Ben-Hur Redux – TV Miniseries Announced

In today’s www.cynopsis.com online newsletter (March 30, 2009)

One of the original movie posters for the 1959 film. The first film version of Ben Hur was silent and released in 1925. These were all based on "Ben Hur: a Tale of the Christ" by Lew Wallace, 1880.

One of the original movie posters for the 1959 film. The first film version of Ben Hur was silent and released in 1925. These were all based on "Ben Hur: a Tale of the Christ" by Lew Wallace, 1880.

 

 

ABC brings out the sandals, chariots and gladiators in a new miniseries version of Ben Hur, per Variety. The four-hour miniseries, from Alchemy Television Group and Spain’s Drimtim Entertainment, is being shopped at MIPTV this week. This new version of Ben Hur is executive produced by David Wyler, son of William Wyler who executive produced the 1959 Oscar-winning motion picture about the rebel hero in ancient Rome. Alchemy’s Simon Vaughan and Drimtim’s Roger Corbi will also executive produce. Production on the $22.5 million project is scheduled to begin this May in Spain, though ABC has not yet set an air date. Other co-production partners include ABC, Canada’s Muse Entertainment and the CBC, Morocco’s Zak Productions, Spain ‘s Antenna 3 and Germany’s Akkord Films and Pro Seiben.

From Sr. Rose: What would make this new miniseries stand out would be if they used all the characters and story lines from Wallace’s novel (much like the Charlton Heston version of Robert Bolt’s play “A Man for All Seasons” in 1988. Heston directed and acted in the play; see Internet Movie Database for more info on that production. The 1966 Oscar-winning version of the film left out a character that provided a deeper dimension and understanding of the issues that sent Sir Thomas More to his death. Heston’s version restored that character … to great effect I thought. I had put off watching the video (not sure you can find it any more) back then because I didn’t want anything to tarnish my admiration for the Paul Scofield as Thomas. But if you ever get a chance to see Heston in the role of Thomas More, be sure to see it.

In Wallace’s novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, if I recall well, Balthazar’s daughter plays a key role and complicates the plot to good effect making the ending very different from that of William Wyler’s 1959 film (but no less virtuous).

The big question is, how can anyone ever repeat the chariot race?

“Knowing” the Movie – An Interview with Ryne Pearson, Screenwriter

knowing_l200808221757 

Ryne Pearson’s story Knowing swept the box office last weekend and set the blogosphere on fire with chat about what the movie means. Ryne developed the original story and is one of four writers who scripted the film. In my interview with him this morning, he gave generous praise to his co-writers Juliette Snowden, Stiles White and Stuart Hazeldine.

 

Despite initial disparaging reviews, Knowing seems to have caught the popular imagination and the popular religious imagination as well.

 

Knowing tells the story of an MIT professor played by Nicholas Cage who has lost his wife and wonders, with his young son, if there is a hereafter. He sets up a dualistic scenario for his class: either all is determined, that is, set in place and happening according to a plan or everything is just random. When a 50 year-old time capsule is opened and a page of numbers written by a strange little girl discovered, John begins to analyze the numerical sequences. All of them add up to natural and man-made disasters that occurred over the past five decades and three more are predicted. John thinks he can intervene and stop the events and realizes that the universe is bigger, so much bigger, than he.

 

My major criticism of the film is that the main actors and “heroes”, if you will, are all white people. And of course, everything is focused on the United States, though the story and action encompasses the whole world, the universe and all possible universes in creation.

 

Australian Alex Proyas (I, Robot) directed – and did an excellent job. The film is so good it could have been made by M. Knight Shyamalan in his heyday of The Sixth Sense and Signs.

 

What fascinated me about Knowing are all the visual biblical motifs, especially from the apocalyptic books of the Bible, from Daniel (especially chapter 4), and the book of Revelation: trees, stones, the cosmos, water, light, the sun.

