No one was crying out for another police procedural, but BBC1 has gone ahead and produced one with bells on anyway. Last night the alleged comedian Ben Miller returned as DI Richard Poole, a briefcase-carrying English expat investigating crime on the fictional Caribbean island of Saint-Marie, in the second series of Death in Paradise.
DI Poole’s sidekick Camille (Sara Martins) has a French accent but never slips into her mother-tongue. Following sugar cane plantation owner Roger Seymour’s machete-in-the-back murder in the pre-credit expository bit of the show, Poole and Camille set about investigating the crime scene for clues. A policeman at the scene reliably informs them Seymour’s ancestors were slave-drivers, and he wasn’t exactly Dr. Schultz himself.*
There’s a lot of suspects, basically. So far, so Bizarro Midsomer Murders.
Chief among said suspects were Seymour’s alcoholic ex-wife, his strange nephew, his potentially gold-digging young partner, the farm worker he treated like a son and the doctor who conveniently discovered the body. It’s like a 21st century update of Cluedo devised by the writing team behind Emmerdale.
Since watching Sky 1’s police procedural parody A Touch of Cloth, I’ve found it hard to take this genre seriously. Death in Paradise never deviates from familiar tropes and there’s an inevitable, nay obligatory, scene at the police station involving Miller pointing a stick at mugshots of the suspects on a flipchart while explaining the plot to the viewer.
It’s odd seeing Miller play the straight man; he’s earned his stripes as a comic actor over the years in sitcoms like The Worst Week of My Life, yet in Death in Paradise Miller’s Poole maintains an uptight demeanor throughout. The will-they-won’t-they?-no-they-won’t-and-I-don’t-even-care-if-they-do sub-plot involving Poole and Camille hypothetically provides Miller with the opportunity to stretch his comic muscles but they remain unflexed, which is a shame, because the programme could do with one or two jokes.
Death in Paradise continues on BBC1 every Tuesday at 9PM.
*Is it too early to make a Django Unchained reference? Probably. All things considered, it’ll probably generate a few more hits for the article. Anyway, I’m referring to Christoph Waltz’s slave-freeing bounty hunter dentist in this instance.