I’m just going to say it: I despise Downton Abbey. I recognize that everyone and their mother is obsessed with this show, but I found it to be slow paced with unnecessarily lengthy episodes that I thought were never going to end. At the end of the day, you can set it in the Victorian era all you want, but a soap opera is still a soap opera.
In contrast, my wife and I have fallen in love with another BBC television program set in the Victorian age: The Paradise. Based on the classic French novel, Au Bonheur des Dames by Emile Zola, and set in Newcastle, England during the 1890s, this program follows the life of a wide-eyed country girl who takes a job working at one of England’s first department stores. This may not sound exciting (I didn’t think so at first, either), but in classic BBC style (remember those Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie specials?) the girl soon finds herself in the midst of an intriguing house full of secrets that keep everyone on their toes.
The beautiful Victorian costumes and set design will enchant you, watching the dynamics between the wealthy class and the working class as “shopping for pleasure” is first invented will fascinate you, the characters will steal your heart, and the deep, dark secrets that each character brings to the table will leave you intrigued.
And the best part is, from what I’ve seen so far The Paradise offers good, clean fun. Instead of stooping to becoming just another soap opera, this program is handled with class. It will transport you to a different time, where simply walking alone with a member of the opposite sex or the mere suggestion of a kiss is viewed as the height of impropriety.
So the next time you find yourself channel surfing, try a trip to The Paradise. You may just find the time you spend there refreshingly entertaining.