No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (DVD)
The lead hails from the U.S. and the creators come from the U.K., but The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
celebrates Botswana, "the finest place on God's Earth," as surely as a woman’s intuition. In his final directorial effort, Anthony Minghella joins forces with producer/co-writer Richard Curtis for the pilot, in which Precious Ramotswe (Grammy-winning singer Jill Scott) makes her debut. After her father dies, Mma Ramotswe sells his cows and opens an agency, because she "wants to do good." So, the "traditionally built woman" (in the words of Anthony McCall Smith, who wrote nine books about her) leases the old Gabarone post office, hires hyper-efficient secretary Grace Makutsi (Anika Noni Rose, Dreamgirls
), and gets down to business.
With sassy hairdresser BK (Desmond Dube) and smitten mechanic JLB Matekoni (Lucian Msamati) cheering her on, Mma Ramotswe becomes a combination detective/feminist icon, sharing "endless cups of red bush tea" with her clients, encouraging women to take charge of their lives, and tackling tricky cases involving missing persons, duplicitous daddies, dangerous dentists, and unfaithful spouses (MI-5's David Oyelowo plays one of them). Produced for the BBC/HBO and filmed in Africa, the first season eschews gunplay and profanity for a fresh take on the small-town mystery series. Like Agatha Christie's Marple, but with fewer dead bodies, Mma Ramotswe depends more on her wits than technology.
In his author's diaries, McCall Smith reveals that "Minghella had long wanted to film my novels." Tim Fywell and Charles Sturridge (Brideshead Revisited) handle the remaining six episodes, while other distinguished guests include Prime Suspect's Colin Salmon as Ramotswe's ne'er-do-well ex-husband and Emmy nominee CCH Pounder as a mother searching for a lost son. Why Rose, who turns on a dime between comedy and tragedy, didn't also receive Emmy recognition, however, is the show's real mystery. --Kathleen C. Fennessy