Romance is always in stock at The Paradise, MASTERPIECE CLASSIC’s bewitching drama set in a spectacular Victorian-era department store, where ladies shop for suits and suitors. Based on Émile Zola’s groundbreaking novel, the seven-part series airs Sundays, October 6 through November 17 at 9 p.m on WOUB-TV.
A love story, mystery, social comedy, and fairy tale all in one, the lavish costume drama stars Joanna Vanderham (What Masie Knew) as Denise Lovett, a poor country girl who finds a job in a glittering retail palace called The Paradise. Emun Elliott (Game of Thrones) co-stars as John Moray, the handsome, enigmatic owner of the establishment, which is driving smaller shops out of business, including one run by Denise’s uncle, played by Peter Wright (Pride & Prejudice). Critics were delighted by The Paradise during its UK broadcast, calling it “irresistible” (Huffington Post UK), “escapism you can gorge on” (Metro), and “a nineteenth century Sex and the City” (Radio Times).
Also starring are Elaine Cassidy (A Room with a View) as Katherine Glendenning, Moray’s prime love interest; Patrick Malahide (Game of Thrones) as Katherine’s father, a calculating banker who can pull the plug on Moray at any time; Sarah Lancashire (Oliver Twist) as Miss Audrey, the imperious but endearing head of ladies wear; and David Hayman (The Hollow Crown) as Jonas, the sinister house detective, who sees and knows all, including the circumstances surrounding the mysterious death of Moray’s wife three years earlier.
The cast also features Ruby Bentall (Lost in Austen) and Sonya Cassidy (Endeavour) as Pauline and Clara, Denise’s carousing coworkers; Stephen Wight (Sherlock) as Sam, a charming young sales assistant; and Matthew McNulty (Cranford) as Dudley, Moray’s business partner and the voice of reason in the face of his friend’s unbridled ambitions.
The story opens with Denise’s arrival in a northern English city to help out her uncle, only to discover that he has no work for her. She lands a job across the street at The Paradise, thanks to a snap judgment by Moray that this modest young woman has retail potential—plus other interesting qualities. Before long, he is calling her “my little champion” in recognition of her preternatural gift for customer relations and marketing.
Naturally, complications abound—in the jealousy of the other staff for Denise; in the store’s never-ending battle to increase sales and pay off loans; in the disaster befalling Denise’s uncle and other tradesmen; in Moray’s reputation as a ladies’ man who has taken liberties with female employees; in the darkly hinted fate of Moray’s first wife, whose portrait hangs like a shrine in his office; and in his tempestuous relationship with Katherine, whose beauty, wealth, and infatuation with him make her the ideal candidate to become the second Mrs. Moray.
Then there are Denise’s own secrets. One she confides to Pauline: “I don’t want to marry Moray; I want to be him.”
The Paradise is inspired by Émile Zola’s story of the transformative powers of capitalism, Au Bonheur des dames (The Ladies’ Paradise).
Published in 1883, the novel describes an exciting innovation of the era: the modern department store, an engine of commerce that was sweeping out the old and ushering in a glorious new consumer age.