Kay: Whitstable Pearl


Kerry Godliman as Pearl Nolan in Whitstable Pearl

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m a fan of mysteries, both to read and to watch on TV. Now that I subscribe to the Acorn channel, which showcases television primarily from the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but also from other EU countries, as well, I’m just about as happy as a pig in mud. There’s always something good on!

Not every show is to my taste, of course. Gore is not my thing. Neither torture, nor blood, nor death by beatings shall cross my eyeballs. And I get bored by too much cuteness. Everything else, though, is pretty much my catnip.

Last night I finished binging a new series called Whitstable Pearl. The series is adapted from the novels by Julie Wassmer, emphasis on adapted. I haven’t read the novels, but evidently they’re “cozies.” (Cue tea shops and cats.) But the producers hired a Norwegian guy, Øystein Karlsen, to adapt the books, asking him to make them grittier. And what is the result? Cozy Scandi noir. I kid you not. This is what they’re calling it.

Lest you think I’m panning this show, let me set the record straight: Overall, I liked it. I liked the eponymous lead, Pearl Nolan, a sympathetic character whose only child is heading off to university soon. She owns a restaurant in Whitstable that I’d like to go to and has a side hustle solving problems for the locals, which she is equipped to do because of the police training she received when she was younger, a career that was derailed when she got pregnant.

She runs into a morose DCI recently transferred from London after the death of his wife less than a year before. Gruff and off-putting does not begin to describe this guy, but he takes Pearl seriously and they work together when their issues intersect, Pearl providing the local lore and connections and Inspector McGuire providing the police resources as needed.

So…the storylines were good, the writing was good, the characters were interesting, the acting was well done, and here’s the part I didn’t like.

There are six episodes to the first season (and of course, there might not be a second). Mike McGuire and Pearl Nolan get to know each other, then there’s some sympathy, and they hit it off. Which is kind of a miracle because McGuire really is a sad sack. The poor guy was crazy in love with his wife, and she died so recently; of what, we never learn. But he weeps in two episodes looking at her picture.

Nonetheless, there’s a spark with Pearl. They decided to go for a drink (“it’s not a date”), but he stands her up. He’s late to another social gathering. He has no friends. He turns everybody off. He won’t even say hello to people on the street who greet him.

But by episode three he and Pearl clearly have a sexual tension, by episode four they kiss passionately, in episode five he enrages her, and in episode six she tells him “not to wait” for her because she needs more time. And so he walks away, and thus ends Season One.

I thought this was really screwed up.

First off, they kissed too soon. The spark came too soon because of the dead wife, and they kissed too soon, both for what would happen in real life and for what happens in the show. And then Pearl gets mad and doesn’t forgive him for being what he is—and I totally get her point, but still—so they basically “break up.” If they ever were “together,” which I think anyone watching would agree that they were, at least at the start of a romantic relationship.

This series was shot in 2021, and if there is a second season, it probably won’t come out until 2022. If it does, I’ll probably give it another chance. But I’m aggravated how they ended this season. Cozy Scandi noir? They lost me at Scandi.

Have any of you watched this show? What do you think? Or have you seen or read something else that advanced the romance too soon or without sufficient buildup? Did you get over it?

10 thoughts on “Kay: Whitstable Pearl

  1. That show sounds like it has potential, Kay, but I almost want to wait to hear if there is a Season Two (and what they do with the characters in it) before adding this to my watch list. It definitely sounds like there were some missteps with the relationship building / sexual tension. And that “he walks away” at the end of Season One sounds like a manipulative plot device, intended to get watchers to want the show to continue.

    I do love the thought of “Cozy Scandi noir” though. That seems like a crazy combination with some truly entertaining potential.

    As for stories that have advanced the romance too soon or without sufficient buildup, I know I’ve encountered many, though of course I can’t remember a single one. Obviously those stories aren’t the ones that made it to my “keeper shelf.” On the other side, there have been stories that dragged out the romance/buildup so long that the characters really didn’t seem like they belonged together (I’m looking at you, Bones).

    • Isn’t Cozy Scandi noir a hoot? Who thinks up those things? and yes, Bones. I finally gave up on that one, but it sure must have put the children of those actors through college and then some.

  2. I have Acorn but I hadn’t run across this one yet. And, like Elizabeth, I’ll probably wait to see if it gets renewed before investing.

    My two favorites are Brokenwood Mysteries (NZ) and Old Dogs, which is about a division of the London Metro police comprised of retired detectives. It manages to be funny, intriguing and occasionally touching.

  3. I love those two shows! I whipped through season 7 of Brokenwood Mysteries in record time, and I thought, generally speaking, the writers outdid themselves. Better storylines, more depth, more everything. I like the new guy, too. I hope they keep it up. Or make the seasons longer, or something. I like Old Dogs, too, which comes on reruns on my antenna TV, which is when I usually watch it. Now that you mention it, though, I could look it up and catch all the episodes I’ve missed, which, I’m sure, are many.

  4. As you know, I’m not really into detectives or TV shows–but Mr. W is. Earlier this week he enlivened our daily walk with a rant about fictional detectives and why the male protagonists always have to be sad sacks with dead wives, messy addictions, and failed careers. One takeaway–if you are dating a policeman who’s crazy in love with you–for both your sakes, don’t marry him. Within the year you’ll be dead and he’ll self-destruct.

    Mr. W did suggest that you might enjoy Wycliffe, set in Cornwall, based on WJ Burley’s novels.

    • LOL! Mr. W is dead right about the sad sack male protagonists with the dead wives and failed careers, and his takeaway on avoiding such is advice I’ll take to heart. Also his advice about Wycliffe. I just started a three-season British show called “Janet King,” which he might be familiar with. So far I’m two episodes in on the first season, and it’s okay so far, but I’m wary. If it fails to impress as I watch episode three tonight, I’m switching to Wycliffe. I have found Mr. W’s suggestions to be spot-on so far. Thanks!

  5. If you’re a Jack Irish fan, the last series is showing now in Australia.

    Considering that they filmed most of it during the long winter lockdown in Melbourne last year, the occasional crowded street scene is disconcerting, although in some ways it must have made things easier!

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