A Load of Rooibos
The No1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is not my cup of tea, Rooibos or otherwise. And it seems most British TV critics felt much the same way. As Stephen Pile in The Telegraph put it…
The whole production was generous to a fault and the fault was this: it was like a blacked-up Vicar of Dibley. The characters were benign, one-dimensional eccentrics enveloped in prevailing sweetness. In a film written and made by white men about black people, it felt twee and patronising
The Vicar of Dibley, in my humble opinion, is a comic masterpiece. That aside, the books had no depth or suspense, were clumsily written and deeply tedious.
As an attempt to show a different side to Africa – compared to the normal one we see on TV or at the movies – then maybe it works. On a recent trip to Botswana I really did see a shop named “Really Nice Bakery”. It’s just that, as I sit in Khartoum on my way to Darfur on the day Zimbabwe goes to the polls and having left behind a country that may or may not have just ended two months of tribal killing, it’s not a side of Africa that I see very often.
Then again, would anyone complain that PG Wodehouse failed to paint a realistic portrait of Britain? Who doesn’t enjoy a good Miss Marple on the telly? As Max Hastings points out in The Daily Mail, “most of our favourite detective story characters inhabit fantasy worlds – Miss Marple in St. Mary Mead, Lord Peter Wimsey in London clubland, Inspector Morse in Oxford.”
For my money, The Last King of Scotland and Blood Diamond – two vastly different films – captured something close to the essence of parts of Africa. The No1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books don’t. But as a bit of diverting telly it’s probably quite good fun, although I won’t be watching it.