The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency DVD box set makes an excellent gift
By Dwight Hobbes
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (HBO) is exactly why DVD is a great invention. You can plant yourself in front of the television, enjoy this box set half to death, then, when it’s over, grab some more snacks out of the kitchen and play the whole thing all over again. Holiday shopping hint.
Ladies, this is the perfect gift for your best girlfriend. She’ll love it more than a chocolate cake. Fellas, between now and December 25 you’re going to get on the wrong side of your woman. Probably a few times. It comes with the territory.
Well, there is no surer way to get out of the doghouse than to give the love of your life The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (I’d throw in the chocolate cake, too).
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, beautifully crafted, gives us the inventive, intrepid Precious Ramotswe, who gets it in her head to go into business. But, she doesn’t know what she wants to do until she reflects on how, in youth, her dad helped Precious hone her powers of perception, and decides it qualifies her for a career in detection. Good decision. Well suited to the task, she’s skilled, intuitive and compassionate, solving hard problems, caring about her clients at the same time.
Set in Botswana, starring Jill Scott and Anika Noni Rose, the show has strong acting — including guest stars CCH Pounder, Idris Elba and Colin Salmon — excellent scripts and solid directing. Scott is spot-on as Precious, a serious career woman with a warm heart who has a fondness for pastries and the full, shapely figure to prove it. Anika Noni Rose (if they ever film the Donna Summer story, she’s dead ringer, gifted to boot) is wonderful as adorable secretary-cum-sidekick Grace, irrepressible, terminally officious and smart as a whip.
Damned shame the show lasted only one season. Had it been about some doddering old White woman, the series would run forever. Alas, this was not Murder, She Wrote.
It did, however, give a whole bunch of Black actors work for a while.
Wherein lies the rub. You watch this expertly produced series with sheer delight (guys, watch it with your woman — talk about gorgeous eye-candy, Africa got it!), and then when you go to the special features option, catch an ugly surprise. Everybody making the most money off The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is White, starting with the executive producers, Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein and Sydney Pollack, who spent their money hiring White producers and directors. Who break their arms patting themselves on the back for enriching the production with authenticity. As well, on all the discs, you have an ongoing, self-serving chronicle by Alexander McCall Smith, the White novelist on whose books the show is based.
So, skip the special features. And keep the snack bowl filled. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is fascinating entertainment.