A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this series based on the popular book series by Alexander McCall Smith is much milder than most HBO fare. Although it touches on mature themes like women's movement away from "traditional" working roles, the repercussions of disease in African populations, domestic abuse, and crime, the overall tone is light and often humorous, and there's little strong language, drinking, or violence. That said, there are a few tense moments, and the main character sometimes makes questionable decisions that could have dire real-life consequences (for example, inviting a strange man home so she can prove his infidelity).
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What's the story?
Based on the popular novels by Alexander McCall Smith, THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY follows the goings on at Botswana's first (and therefore best) female-run detective business. When her beloved father dies and leaves her 180 cows -- a veritable fortune -- Precious Ramotswe (Jill Scott) decides it's time to follow her dream, so she sells the herd and sets out for the city of Gaborone to hang out her shingle as a solver of mysteries. While her charisma wins over everyone she meets -- including her rigid secretary, Mma Makutsi (Anika Noni Rose), and the local mechanic, JLB Matekoni (Lucian Msamati) -- it's Precious' common-sense knack for observing human nature that turns her into an effective, empathetic gumshoe.
Is it any good?
It's always a leap of faith to transfer popular books to the movie or TV screen, since they risk losing a certain artful quality. But nervous fans of Smith's delightful novels can breathe easier knowing that this series has charm to spare and does the books proud. Scott is an absolute delight as the passionate, undaunted Precious, and the supporting players -- each one as talented and appealing as the next -- draw viewers into the rhythms of Botswanan culture.
The episodes' storylines touch on themes that might start fans' wheels turning, including women's struggles to break out of "traditional" working roles, domestic violence, and the repercussions of disease on the African population. Though the show somewhat glosses over some of these serious issues, it's understandable in context of the series' mostly lighthearted nature. Teens and up will enjoy the lyrical dialogue and endearing characters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes this show different from other HBO series. Do you like it more or less than their other shows? Do you miss the swearing, sex, and violence typical of many of their other series?
Teens: How realistic do you think this portrayal of Botswana and its people is? What do you think Botswanans would think of it? What, if anything, did you learn about African culture from the movie?
How does the story portray African women? In what ways are they different from American women? Is Precious a good role model?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love strong female characters
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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