Rarely has this writer, even in the guise of critic, thought it wise to promote a product without immersing the recommendation in a cleansing bath of context. A pleasing exhibition? Look at the history, the economy that produced the work. A fine restaurant? Look at the economy, the history that … .
Yes, I know. But the result need not be hortatory or didactic, and may be at least a bit more defensible than writing long-form blurbs.
Except in this case. I want you to watch a new HBO series, period. It’s rich with detail, tells charming stories — and has all the context anyone would require. Jill Scott stars as Botswana’s Mma Precious Ramotswe, founder of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (she beat Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Queen Latifah and many others for the role).
The first two episodes match the easy pace, heightened sense of place — filmed entirely in Botswana — and deceptive simplicity of the books upon which they are based, an immensely popular series by Alexander McCall Smith. Here’s what I wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer when one of those books came out, and so far, the new version confirms my praise:
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