 

Another aspect of the film that I appreciate very much is that it treats the end of the world without fear. John’s father is a pastor and John has not spoken to him for a long, long time. As the film nears its conclusion, John calls his father, Rev. Koestler (Alan Hopgood)  and warns him to find shelter, fast! Go deep underground! Because a disaster is coming…. But his dad tells him that if it is his time to go, he is ready; he is not afraid. The pastor’s belief in the next life is profound and filled with peace. And he quietly says to John, “I am ready. Are you?”

 

Rather than the “Left Behind” or Plymouth Brethren approach to the end of the world that is based on the belief that one is afraid of God and what may come. Or afraid that God may willy-nilly pass over a person, no matter how faithful that person has tried to be, because he is not included in the “numbers” that are “saved”, Knowing seems characterized more by Catholic or mainstream Protestant theological sensibilities here – even if this was not intended. The “end” will indeed come for each of us when we die; and when we die, God will be with us. The thing is: to be ready, to live a life knowing, believing in life after death. The new heavens and a new earth will come about, but because of love, not because of fear.

 

Ryne Pearson is a screenwriter and a practicing Catholic who went to public school and attended CCD (catechism classes). He married into a large Irish Catholic family and his wife’s two uncles are priests, one of whom is Father Austin Doran, pastor of our Lady of Grace church in Encino, and the other is Father Brian Doran at Holy Angels Church of the Deaf.  Ryan, his wife and two children are active in their parish, St. Emydius in Lynwood, CA.

 

I had the opportunity to interview Ryne this morning.

ryne_headshot1

 

Sr. Rose:  Did you go into this to write a religious story, or one with a rather explicit theological dimension?

 

Ryne Pearson: I approached this not as a message movie or anything like that. The idea came to me in the form of a question: if you know that something everything is going to end, doesn’t this change the framework of how you look at your life? How you live your life? Change the questions? You cannot help but think that there is something bigger – and there are no atheists in a fox hole.

 

SR: So this is more of a movie about existential questions?

 

RP:  In the original script John had lost his wife and he had the question: what if her death was predicted and if I had found it sooner I could have stopped it? It was a small film that focused on John’s journey of dealing with death and the questions it raises.

 

SR: So, how is the final film different from your original story?

 

RP: My original story was on a much smaller scale but the director, Alex Proyas, made it an epic and spectacle and raised the stakes of the questions for John because bigger things are going on than his own world.

 

SR: The production notes mention that one or two of the actors think the environment and human responsibility for the end of the world is a key theme; do you agree?

 

RP: The good thing about the way the film turned out is that people can read different things in it, and make meaning according to their own lives, experiences, and beliefs. Take the ending, for example, I did not write that, but it worked out; Alex Proyas is responsible for this.

 

SR: I see you are a novelist, that you wrote Simple Simon, the book on which the 1998 film Mercury Rising is based.  What are your other credits?

 

RP:  You know, in this business 90-98% of scripts don’t move beyond being written or even optioned. You also can work on a lot of projects and not receive credit. I worked on The Day Earth Stood Still (2008) and The Eye and I am finishing my sixth novel.

  

SR: Tell me about the rabbits in the movie; what did these mean?

 

RP: As a writer you finish a script, you hand it in and you move on. I didn’t write in the rabbits. And I don’t want to interpret the film for anyone, but it could be saying that there is a relationship between people and the animal world, all of creation. Someone else could read it as life going on in a new way. My own interpretation is that it is like Noah who had a pair of all the animals on the ark; they went on two by two. There is hope; life will go on.

 

SR: What is your response to the way the film is being received?

 

RP: I didn’t see the finished version until opening day and I was really pleased. Even after a week’s worth of Cage-hate from critics, including his hair,  I had a feeling it would do well.  Box office is one thing, but no one anticipated the discussion about this move and as a writer you can’t ask for something like this – real interest and people talking about your film. Also, people see different things. When my wife and I came out of the theater she commented on the “wings” on the characters that seem like aliens; I hadn’t even noticed the wings! All that was Alex’s doing.

 

SR: I think the art direction may garner some awards – the “wings” demonstrate this. But what are the blogs saying?

 

RP: One exchange really made me laugh and appreciate that people can get so much out of a film. One person wrote: “If those creatures were angels, then they didn’t need a spaceship because angels don’t have bodies!” And someone replied, “Yes, but those were two little kids who had bodies and they would need a spaceship to travel!”

