Tone evening, without anyone really noticing, The death in Paradise reached its 100th episode. Behind the scenes, the deeply uncool BBC series has recorded more installments than happy valley, Sherlock, Luther, Cracker And Main suspect put together. How was this television parody born? Why is such a vanilla production one of our longest-running crime dramas?
For a start, The death in Paradise is unfailingly popular. With an average of 8 million viewers, it was the second most watched British television series last year, behind the aforementioned series. happy valley – and the sixth most viewed program as a whole. Its new spin-off, Beyond paradise, was ranked eighth. Another branch, Return to paradise, lands later this year. Somehow the Paradise franchise has become one of the BBC’s biggest properties, exported to over 240 territories worldwide.
What is the secret to its enduring but slightly confusing appeal? Well, it’s both narratively and visually soothing. The Caribbean setting – filmed in Guadeloupe, with its palm-fringed beaches and turquoise sea – is an escape for the eyes. Set to be released during the dark British winter, it’s like dreamily leafing through a holiday brochure. Meanwhile, its plots are classic cozy crime. Each episode follows a familiar and reassuring formula. There is a murder. The local team investigates, led by an out-of-water British detective. The lead DI looks at his evidence board and has a flash of inspiration. He gathers all the suspects in a room, Poirot-style, to unmask the culprit, while the dastardly act is shown in flashback. The killer is taken away in handcuffs. Everyone goes to the beach bar to party. Roll credits and listen to a reggae-tinged theme song. It’s a detective novel with the satisfaction of a solved puzzle. The good guys win. The bad guys lose. Order is restored to the universe. Is it time to go to bed already?
Next to Traitors And Mr. Bates versus the Post Office – which made headlines for very different reasons – the TV phenomenon of the New Year was the Netflix adaptation of Harlan Coben’s film Fool me once. During the first week of 2024, the thriller led by Michelle Keegan was the most listened to show on any platform, recording record views. Netflix has duly given the green light to two more series from the author. These will join previous Coben creations on the streamer, such as The stranger, On And Stay close – all equally tense domestic melodramas, full of twists and turns.
GQ recently doubled the Coben universe “TV’s greasy takeaway”. You scroll, they catch your eye and you can’t help it. You gorge yourself greedily, then feel slightly dirty and guilty afterwards. Other examples include Reach, You, The Night Agent and that of Idris Elba Divert. Captivating, addictive shows that you become briefly obsessed with, then throw away and never think about again. Slate called it “cross-country television” – a level of popular but mediocre programming, below the rank of prestige box sets, with no cultural cachet. If such dramas are a takeaway, The death in Paradise is a televisual shepherd’s pie. Old-fashioned comfort food that combines nostalgia and nourishment. It’s in the same section of the small screen menu as Midsomer Murders And Vera. There’s a reason these shows tend to air on Sundays, when we’re craving low-maintenance fare at the end of a long week.
The death in Paradise is hearty and simple. A Charlie Bigham or Delia Smith dish, compared to the dopamine hit of a cheeky Deliveroo. There is room in our diet for both. Sometimes we need a quick solution. Other times we want something healthy and easy to digest. See you on the couch for the 100th episode, maybe with a shepherd’s pie on your lap.