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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Detective > Drama > Comedy > Africa > The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – The Complete First Season (2008 – 2009/HBO DVD)

The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – The Complete First Season (2008 – 2009/HBO DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Episodes: B



In some small but important way, detective shows about people have returned.  After an endless series of cold, colorless, formulaic, scientific detective shows that all seem the same and are rarely memorable, real writing and character development have returned.  Following shows like Monk and House M.D., we have another series as excellent, strong and smart.  Based on Alexander McCall Smith’s successful series of novels, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is now a TV series from HBO and what an impressive show it is.


The singer Jill Scott (whose hit song Golden is among her great records) is amazing as Precious Ramotswe, a young lady in some pain over a marriage to a bad man, has a supportive father and always dreamed of being a detective to make the world around her better.  Living in Botswana, a city in South Africa thriving post-Apartheid due to a discovery of some of the best diamond deposits in the world, she loses her father to bad health.


Her “husband” is also gone (for now) and in all this, she decides to start her own detective agency.  Precious will open the first female detective agency and decides to pretty much name it that.  Cases are slow to start, but helping her out is Grace Makutsi (Anika Noni Rose, who was so good in the film of Dreamgirls, gives another winning performance), a very efficient, smart, well-spoken young lady who wants to help make the agency a success.


Precious has to deal with sexism, her past, much pain and how to build a future that is uncertain, but it turns out her father was correct in telling her she has formidable detective skills and soon, she will need them because they will help her out beyond her work far more than she will ever know.



As one of their final great acts before leaving us before they should have, Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack co-produced this show with HBO, The BBC and The Weinsteins, while Minghella directed the pilot episode.  The remaining six episodes are also as well made with great writing, casting, acting, directing and the kind of chemistry we rarely see on TV anymore.  Scott transforms herself into Precious and with Rose’s secretary, become one of the best detective teams in years.


Of course, it is also a character study of them, the people and the place in what is a very special show worthy of the best detective television all the way to classic like Columbo.  Yes, I could imagine this alternating on the NBC Mystery Movie seamlessly.


This is on its way to becoming one of the great TV series and is highly recommended.



The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 image has its moments with its location shooting, but also has more softness throughout than expected.  However, some of it may very well be the limits of DVD, so this is not the final word on how this is shot.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is lively and always well-mixed with a good soundfield and balance between the well-recorded dialogue and music (including Gabriel Yared’s score) better than many films.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is also good, but the 5.1 is preferred.  Wish it had DTS.


Extras include four making of featurettes (Botswana: The Gem Of Africa, Anthony Minghella’s No. 1 Film, The Beat Of Botswana, an outright making of piece) and Author’s Diary segments about the making of each show.


Can’t wait for the next season!



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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