 

SR: At its heart, isn’t this a movie about the inevitability of death, about not being afraid to die, that God is present, provident and caring? That there is a purpose to life: love, family and that we will be together again, forever?

 

RP: Sure. But my favorite part of the movie is when John returns to his father and says as they reconcile, “I know it’s not the end.”

 

SR:  This film really seems to be about the great existential questions about death.

 

RP: Sometimes there is that view that Hollywood movies won’t go all the way to the question of what happens after death, or when creation is spent what might happen or exist. Here the movie goes there. At the end of this film there would be nothing left, so you had to use the characters and their perspectives. The audience is free to take the view of the character: to deny or be angry or be unsure – or to believe.

 

SR: I saw the film with my associate, Sr. Hosea. We hadn’t noticed the rating before going, but she thought it might be an “R” while I held out for a “PG-13” because there was no language, sex, or bad language. There was great peril, however.

 

RP: I think the blood and language has a lot to do with the MPAA rating, but this is a very, very intense movie that probably ws on the line between PG-13 and R. The airplane crash was especially intense.

 

SR: One of my favorite interview questions is: How do you keep your core in the entertainment industry?

 

RP:  To be honest I look at being a screenwriter as a job. And my family is important to me. I am very fortunate to have this job as a writer because it allows me to work at home and be close to my family. But, you know, the most fun job I ever had was as a plumber (laughing). I got to crawl around under houses and get all dirty.

 

SR: But you love writing.

 

RP: Some think Hollywood people aren’t very deep, and maybe some are not. But I love this job but I get to interact with a lot of smart people and very nice people as well.

 

SR: Do you have a favorite saint?

 

RP: It would have to be St. Patrick because of my family and it was the day my son was supposed to be born – but he waited two more days instead and was born on St. Joseph’s day!

 

SR: What’s your favorite book?

 

RP: As a writer my favorite book is not about how to write but On Writing (2000) by Stephen King. It’s about being a writer.

 

stephen20king20on20writing1

On Writing by Stephen King Amazon

Easter (and Pauline themes) in Memorable DVD’s

Juliette Binoche in the 2000 "Chocolat"

Juliette Binoche in the 2000 "Chocolat"

Celebration magazine recently published my article “St. Paul Goes to the Movies at Easter”. Here is an abridged version now available online:

Easter in Memorable DVD\’s

 Celebration magazine is the liturgical resource of the National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company.

Lou Gossett, Jr. Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from Catholics in Media

Louis Gossett, Jr.

Louis Gossett, Jr.

 It was an honor for me to interview Lou Gossett, Jr. about receiving the CIMA Lifetime Achievement Award:

Sr. Rose: What are your thoughts about receiving the CIMA lifetime achievement award?

Lou Gossett, Jr: This is a very gratifying moment for me and I am humbled by this award. You never know when what you do in the arts means something to people and you never really know if you’ve been received well. So it is humbling and I am grateful

SR: You are known for your philanthropic activities including the work of the Eracism Foundation (www.EracismFoundation.org). How does this project influence your work in Hollywood, in how various races, cultures and religions are represented on screen?

LG: Other races and cultures have been underrepresented in the past because of history, the way things were. But there is a strong spiritual shift happening in this industry because of technology and because everyone knows what everyone else is doing. Now everyone can see, can know. I think this spiritual shift is shown in the election of our president. People who never voted before, voted. There’s something happening.

SR: How does this spiritual shift make a difference in everyday life? 

LG: There are beautiful words in the Bible and in our pledges and the Declaration of Independence. But there is a gap between our prayers, pledges, and life; there are prayers in the Bible, and guidelines in all these things, stronger than our own ways of thinking and acting. All this “teaching” has been written for us, with all our flaws and gifts, for our improvement, to change the world. And each generation can grow from these teachings. But it is our duty to improve the condition of the planet and our lives, to act the way we believe. 

SR: So you are talking about parenting?

LG: Yes, but this is all our responsibility. Mentoring and loving of our children, not with negatives but with positives. We hand on our history knowing that we can be different now.

