Here in Australia, the ABC has begun running The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency on Sunday nights. I had never heard of the series. We watched it first because my wife had read and loved the books written by Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith.
The agency is located in Gaborone, capital of Botswana.
I knew a little of Botswana, including the fact that it was part of the Commonwealth of Nations and used to be called Bechuanaland. In retrospect, stamp collecting as a child in combination with the old Stanley Gibbons stamp catalogues gave me a remarkably good introduction to world geography and politics!
While I knew something of Botswana including the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS, I hadn't realised what a success story the country had been since gaining independence in 1966. At independence, it was one of the poorest countries in Africa. Today its population of a bit over two million has an average GDP (purchasing power parity) of $US14,800.
Mining and especially diamonds has been central to economic growth, but this wealth has been well managed over an extended period. Successive governments have placed great emphasis on education as the key investment for the future, with education taking up some 21 per cent of government spend.
The founder of The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency is a Motswana woman, Mma Precious Ramotswe, who features as the stories' protagonist and main detective. The episodic novels are as much about the adventures and foibles of different characters as they are about solving mysteries.
In 2007, work began on a film pilot based on the novels. Subsequently the BBC and HBO combined to produce six TV episodes. Both the pilot and the episodes themselves were completely filmed in Botswana. The BBC web site for the series is here.
I was surprised to discover that the series had not been extended because it failed to attract the required ratings. Coming to it cold with no preconceptions, I thought that that it was wonderful. I was also fascinated by the glimpses of Botswana life.
Reading the earlier criticisms, some reviewers complained that it was too episodic, too much cardboard cut-outs. I think that those criticisms completely missed the point. I found that the pilot and first episode created an internally consistent and completely entertaining world. I do recommend the series.
As noted in comments, I need to read the books! I thought that a comment from Barbara Albin should be repeated in full on the post itself.
Hi, I want to add to your comments. I have been trying in the United States to bring this series back for a second season for almost 3 years now. We had a modest 3,000 fans on FB and now we are at almost 29,000 fans thanks to many of you from Australia. The series is now in the hands of HBO, with I believe a little behind the scenes help from Cinechicks and Mr. Alexander McCall Smith. The cast is superb, led by Miss Jill Scott, Miss Anika Noni Rose, Mr. Lucian Msamati and Mr. Desmond Dube along with a great extended cast and crew. We need your help to convince HBO to make a second season. Please join us on http://www.facebook.com/#!/no1ladiesdetectiveagency and you can also email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for more shows. We need your help. Thank you, Barbara Soloski Albin
Please support Barbara.