in stunning locations,bring likeable and warm characters into the living rooms of millions of households around the globe. There is humour - it can be really funny - there is something amusing an expatriate police detective sweating into suits under the Caribbean sun. There’s a genuine charm in a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously and revels in the classic influences of bygone detective shows, such asPoirotMarple, Columbo and Murder She Wrote.Old fashioned? Delightfully so; it’s unashamedly bucks the trend of sexy Scandi crime noir. Death in Paradise is TV Gold - and not just for its sky high ratings but for its golden palm-scattered beaches that offer heavenly visual escapism and storylines that are drenched in the Caribbean’s golden rays.