It is costume drama for the sake of it, the kind of programme that will haunt us for years to come because of the success of Downton Abbey.
Everything must now be like that show. Everyone must now swish around in a costume or a frock coat. Before long, Huw Edwards will be presenting the news in a cravat and a top hat.
The series, which is loosely based on a French novel but has been moved to England, is set in the 19th century and is about a shopgirl called Denise who goes to work in a big fancy department store. Denise is plucky and strong and self-reliant. She says things like "I must work, I must earn a wage" and wherever she goes, the lighting is just right for her golden hair.
I have no idea if the character in the novel is like this; all I can say is the character in the script has been scooped clumsily from the pages of The Bunty annual or a Catherine Cookson book. Every feminist should cringe at the unoriginality of it.
Even worse, this cliche of a woman is surrounded by cartoon characters that even the writer of a Blackpool panto might think twice about. There is a cheeky scamp called Arthur, for instance, who chirpily parrots Dickensian pastiche.
"I know every face in here and every name 'n' all," he says. "I'm mighty good at thinking, me."
I would happily poison him. Denise's boss is just as bad. She is a bosomy, bossy character who is considerably less subtle than Mrs Slocombe from Are You Being Served? Every single thing she says is witless, like the most banal bus-stop chatter, which leaves the actress Sarah Lancashire to gurn and mug like Les Dawson in a dress. Not for a second does it feel real or likely, and not until the joyous relief of the end credits is it ever enjoyable.
The central problem is that The Paradise is trying to do another Downton but is doing it with an artless script, hatchet pacing, amateurish pseudo-feminism, panto characters and end-of-the-pier acting. And, besides, doing another costume drama because a costume drama has been a big hit is pointless; if you mine the same old seam again and again, eventually you will extract all the good and hit the muck and rubbish at the bottom.
And it's only the beginning. ITV is already making another costume drama set in a department store while, in TV production offices everywhere, producers are looking over their big-rimmed glasses and saying: "I love this idea but where are the corsets?"
I'm not suggesting there should be no more costume dramas, but television has to move the genre on; it has to put a twist on it in the way, for instance, The Crimson Petal And The White did last year. If it doesn't, we will be cursed with dramas like The Paradise, the kind of programme that makes me want to punch a passer-by; the kind that will be loved only by 13-year-old girls; the kind, sadly, that we are about to see a lot more of.
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