Monday, October 19, 2009

No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency

My bookclub read The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency last month, and since I enjoyed the book so much I decided to check out the HBO/BBC series based on it.

Set it Botswana, the show (and book) are about Precious Ramotswe, a woman who opens a detective agency in her hometown. Seeing how she is a lady, she decides to name her agency the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. She faces a lot of laughter and strange looks at first, as detectives aren't common in Botswana and female detectives even less so, but she manages to win most people over with her best quality: competence.

So many shows (especially crime procedurals) have characters that rely on technology or some quirky knowledge to investigate and solve mysteries. It's so refreshing to see a woman who can get the job done just by keeping her eyes open and using common sense. Precious isn't flashy, she's a large African woman who is smart, spunky, and wise. It may be lame to say that she just exudes an aura of competence, but it's really the best way I can describe her. If she takes your case, you can bet she'll solve it. She's a real person, not perfect, but just...wonderful.

The show is filmed in Botswana, with all the accompanying beautiful scenery. And as someone who doesn't know anything about life in modern Africa, it's fascinating to see how similar and different the problems faced by everyday people are. Women still suspect their husbands of cheating, fathers are still concerned that their teenage daughters are seeing boys, and children still get kidnapped by witch doctors who include their finger bones in hex bags. Ok, so maybe that one might be a unique problem, but that's part of what makes the show so interesting.

Precious is surrounded by fun and caring people, inlcuding her Secretary (who scored a 97% at Botswana Secretarial school), the gay hairdresser next door, and a local car mechanic who has had his eye on her for a while. Each one feels like a real person, fleshed out with their own problems. But they all care about Precious and help her with cases in their own way.

The first season is available on DVD, and while I'm not sure if a second season is in the works, it's a charming, beautiful show about a woman who is determined to make her own way.

Botswana, represent!

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