- Botswana: The Gem of Africa
- Anthony Minghella's No. 1 Film
- The Beat of Botswana
- The Making of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
- The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: Author's Diary
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: Season 1
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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
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To this day I can't read any of McCall Smith's books without seeing these faces, hearing their musical accents and picturing the complex beauty of Botswana. Truly a stellar achievement.
This BBC/HBO collaberation series is the same. At first I was thinking, hmmm, this is a little slow. But then, as I kept watching it, I realized that it isn't really slow, it is calm. Your office is ransacked - the way to deal with it isn't to run around accusing people. You observe and you wait. It's actually pretty Sherlock Holmes-y in that way.
The acting is excellent. The scripts are intelligent. The humor is great. When Precious Ramotswe hires a secretary, the efficient and prickly Grace Makutsi, she also needs a typewriter for said secretary. The resourceful JLB Matekoni brings in two manual typewriters. Each one has keys that don't work, but they are different keys. Later, the determined Grace explains how she can word her reports to get around the missing keys. And then we see her typing a report on one machine, taking the paper out and inserting it into the second machine, and resume typing, using only words the 2nd machine can type without misses. It takes longer to explain than it does to watch and appreciate.
The "mysteries" Precious solves are varied and interesting. No bodies, which is true of the books, too. But just because there aren't bodies in these mysteries, doesn't mean they don't need solving.
The feel of the series is very similar to "The Gods Must Be Crazy" films, and that's not surprising, as "The Gods Must Be Crazy" are supposed to take place in Botswana, also. However, the films were mainly filmed in South Africa, while "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" was actually filmed in Botswana.
In this DVD set, you get the feature-length pilot (109 minutes), originally aired in the U.S. in 2009, and six one-hour epiosodes. The quality of the series is a reflection of the people who created it. For example, Anthony Minghella (1996 Oscar for Best Director of "The English Patient") directed and co-produced the pilot. Minghella said this about filming in Botswana: "Particularly fascinating to me was working and filming in an African country where old and new are currently coexisting, where traditional values have not yet been eroded by the demands and efficiencies and neuroses of the modern. It was a privilege to be working on a film which celebrates what we can learn from Africa, and not what we think we can teach it."
Unfortunately, the U.S. ratings were poor, and HBO did not renew the series for a 2nd season. So this is all we get, and that is a shame.