After Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s The Pacific, HBO plans to bring three more original TV series to India – Bored to Death, Hung, and The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, in 2010.The most awaited is The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, a comedy drama series based on Alexander McCall Smith’s book series of the same name. Produced by the BBC in collaboration with HBO, the series focuses on the life and times of Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s first and only female detective. A side plot also plays up Mma Ramotswe’s courtship by her friend, the mechanic Mr. JLB Matekoni.
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency stars Grammy Award-winning singer/actress Jill Scott as Mma Ramotswe, theater actor Lucian Msamati as Mr. JLB Matekoni, Tony Award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose as assistant detective Mma Grace Makutsi, comedian Desmond Dube as BK (owner of the Last Chance Salon) and Idris Elba as Charlie Gotso, Mma Ramotswe’s rival.
British actor Paterson Joseph makes a recurring appearance as Cephas Buthulezi, a rival detective, while Vusi Kunene plays Gulubane. Tau Maseremule and Thabo Malema play Rra Matekoni’s young apprentices, Fanwell and Charlie.
Filmed on location in Botswana, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency was initially conceived as a film and not a TV adaptation. The TV series is the major production to be filmed in Botswana and the government there reportedly provided US$5 million funding for the series.
Production on the pilot began in July 2007 with Sydney Pollack and British director Anthony Minghella of Mirage Productions and Harvey Weinstein of The Weinstein Company as producers. The collaboration marks the Weinstein Company’s first foray into television. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is executive produced by Timothy Bricknell, Richard Curtis, Amy J. Moore and Bob and Harvey Weinstein.
In 2007, the producers signed a 10-year-lease for the Kgalewood, in Gaborone, where the set for the detective agency has been set up.
HBO began broadcasting the series in March 2009. In 2010, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency won a Peabody Award for the 2009 season.
Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is the story of the delightful and appealing Precious Ramotswe who becomes a detective “to help people with problems in their lives.” She opens shop in Gaborone and is immediately inundated with cases such as tracking down a missing husband, uncovering a con man, following an errant daughter and tracking a missing 11-year-old boy who may have been taken by witch doctors.
The first book in the series – 1998’s The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – received two Booker Judge’s Special Recommendations, and was followed by Tears of the Giraffe (2000), Morality for Beautiful Girls (2001), The Kalahari Typing School for Men (2002), The Full Cupboard of Life (2003), In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (2004), Blue Shoes and Happiness (2006), The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (2007), The Miracle at Speedy Motors (2008), Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (2009), and The Double Comfort Safari Club (2010).
Alexander McCall Smith declined to write the adaptation for TV, but remained involved as an adviser and visited the set during production.
Born in Zimbabwe, Alexander McCall Smith is a professor of medical law at the University of Edinburgh. His books include works on medical law, criminal law and philosophy, books for children, collections of short stories, and other novels. He has authored three other series – The Sunday Philosophy Club series, The von Igelfeld series, and The Scotland Street series.