Death in Paradise series 4, Kris Marshall PREVIEW

Camille (SARA MARTINS), Humphrey (KRIS MARSHALL) Death in Paradise series 4
Camille (Sara Martins) and Humphrey (Kris Marshall) in Death in Paradise. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★½

BBC1: Thursdays, 9pm

Story: A surf instructor is shot dead and fingers start to point at those staying at Sandy Cove surf school…

A WHILE AGO The Guardian‘s TV blog ran a post entitled Death in Paradise: How on earth does this get so many viewers?

That is indeed a mystery far more perplexing than any murder in the series. It’s a comedy so light it barely raises a smile, it’s a grimly formulaic whodunit – ‘So, where were you all when you heard the shot’ – and the characters are all as bland as sand.

Even the Caribbean setting of Saint-Marie is fake, while the ersatz reggae version of You’re Wondering Now over the credits is predictable and annoying.

Simon Day plays suspect number one

Meanwhile, the investigations all feel rehashed from a million detective series past, and the old cliché

Charlie Beckett (SIMON DAY) in Death in Paradise
Simon Day as Charlie is in the frame

of having suspicious characters lurking in the background overhearing important plot points is borrowed from every soap on TV.

This week it’s Simon Day behind the palm tree earwigging in on DI Humphrey Goodman and DS Camille Bordey. He plays dodger geezer Charlie Beckett, the sleuths’ first suspect in the shooting of surf instructor Jake Peters.

Kris Marshall as Humph may be an acquired taste (having taken over from Ben Miller), but he has a decent go at playing the awkward Englishman. But even here the script over-eggs the role by having knocking things over and wearing odd socks.

Simon Day doesn’t get much chance to shine, while Danny John-Jules as Dwayne (a long way from the much sharper Red Dwarf here) joins in with most of the cast by playing his part so broadly he might as well be in pantomime.

So why do millions watch Death in Paradise?

Dwayne (DANNY JOHN-JULES)
Dwayne

Yet the last series regularly hit almost six-million viewers every week, taking an audience share in its slot of 25 percent. That is down from an eye-popping eight-million for series two, but those are still terrific figures.

So, who are the mystery millions who keep tuning in to Death in Your Armchair?

Clearly, a lot of people like looking at the sunshine and beaches. Why else would the Beeb shown it in the middle of January? It could be the Teletubbies investigating the crimes, but so long as the weather and scenery’s nice, it’s a winner.

In addition, there are many viewers who don’t want to see anything too bloody or distressing. Let’s face it, series such as The Missing and The Fall can be uncomfortable at times, whereas DiP features bloodless killings.

And finally, Death in Paradise is simply nice. If you’ve been watching EastEnders earlier on Thursday evenings, you’re probably desperate to see someone with a smile on their face again.

Cast: Kris Marshall DI Humphrey Goodman, Sara Martins DS Camille Bordey, Danny John-Jules Officer Dwayne Myers, Joséphine Jobert Officer Florence Cassell, Dean Lennox Kelly Jake Peters, Claire Goose Katie Peters, Hetti Bywater Jess Chambers, Will Mellor Karl Slater, Joel Fry Steve Taylor, Simon Day Charlie Beckett, Don Warrington Selwyn

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