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The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency--bright, colorful, feel-good

Updated on September 18, 2014
ecogranny profile image

Feel-good movie, historical fantasy novel, or an eclectic library of music, Kathryn goes for entertainment that inspires and invigorates

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is available on DVD
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is available on DVD | Source

This show makes television fun again

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is a bold, bright, colorful HBO series my sweetheart and I just could not get enough of. The only thing we didn't like about this series: It ended way too soon. Here are all the things we loved about it.

If you enjoy detective stories and are tired of the same old blood, guts, chase scenes and violence we're fed day in and day out on U.S. and British television, you just might enjoy this brief one-season interlude with a fascinating crew, absorbing tales and gorgeous location.

We sure did. In fact, we recently watched the series a second time. This one's definitely a keeper.

The stories intrigue and entertain without resorting to gore, violence and obligatory chase scenes

Yes, bad stuff happens to people, sometimes really bad stuff, but newly minted private investigator Precious Ramotswe is up to the task.

With common sense, good humor, physical and mental strength, she finds lost souls, heals wounds, and wounds heels where it counts the most.

The first of two seasons is available here on DVD

How i would love to have Precious Ramotswe's wardrobe

Precious wears traditional dresses in bold, bright colors and patterns. Her dresses grace her large body in flares and folds that accentuate her pear-shaped physique and make her round curves all the more voluptuous.

Designer Jo Katsaras traveled to Africa where the fabrics and colors inspired her to design authentic costumes. The New York Times, in its series, "The Emmys | The Clothes Make the Show," gives us a glimpse here: Jo Katsaras: "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency".

The main character is a woman of size in body as well as brains

Precious, played by American actress Jill Scott, who is also a Grammy award winner, is no skinny-minnie blonde who needs a male cohort to save her behind when the going gets tough.

Wearing fantastically bold and beautiful dresses and headdresses made of African shwe shwe cotton, Precious flaunts her "traditional shape," as confident in her beauty as in her strength. Plus-size rules!

Not only is Precious a real woman of substance, she is funny, with an ever positive outlook on life and human nature, witty when she needs to be, savvy and wise all of the time.

The supporting characters are just quirky enough to exasperate and endear

From the diminutive, kind, and immediately smitten garage owner who tows Precious's car through the lonely desert night, to the prim, proud, petticoat-clad secretary for whom so much is starkly black and white, to the flamboyantly gay hairdresser next door, little bits of their lives, woven seamlessly into the stories, keep us watching for the next tidbit that helps us understand and love them that much more.

Gabarone, Botswana:
Gaborone, Botswana

get directions

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency was filmed on location in Botswana, bringing the first film crew ever to this tiny, troubled country

Filmed on location, despite all the odds

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is filmed on location, where the sun seems nearly always to shine, but where few film crews have dared to turn on the lights.

For an armchair traveler like me, it is sheer delight to see the sets and the countryside of a land I have little hope ever to visit.

What is most striking, apart from the seemingly unrelenting sunshine and heat, are the bright colors. Every landscape, house, wall and fabric shouts with vibrant, soul-stirring color.

Equally delicious, the music. Everywhere is music, from the a capella notes of African singers at the funeral of Precious's father, to the haunting saxophone of her abusive ex-husband, to the lilting cadence of South African English. All is as delightful to the ear as to the eye.

For an insider's look at the actors, the sets and how the location made it into the film, read David Gritten's account in The Telegraph, On Set Report: No1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

The filmmakers address important social issues of our time

Domestic violence, AIDS, child abuse, drug trafficking--the filmmakers touch on these and more just heavily enough and lightly enough to inform us without ever losing sight of the fact their primary objective is to entertain. That takes amazing skill.

Touching on a such heavy issues, while transcending borders, literally and figuratively, the stories raise our awareness and understanding without any of that self-conscious inclusion one sometimes feels when painful issues are brought to a story.

Each episode quickly captures and holds our attention

My sweetheart and I sigh audibly when we realize we've come to the end of an episode.

Thank heavens for fast-forward buttons. We're soon past the credits and queuing up for the next tale. If only they had filmed more seasons!

Watch the trailer

Take a couple of minutes to watch the trailer for The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, meet the characters, and see what you think.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Book 1)
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Book 1)

Download the Kindle version and read the first in this series right now!


