A new series of Death in Paradise started on TV tonight and just like last time I spent a whole hour wondering why I liked it so much when it contains everything I normally dislike about detective shows.
Each episode follows a formula, which is the same formula used in so many shows. It starts with a death which is either very obviously a murder or very quickly becomes one. The detective picks up on some small detail very early which he obsesses over and nobody else is very worried about. There is a small group of people connected with the deceased and one of them looks like a prime suspect and is possibly even accused and arrested at some point. Towards the end the detective sees some other tiny detail which makes him realise the significance of the earlier detail, at which point he gathers together all the people connected to the case and reveals the identity of the killer.
At this point the killer admits it, possibly throwing in some extra detail about motive.
It is a formula that has kept detective stories going since Agatha Christie and normally it annoys me to the extent that I avoid such things like the plague. Is it the novelty of seeing Danny John-Jules without cat fangs? Is it because Ben Miller is a very likeable actor? Is it just because it looks very good?
Whatever it is, I’m glad it is back. OK so the formulaic approach makes it unrealistic and predictable, but it is fiction rather than a fly-on-the-wall documentary. Real life can be dull and everything doesn’t always work out perfectly, which is why we like some sort of escapist element to our drama and fiction.
It occurs to me that maybe I am not as opposed to the strict formula as I thought. Maybe the reason I never enjoyed other shows so much is because I just didn’t like Miss Marple, Poirot, Mrs Murder-she-wrote and all the other.
Of course none of them compares to Sherlock Holmes but then what does?