No. 1 lady detective series?

Fri Mar 27, 2009 12:14pm EDT
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By Rebekah Kebede

NEW YORK (Reuters) - "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" is the first TV series on U.S. cable network HBO with an African female lead character, but don't expect to see much about the continent's crises and conflicts.

"Many outside writers, when writing about African countries concentrate on the bleak, and on what's wrong," said Alexander McCall Smith, the author of the best-selling novels of the same name that the series is based on.

"Obviously, there are problems in many of these sub-Saharan African countries, but there are positive aspects and this series celebrates that," he said.

The series' main character is Precious Ramotswe, the owner of Botswana's only, and thus No. 1, female-owned detective agency, played by Grammy winning R&B singer Jill Scott.

According to McCall Smith, the television series, like the novels it is based on, is not really about sleuth work.

"These books aren't really about detectives, they're just about the lives of this woman and her friends," McCall Smith said. "It's a very good vehicle for talking about society and lots of different people because all sorts of people are coming through the door with their problems."

Much of the action occurs out of Ramotswe's agency in a sleepy shopping center on the outskirts of Botswana's capital, Gaborone, giving a glimpse of Botswanan life, and providing a decidedly lighter feel from traditional edgy HBO dramas, such as "The Sopranos" and "The Wire."

Filmed in Botswana, the dialogue is peppered with words in Setswana, a local language, herds of cattle make frequent appearances on screen, and early on Ramotswe has an encounter with a crocodile.   Continued...

<p>Author Alexander McCall Smith (R) answers questions with (L to R) actress Jill Scott and executive producer Harvey Weinstein during the HBO panel for "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Los Angeles January 9, 2009. REUTERS/Phil McCarten</p>