Compare the books to the television series

This is the first of fifteen (so far) books in Alexander McCall Smith's series, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. It reads as smoothly as Precious Ramotswe talks, but I'd like to hear how you think it compares to the TV series.

For years, I passed these books by on bookshelves in bookstores, thinking a white man could not possibly write about Africa or a woman detective with any deep knowledge. Boy was I mistaken.

Born in Rhodesia, before it became Zimbabwe, Smith's portrayal of modern-day African life rings true because he has lived it. How he writes with such feminine sensibility, I do not know, but he captures the heart of Precious Ramotswe so beautifully that we all fall in love with her, right along with him.

I've watched the television series twice now, and I'm sure after another year or two, I'll want to see it again. Sheer, enjoyable entertainment, that. Before I get back to it a third time, though, I intend to read all the books in the series. What about you? Have you seen the series or read the books?

Watch for the 2nd season on DVD!

In 2009, the BBC aired a second season of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, which is every bit as vibrant as the first. Available on Netflix now, I'll post a link to the DVD here when it becomes available.

© 2014 Kathryn Grace

Intrigued? Have you seen or do you think you would like to see The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency? What do you think of it?

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    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      4 years ago from San Francisco

      Let me know whether you enjoy it as much as we do. I keep hoping they'll produce more of them.

    • poetryman6969 profile image


      4 years ago

      I may need to check this one out.

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      4 years ago from San Francisco

      @esmonaco If you watch it, do let me know if you found it as intriguing and fun as I did.

      @RinchenChodron, a fan then! I suspect you will enjoy Jill Scott's portrayal of Precious Ramotswe as much as I do.

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 

      4 years ago from Lakewood New York

      I've never seen this series, but it does sound like something I would really enjoy. Thanks :)

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Did know it was a film or video - but I have read several in this series of books and enjoyed them immensely!

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      4 years ago from San Francisco

      @SheilaMilne: I'd like to know more about your experience and what fascinates you about him. Perhaps a lens?

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      4 years ago from San Francisco

      @Tim Bader: Totally agree with you, Tim. A good writer can make everyday life fascinating, don't you think?

    • Scott A Butler profile image

      Scott A. Butler 

      4 years ago from England

      I have never seen this, but I remember hearing about it before.

      It sounds very interesting. Thank you for sharing! :)

    • SheilaMilne profile image


      4 years ago from Kent, UK

      I have to admit I don't know what HBO is but I love Alexander McCall Smith's Botswana stories. I was lucky enough to hear him talk, a few years ago now. A fascinating man.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 

      4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      I didn't even know there was a show, but love the books. Precious is lovely, usually such a lady! I'll have to check it out on HBO to compare. Enjoyed your review!

    • Tim Bader profile image

      Tim Bader 

      4 years ago from Surrey, UK

      I've only seen a couple of this series, but I agree with everything you've said about them.

      My wife reads all the books and then tells me about them, so I feel I know Precious too!

      It's lovely to see something a bit more "genteel" in the genre and yet still be full of character.

      Just goes to show that you don't need blood and guts to make good TV.

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 

      4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      really sounds like something I'd enjoy - your review has piqued my interest!

    • Corrinna-Johnson profile image

      Corrinna Johnson 

      4 years ago from BC, Canada

      I have never heard of it, but I will have to check it out. Sounds interesting and fun!

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      4 years ago from San Francisco

      @PAINTDRIPS: Oh oh. Did I forget there was another agency, or did it not come up in the series? I'll find out soon, because I'm putting it back in our Netflix queue. Thanks for mentioning that.

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      4 years ago from San Francisco

      @SheGetsCreative: Yippee! Thank you.

    • ecogranny profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Grace 

      4 years ago from San Francisco

      @SusanDeppner: Yay! Thanks so much for being the first to visit this page.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      4 years ago from Fresno CA

      I love this show. I have seen a few episodes but mostly I have read the books. Very charming characters and I just love the whole cultural emersion into Botswana. Shows what a woman can do in a man's world. Also according to the book there was another detective agency (run by a man) who tried to discredit our heroine but didn't get very far because she is just too smart for him.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 

      4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Good job on the review - definitely need to check this one out. Pinned and added to my FB page

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Sounds like a series I'd check out!


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