The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

Season 1 Episode 0


Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Mar 23, 2008 on BBC

Episode Fan Reviews (3)

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out of 10
48 votes
  • A great pilot episode. Minghella's superb direction, the excellent performances and overall high production values make for an experience that wouldn't be out of place in cinemas.

    This pilot had a strange path to appearing on our television screens. It is based on, and shares its title with, Alexander McCall Smith's excellent series of books. The pilot's director Anthony Minghella (who unfortunately passed away after filming this episode) was a fan of the series from the off. Indeed he has a praising quote on the back of my paperback copy of the first book. Minghella began to develop the project as a feature film but felt that its gentle pace and small scale storytelling would work better on television. Thankfully Harvey Weinstein agreed and the project also got funding from reliable TV developers in the BBC and HBO.

    Like the books the series is set in Botswana and Minghella took the bold step of filming on location - making this the first production filmed in Botswana. His decision pays off in the luscious and emmersive visuals that Minghella has captured and the sense of place this lends is essential to the feel of the pilot.

    The cast is well put together and neatly sidestep the adaptation pitfall of jarring too much with the mental images of them I had already developed. To be honest Jill Scott has surplanted whatever picture I had of the titular detective I had when I first enjoyed the books. Scott is a Grammy Award winning singer with less accomplishments in acting but I feel certain Emmy's are on her horizon having enjoyed her performance here. She is ably supported by Lucian Msamati as mechanic JLB Matekoni, Anika Noni Rose as prim and proper Mma Matsuki and Desmond Dube as BK who will all continue as part of the starring cast. The pilot also features enjoyable performances accomplished stage actors like John Kani and David Oyelowo as subjects in Mma Ramotswe's investigations. Idris Elba (The Wire's Stringer Bell) also features as a menacing antagonist.

    The adaptation is nimbly handled by accomplished screenwriter Richard Curtis and he manages to weave together only some of the elements from the first book without making omissions (or indeed additions like BK) glaringly obvious. The title sequence is a joy to behold, like many HBO series and along with the music quickly sets the tone of the piece. I thoroughly enjoyed this pilot episode and recall being suitably excited when the BBC broadcast in Easter 2008 was followed by the announcement of a continuing series. Overall I felt the production was of such high quality that I would not have been surprised to see it in cinemas as Minghella originally envisioned. Ultimately I am happy it aired on the small screen as it means we will be able to enjoy an ongoing series that will be a fitting tribute to Minghella's excellent work.