No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

Have you seen this HBO show? I’m totally smitten…

I was ready to give up HBO after the Big Love season ended, and switch over to Showtime, where I can catch up with Dexter, The Tudors and Weeds. Then I watched this original HBO show- The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Yeah, it’s a mouthful. And I was skeptical about watching. I didn’t know what to expect since a) it takes place in Botswana, b) I knew nothing about the cast and c) I don’t like detective shows.

I should have known better. I know nothing about Botswana, but once I heard the music, I was hooked. I love Paul Simon’s Graceland with Ladysmith Black Mambazo. African music stirs something in me. Then, when I heard Jill Scott (who plays Precious Ramotswe) sing at her father’s funeral, I decided to continue watching as well as download her songs onto my iPod.

No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is based on the books by Alexander McCall Smith. Mma Precious Ramotswe opens the country’s first and only female-owned Detective Agency in Gaboron after her beloved father dies and leaves her many head of cattle. He taught her as a youngster to be observant and patient, and to follow her dreams- all the things that make up a good detective. She opens her agency in what is the US equivalent of a strip mall and with the help of her new secretary Grace Makutsi (played by Anika Noni Rose) and her gay hairdresser neighbor BK (played by Desmond Dube) and the clients start slowly coming in.

So what makes this show worth watching?

  1. Jill Scott. She is beautiful to watch. She is so expressive, but in the slow, easy way of Africa. She is a “classical shaped” woman which is appreciated in her country. Her character often pokes fun of her own largeness, but she exudes a sexiness and self confidence that is refreshing in this MTV anorexic world. Her relationship with JLB Matekoni (played by Lucian Msamati) is totally sweet.
  2. The scenery. It’s filmed entirely in Botswana showcasing the middle class and their struggles to grow and prosper. They use locals as extras and existing locales as sets. The colors and people are vibrant, interesting and beautiful. And the wildlife (chickens, goats, giraffes) live comfortably on their doorsteps.
  3. The politeness of the people. I love how they greet each other with “Dumela, Mma” for a woman or “Dumela, Rra” for a man. Instead of saying “miss” or “sir” it’s “mma” or “rra.” When greeting someone, one waits for a detailed response to the question “how are you?” In NY, when you ask how someone is, do you really care? They do. They’re genuine. They’ll also offer you a cup of tea or a cold drink on a hot day. Supposedly, they are a very friendly people.
  4. The cases. CSI this isn’t. There are no bodies and very little violence. Cheating husbands, dating daughters, stolen cars and a bad dentist are more the speed of the clientele at this agency. But they assign them Nancy Drew-type names and manage to solve them all.
  5. The humor. Subtle and easy humor. Self-depreciating and honest humor.
  6. The accents. Okay, I admit the first time I watched this I had to rewind a few times to get what they were saying. But after awhile, I was able to get into the patter and rhythm of the African dialect.
  7. The cast.

I just finished watching the sixth episode, which happens to be the season finale. Already? Six episodes? They’re all On Demand, along with the author’s “journals”- a behind the scenes look at his inspiration and the execution of this little gem of a show.

So watch, eh Mma?

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