Emile Zola’s cautiously optimistic social commentary on the mass culture leviathan of the industrial age, the luxurious department store, Au Bonheur Des Dames, is the basis of the historical drama, The Paradise. Guess which part of that description the BBC executives focussed on.
By the time they released the series collection it seems they (or at least the marketers) realised they’d not created an adaptation of Zola’s novel, but an economically lavish costume drama. Although the title cards of each episode claim the show is based on ‘a novel by Emile Zola,’ scouring the series' DVD packaging I can find no reference to Zola, his novel, or that this is an adaptation at all. Probably for the best. The reason, in the modern entertainment landscape, to superficially adapt a property is to have inbuilt name recognition. Call me condescending, but I don’t believe many Britishers or Americans have knowledge of 19th century French literature, much less a knowledge of Emile Zola. ‘Adapted from a novel by Emile Zola’ sells far less than does ‘19th century costume drama.’