Oct 10, 2023Liked by Noah Berlatsky

Thanks for this. This show has annoyed me on a number of levels for years (yet it sucks me in). Appreciate your take on it.

Expand full comment

I haven't watched a lot of it, but I can see the appeal—pretty scenery, pretty people, pleasantly repetitious cozy plots...

Expand full comment

You, too, huh? I have this horrible feeling I'm turning into my kid brother—the Bisexual Right Wing-but-Anti-Trump one, who filled up my TiVO when he lived in my office with cop shows. All manner of cop shows—American cop shows, British cop shows, Japanese cop shows, Dutch cop shows.... If it had a dead body and somebody with a badge, he watched it!

I was afraid when he moved in that he'd be watching Fox News and porn 24/7—didn't watch Fox at ALL, but I'd come into my office most nights and he'd be watching HAWAII 5-0 while TiVO'ing CASTLE, or LAW & ORDER: BECAUSE WE'RE THE COPS, THAT'S WHY! while TiVO'ing NCIS: DUBUQUE, or AGENT RAGHAV: CRIME BRANCH while TiVO'ing BLUE BLOODS.

Now that he's got his own place and I'm divorced, I find myself watching a LOT of cop shows like DEATH IN PARADISE, MISS FISHER MURDER MYSTERIES, HEER & MEESTER....

Expand full comment
Feb 17Liked by Noah Berlatsky

::Richard prepares to star in several seasons of cute cozies.::

Only two seasons—they killed him off at the start of Series 3, because Ben Miller's wife and daughter couldn't handle the summer weather of Guadalupe (where the series is shot), and he couldn't handle flying back and forth to London to see them on weekends!

His replacement Kris Marshall and family really liked Guadalupe, but his kids were old enough to start going to boarding school after four years so his character left to "pursue the woman he loves" (who is now his co-star on the spinoff series BEYOND PARADISE, set in South Devon). He was replaced with Ardal O'Hanlon (Father Dougal on FATHER TED), which is when the jokes comparing DEATH IN PARADISE to DOCTOR WHO started up. After four years O'Hanlon decided to leave the series as well, and Ralf Little took over as "Scotland Yard Inspector".

To date, no Black Inspectors, no Female Inspectors, even though much of the "island" cast are comprised of British actors like Danny John-Jules (Cat on RED DWARF), Ginny Holder, and Don Warrington. The show often gets its Sergeants off the series by having them go for training to be promoted...elsewhere, like Paris or Guadalupe (presented as the larger island on the show).

It would be great to either see one of the local Sergeants promoted to Inspector, like Shantol Jackson's DS Naomi Thomas, and have the "Scotland Yard Inspector" promoted to Detective-Chief Inspector and have him as a recurring character, or pick a Black Female British actor as a former resident who went to London and joined Scotland Yard, and is now coming back over as their DI.

Expand full comment

Noah, I think it's time you took a look at Skip Intro's COPAGANDA YouTube series (https://youtu.be/udhDawfCLHo?si=nIyRPN1lnB6obipN ), in which he breaks down the hows (and whys) that cop shows, from the realistic to the fantastical, all push a narrative that while there might be bad apples, the police force is overall out there to protect society. This is pretty ironic in light not only of all the police shootings of unarmed Black and Brown persons while protecting heavily-armed White bigots, but also of the cops in Uvalde, TX, waiting OUTSIDE while Salvador Ramos shot and killed nineteen students and two teachers and wounded seventeen others...because apparently it's not their job to risk their lives to save others!

That's going to be less the case in a British cop show where the police are almost always unarmed (I don't think a gun gets used once by a cop on DEATH IN PARADISE), and the crimes are always of the "cozy" variety, where the (White) Scotland Yard Detective Inspector hero rounds up the episode's guest stars and, after explaining how he came to his conclusion, points out the killer, who invariably meekly surrenders to the local (Black) Constables. I've watched all but the last series or two thanks to getting a divorce and moving back to the NYC area, and I will admit I always wonder WTF Scotland Yard never sends a Black Detective Inspector to an island with a majority-Black population.

Expand full comment

I always felt a little weird about that colonial dynamic. I never paused the show to ask myself about it though.

Expand full comment

I originally came in to write a response that "All Cop and Detective Shows are Colonialist!" The Police are always right and just, except for a few bad apples; prosecuting attorneys agonize over if they're bending the law or not; and defensive attorneys are almost always slick-talking slimeballs any more! As somebody who grew up on PERRY MASON reruns and OWEN MARSHALL, COUNSELOR-AT-LAW, it's...baffling to see how few shows any more concern themselves with defense counsel as the good guys.

The more liberal-ish shows backpedal from outright bigotry by making a lot of the villains non-denominational Straight White Men trying to pin the blame on minority actors: A two-part episode of CASTLE involved Homeland Security, vaguely menacing Syrians, and a militia group comprised of ex-Special Forces types—which is far too much weight for a romantic comedy posing as a police procedural to reasonably carry. But in the end, New York City was saved from a nuclear explosion by troubled-but-hot Det. Kate Beckett who fights crime in high heels(!), and horny, goofy mystery writer Richard Castle who's in love with her literally yanking all the wires out of the bomb at once to defuse it! (Just remember, kiddies—Nathan Fillion's Plot Armor makes William Shatner's look anemic by comparison.)

But in the end, Cops are There to Protect You, Murder Will Out, and The System is Always Right—LAW & ORDER in all its incarnations has been drilling that into our heads for almost three decades now. I realize a part of this is because television drama requires the heroes to prevail in one sense or another all the time, but that narrative need also comes with culture baggage attached. In DEATH IN PARADISE's case, that baggage is in the form of a White Fish-Out-of-Water Detective Inspector from Scotland Yard....

Expand full comment