The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency: The Complete First Season

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency: The Complete First Season
Within seconds of watching this seven-episode mini-series ― billed as a first season, although a second seems highly unlikely ― one is overwhelmed by beauty. The loveliness of R&B singer Jill Scott portraying Mme "Precious" Ramotswe, to be sure, but primarily the breathtaking vistas of Botswana, where this series was filmed, and from whose local culture actors, music and the most beautiful landscapes this side of the Planet Earth documentaries are drawn. Gone in an instant are clichéd images of Africa, replaced with spectacular colour, broad smiles and a deliberate pace of life. This pace shapes the life of Ramotswe, who leaves an abusive husband and becomes a detective, taking cases ranging from household mysteries to serious crimes with the assistance of her uptight secretary (Anika Noni Rose). Based on the book series by Alexander McCall Smith, No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency has an odd but extremely pleasing tone; it's a comedy much of the time but doesn't shy away from harsh subjects or the realities of southern Africa. It's plot- and "mystery"-driven but often spends as much time on Romtswe's front porch communing with neighbours. And while it occasionally dips into "message" moments, it's philosophy is largely embodied, as it were, in the "traditional" build of Scott: enjoy yourself, don't worry about what other people think, help when you can and enjoy the richness of life. Scott does a marvellous job with a minimum of acting experience, nailing the tough Botswanan accent; she's surrounded by some Western trained actors but also by many Africans, including local luminaries, as a couple of "making of" featurettes point out. The initial film was directed by the late Anthony Mingella ― indeed, this was the last project he worked on ― and his vision shaped the series, but under his guidance, Botswana infuses the production, from music and dancing to politics and language. The music in particular gets a great spotlight with performances and tutorials from Botswanan stars. But this is no political screed ― No. 1 Ladies is a love story, to Mme Ramotswe, to Botswana, to life. Plus: author's diary, more. (Warner)