Just over a year since it first premiered on BBC One, with all its lovely frocks, beards and mix of Scottish and North East accents, finally, FINALLY The Paradise is back. I know, I know, they kept us (me) waiting far too long. (Alright, it hasn't actually been all that long, but I'm still very excited).
As we re-join John Moray (Emun Elliot)’s lavish department store around a year later in real time, the man himself is distinctly absent, having been banished from the country by his now deceased landlord, Lord Glendenning (Patrick Malahide). Old flame Katherine Glendenning has inherited the shop, co-owning it with her new husband Tom Weston (Ben Daniels), leaving Miss Audrey (Sarah Lancashire) and Mr Dudley (Matthew McNulty) to run the show in their boss’ absence. Denise (Joanna Vanderham) is missing Moray rather a lot, but isn’t too sure where their relationship could be headed. In the meantime, she and old rival Clara (Sonya Cassidy) have become firm friends, and have been joined by new characters Susy (Katie Moore) and Myrtle (Lisa Millett), the foul mouthed new cook. Peter Wight’s Edmund Lovett, Denise’ uncle, still runs the little clothes shop across the road, and is still very much in love with Miss Audrey. Also in love are new kids on the block Susy and Fenton (Adrian Scarborough), but is he all he seems?
With so many new characters, not to mention the rose tinted setting of The Past, the nostalgia levels are as high as ever in The Paradise Series Two. There are elements of mild peril as already shady seeming character Tom Weston has plans to sell the shop to the highest bidder, and Katherine is being suspiciously, well, “nice”, as Denise aptly puts it. What are the two up to? How much does Katherine really know about her new husband’s plans? Only the rest of the series will tell. Again, as ever though, the levels of peril are only ever mild, as in swoops Moray in the nick of time, full of enough ideas and good old fashioned showmanship to save the day. His return means some rather sweet and 100% PG, if not U rated reunion scenes with his adorable bright spark, Denise, with Elliot and Vanderham playing the innocence and cutsey-ness for all it’s worth.
Clara, meanwhile, is just as canny as in Series One, although it’s surprisingly pleasing to watch her blossoming new friendship with Denise, as the two roll their eyes behind Miss Audrey’s back, and share suspicions about Katherine. Ben Daniels is a fabulously sneaky addition as Mr Weston a man with what seems to be rather a dark past, and Susy is a charming, if not altogether satisfactory replacement for good old Pauline (Ruby Bentall), whose friendship with Sam (Stephen Wight) will be sorely missed. Myrtle, the impertinent new kitchen worker, however, is a less welcome new character, as, despite being a new enemy for Miss Audrey to spar against, doesn’t really add anything too the show besides something of an irritation factor.
Despite a few gripes, though, it really is lovely to be back in The Paradise. Like Heartbeat before it, it goes perfectly with a Sunday night, a hot chocolate and an early night.
Next on, tonight, BBC One, 8pm.