The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency TV Poster Image

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency



Exceptional series based on loved books is great for teens.
  • Network: HBO
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2009

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The series emphasizes the importance of family, friendship, and community. Precious is almost always motivated to help her clients out of a sense of morality and duty rather than financial gain. The show also exposes viewers to music, dance, language, and other aspects of Botswanan culture. It does briefly explore some complex issues like domestic violence, the disparity between Christian ideals and "traditional" beliefs in African culture, and women's changing role in the workplace.

Positive role models

Precious is a charming, self-confident, highly moralistic woman who's undaunted by the task of blazing a new trail and taking on challenges. That said, she also sometimes goes to questionable lengths to solve her mysteries, including inviting a strange man home to set him up to get evidence of his infidelity and tracking down a missing boy despite the abductor's threats against her and her friends. She also often misrepresents herself to gather information for cases. One male character is portrayed as obviously gay, though references to his sexuality are limited to a woman's comment that "That man is very much like a woman."


Not much is shown, but there's mention of past domestic abuse (Precious lost a baby after her ex-husband beat her), and a boy is abducted and held captive by a group that threatens bodily harm to anyone interfering in the matter. Some episodes involve things like attempted poisonings and investigation of past murders. A few threatening animals.


Some mild flirting throughout, and lots of talk about relationships between men and women. One scene in an early episode features heavy sexual innuendo when a man picks up a woman in a bar and she invites him home, where they share a passionate (albeit brief) kiss.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A few brief instances of adults drinking in social situations.

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).

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.

Families can talk 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?

TV details

Premiere date:March 29, 2009
Cast:Anika Noni Rose, Jill Scott, Lucian Msamati
TV rating:TV-PG
Available on:DVD

This review of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Simple crime drama is tame by today's standards.
  • Light crime procedural offers less violence than CSI.
  • Witty crime drama too highbrow for most kids.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent of a 11 year old Written byScienceIn August 31, 2012

TV loses Nothing!

This is the perfect example of how characters make the story, not gimmicks, props, weapons, or special effects. The power is in the way the story is written, thanks to McCall Smith. And in the fabulous way the series was cast. My MATURE 11 year old boy LOVED it. Literally laughed out loud and was drawn in by the characters.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Educator and Parent of a 14 and 18+ year old Written byleatherwood September 10, 2010

Kindness and caring

Our family loved this brilliant series! It shows real life at a pace we are no longer used to. Also shows how big a difference small things can make to others. It's all about kindness and caring.
What other families should know
Great messages
Teen, 13 years old Written byearthgurl July 5, 2010

Great family show!

I love this! The cases are very interesting. My mom read the books and she likes them too!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages