Paradise is in the past for TV programme makers

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GOING back in time seems a popular choice if you scan the TV listings.

That does not include ‘Red or Black?’ or ‘The X Factor’ whose makers should be serving time for serving up such rubbish for Saturday night viewing, whereas 24 hours later ITV gets plenty of brownie points with the third series of its star-studded costume drama ‘Downton Abbey’ which is now back in business after the horrors of the Great War and facing up the challenges of the “Roaring 20s.”

The BBC, not to be outdone, take the action back a few more years to the mid-1870s in ‘The Paradise’ (Tuesday), which sees ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ writer Bill Gallagher change the Parisian venue of Emile Zola’s novel ‘The Ladies’ Paradise’ to set up shop in Britain’s first department store in northern England.

This early retail therapy proves a heady mix for ambitious, country girl Denise (Joanna Vanderham) who is soon working at the store where she catches the eye of its flamboyant owner John Moray (Emun Elliott), something that does not escape the attention of her supervisor, Miss Audrey (Sarah Lancashire), who is head of ladieswear.

If the series looks a little rough and ready, despite its old-world charm, it maybe because the BBC rushed the transmission to beat ITV’s forthcoming ‘Mr Selfridge,’ which stars US actor Jeremy Piven as the American tycoon Harry Gordon Selfridge, who founded his flagship London store in 1909.

The programme, based on Lindy Woodhead’s book ‘Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge,’ has yet to be given a transmission date, unlike the small screen adaptation of John Braine’s trend-setting novel ‘Room at the Top,’ which finally makes it to BBC4 (Wednesday and Thursday) after being pulled from the schedules last year over TV rights.

Many will remember the 1959 movie with Laurence Harvey as the ambitious Yorkshireman Joe Lampton out to turn his back on his working class background and move up the social scale in affluent Warley, aspirations which are given a new edge by Matthew McNulty especially when he gets involved with unhappily married Alice Aisgill played by the ever-versatile Maxine Peake -- light years away from her role as the gormless Twink in ‘Dinnerladies.’

WORTH WATCHING

Who Do You Think You Are? -- Wednesday, BBC1. ‘Corrie’ legend William Roache uncovers some long-forgotten family history, including one about his grandmother who used to run a cafe at Alton Towers in the 1920-30s.

The Audience -- Thursday, Channel 4. Last of this short, weird series in which 50 strangers follow an office worker who wants to give up his job and go travelling.

Servants: The True Story of Life Below Stairs. First of a three-part series giving a more realistic view than that served up by ‘Downton Abbey’ gets underway with ‘Knowing Your Place,’ which often meant working all hours with very little time off.