Last night's viewing - Death in Paradise, BBC1; Jamie's Great Britain, Channel 4

 

As soon as I've solved this case and got my luggage, I'll be on the next plane home," Richard Poole told his new colleague in Death in Paradise. "I can't think why they've sent me here." I've got an idea why, though. They've sent him there because the BBC wants something a bit Doc Martinish for Tuesday evenings, and it thought it would be a bit too obvious if it commissioned a drama about a grumpy, uptight doctor in a Cornish village.

So, instead, we've got a grumpy, uptight detective inspector on the Caribbean island of Sainte-Marie, where the locals look as if they'll be just as characterfully eccentric as the inhabitants of Port Wenn and the metropolitan prejudices of the newcomer are likely to be confounded in a virtually identical manner. One understands (with a sinking heart) that DI Poole is here to have his shirt unstuffed by easy-going types who appear – in their characterisation – just a whisker away from the sunny hedonists of the Lilt adverts.

Not that there's any real discrimination here, because everyone's a caricature in Death in Paradise, their essential qualities semaphored with a brutal simplicity. We know that Poole is a stickler because he makes appointments in digital time ("I'll call you at 6.01, Daphne") and we know that he's out of his comfort zone because he keeps going on and on about the temperature. We also know that he's not real, because despite wincing every time he looks at the sun, he doesn't even loosen his tie or take off his jacket, hardly a shocking breach of protocol if your luggage has been mislaid and you claim you're expiring because of the heat. Like the goat in the police cell (a genuinely condescending touch of local colour), Poole's buttoned-up demeanour is just a cipher flag.

The only rational explanation for his behaviour, in fact, would be that he's an idiot. But we know we can't just conclude that and have done with it, because he's the hero of a detective series, so it won't be long before he's staring sagaciously into the shrubbery and coming up with some brilliant aperçu. The mystery in this case involved a classic locked-room enigma, with a light sprinkling of other canonical detective plot devices (the clue hidden in plain sight, the law-enforcer who turns out to be a law-breaker) and it was worked through with a mechanical, box-ticking efficiency. We had one of those moments where a falsely accused suspect breaks down and blurts out her real secret ("No! I didn't kill him! I loved him!") and a final exposition that appeared to have been cut-and-pasted from a Poirot novel: "But in this case," announced Poole, "nothing has been what it seems."

 

What really irritates, though, is the apparent belief that nothing needs to make sense as long as it's notionally comic. The closing shot – in which we see Poole effortfully dragging his suitcase through the surf-line to the shack in which he's been billeted – is a good example. Since we've already seen him entering this building earlier, after being driven to the door in a police Land Rover, the only conclusion is that he's deliberately struggled down the beach in order to appear as awkwardly out of his depth as possible. It's a transparent fake, in other words, as beaded with sweat as Poole himself. It's at this point that someone will usually say, "Oh, come on. It's just a bit of undemanding fun." It isn't the programme that's undemanding, though. It's us and if we don't insist on more then we don't really deserve better.

Jamie's Great Britain offers a very different image of the British – not hidebound, anal and stuffy but with a magpie appetite for new experiences and new tastes. He trundles around the country in a reconditioned army van, revealing the cosmopolitan history of supposedly traditional dishes and cooking up his own variations. And, unlike Death in Paradise, it won't leave you with an overpowering feeling of dyspepsia.

 

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before