Sep 3, 2009

[TV] The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective AgencyWhen books are translated into other media, it's very rare that fans are satisfied or the end result is worth anything. Sure, there are a few here and there that turn out to be pretty decent on their own but such cases tend to be few and far between.

When it comes to books, it seems that translations to TV shows have a better chance of succeeding, if only because they have the sheer potential length to truly cover a lot of the nuances of the book. Let's face it, even a single book as a lot more dialog than your average movie and thus having several episodes of a TV show or TV mini-series tends to have a much better chance at capturing more and more of a book.

It's not a surefire formula for success, but when it does work the results can be rather impressive.

Alexander McCall SmithImage via Wikipedia

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is the TV adaptation of the popular series of books by Alexander McCall Smith that follow the adventures of the "greatest" (and only) female detective in all of Botswana, Mma Ramotswe (Jill Scott). Using a good mix of woman's intuition, keen observation and common sense, she manages to solve a variety of cases in her own unconventional way.

Supporting her is her secretary and eventually assistant detective Mma Grace Makutsi (Anika Noni Rose) and her friend, the next door queer hairdresser BK (Desmond Dube) and somewhat love interest, the car mechanic JLB Matekoni (Lucian Msamati).

Starting from its feature-length pilot episode to the six shows beyond that, the series does manage to follow the original books well enough with a few changes here and there such as the creation of the character of BK or some of the other cases. That doesn't take away from the feel-good nature of the series and how a detective show can survive with little to no violence and just sheer good sense and alternative solutions. Mma Ramotswe has a unique sense of justice that ensures that everyone gets what they deserve but at the same time factors in the true motivations of these people instead of simply condemning them for thier transgressions.

It's interesting that the late Anthony Minghella decided to add in a gay character like BK - the original books were already known for tackling a variety of issues such as infidelity and AIDS but to throw in this character as more than jut comic relief was a nice touch. Sure, Dube could do a better job of playing a gay man, but then again I may be mistakenly basing my concept of queer based on a Western perspective - who knows how gay men behave in Botswana after all.

Jill Scott is simply amazing as Precious Ramotswe and she fills her character's shoes in more ways than one. He accent in the series has a nice touch of Africa to it without sounding too fake or put on, thus giving the series a nice sense of realism while keeping things more or less understandable. Anika Noni Rose is even more amazing as Grace Makutsi given how different she is here compared to her more recent role in the movie Dreamgirls. Seriously, you may not recognize her the first time around in her portrayal of the highly conservative secretary.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency makes for a very refreshing and alternative TV show in the same way the books have been refreshing in their own uniqueness in the reading world. It's something that I'd highly recommend to anyone with the only risk being a sense of loss when you finish the first season and find yourself wanting more.

The first season of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency gets 5 cups of bush tea out of a possible 5.


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