I am not typically a fan of dramas that spin around the struggle of the classes or that rely on them for humor, broad or satiric. It is a mindset I just don’t typically appreciate when it is done as the main focus and on a fairly shallow surface. For me, most of the Austin ouvre as well as such massive hits as Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey leave me bored and/or frustrated with the characters and situations. On the other hand, when it is only part of what is going on it can work well. Gosford Park is brilliant, as is Foyle’s War, just to name a couple where the layer of class struggle only adds to the story.
Paradise surprised me and caught me up. It is more of Austen meets Dickens in its construction, which is still not a huge seller for me; it certainly has the feeling of a classic soap opera focused on class. However, it is more than that. Not only does it incorporate the world of fashion and business (the rise of the department store) it takes on women’s rights and even intra-class struggles. While the strata of society absolutely influence the entire plot, the reaction to that pressure is one of counter pressure or even judo (using the force against itself) rather than playing into it all. And, perhaps, this is what allowed me to settle in and enjoy the run.
Emun Elliot (Lip Service, Prometheus, Game of Thrones) stars opposite relative newcomer Joanna Vanderham and they become the axis about which the tale unfolds.They are supported by a slew of recognizable faces both new [McNulty (Misfits), Stephen Wight (Sherlock)] and established [Lancashire (Candleford), Peter Wight (Party Animals, Life on Mars), Hayman (Hollow Crown, Burke and Hare, Walking Dead), Malahide (Game of Thrones, Hunted)] that populate the world with color and substance.
I have to admit, that I was more intrigued by the first half of the run rather than the latter half, though that still had enough moments to keep me coming back. During the first half, Vanderham’s character, Denise, is one of power and fascination, but during the second half she devolves into a more standard type. If you enjoy any of the series or movies mentioned above, you will be happy to invest for the 8 episodes of this story. Had they stuck to their guns in the first half, I think I would have like it even more, myself.