When children mature they can take responsibility. And that gap between teaching and acting on that belief in God and humanity, is bridged by reflection, prayer and by making a personal inventory of our lives on a daily basis, and growing in a relationship with God. To rely on someone stronger than ourselves, to know our roots. Like when Kunta Kinte (Roots) was born and lifted up they said: “Behold, the only thing greater than yourself: God.”

In whatever way you believe in God, this Higher Power, this is a path to God. I believe the gift of acting is a gift from God, my oath to God, and I want to make sure on a daily basis that it is honed and deeply spiritual…. I want to believe that the audience believes that my acting comes from this special place.

Race relations are only part of life. Creating a spiritual being at a younger age, to be responsible for our children, beginning with parents and including the whole community, we need to find ways to show children how to resolve conflicts. That it becomes automatic to do things well, to live well. 

I think God asks us to promise to replenish the planet and to pay 100% attention to our young, so that they will develop character and a good conscience. Our neighborhoods have deteriorated because of racism. But the people who have survived, who have been persecuted, have to come up with a spiritual and moral response to make neighborhoods safe and a good place to invest in. I believe the positive is stronger than the negative.

You know, on Inauguration night, I was watching the returns with Cicely Tyson (The autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman). When Obama was announced as the winner, I had to catch her. She collapsed. And we realized that all the atrocities, all the things that had happened to our people were over.

SR: You said before that you think there is a change in the entertainment industry.

LG: More than before, I believe there is good news in the movies, that we in this industry have received an invitation to move to the next level, telling stories that matter.

SR: You have eight projects, according to the IMDB, in various stages of production, out of a lifetime of 158 films. Of your body of work, what role or film was the most important for you?

LG: Enemy Mine (1985), directed by Wolfgang Petersen, is the most meaningful film for me. It’s a science fiction film where I play Jeriba, a “Drac” or reptilian humanoid, on another planet that is 80% aquatic. A human named Willis Davidge, played by Dennis Quaid, crashes on my planet. In the film my philosophy was so pure that it prevailed over Davidge’s values and beliefs. It is a very poignant story about enemies needing each other so they can both survive. And of course, Roots (1977), remains one of my favorite roles.

My latest film just premiered at the Palm Springs Film Festival in January: The Least among You. It is the true story about a young man who was unwittingly involved in the Watts riots, was jailed, and went on to become the first African-American to break the color barrier at an all-white seminary.  It also starts William Devane and Lauren Holly. This is a story that is very close to my heart.

SR: How do you keep your “core” your best self, in this business?

LG: It’s tough, but it is getting easier. You need a thick skin to withstand rejection, a lot of rejection, and a thin skin to stay sensitive. It’s spiritual and moral work being in this industry.

SR: When you get to the pearly gates, what do you think the Lord will say to you?

LG: (Laughing) I would hope that he will let me in, for the first thing. And that’s enough. I think I am trying to do what I was put on this planet to do, and so when I get to the pearly gates, that’s it! That’s enough! What a sigh of relief that is going to be.

cima2

Mark Derwin (The Secret Life of the American Teenager) to host CIMA Awards

Mark Derwin is George Juergens in ABCFamily's "The Secret Life of the American Teenager"

Mark Derwin is George Juergens in ABCFamily's "The Secret Life of the American Teenager"

 Mark Derwin will host the Catholics in Media Awards (www.catholicsinmedia.org) this Sunday, March 29, at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I had the privilege of interviewing him in February:

 Sr Rose: What was your response to being tapped to be the MC for the CIMA awards?

Mark Derwin:  This is quite an honor. I have never done anything like this and it is very nice to be thought of for an event like this. I think of myself as a working actor and this kind of thing seems to be for someone else.

SR: Tell us about your family.

MD: I am an actor from an Irish Catholic family. I grew up about an hour north of New York City. My parents are from Roscommon and Westmead, Ireland. I grew up with a brother and sister. We lost my brother in 1994; he was my best friend. It was devastating for all of us and is something I will never get over.

My family always went to church. To be honest, sometimes I went just to meet a girl and one time it took me two years to get up the courage to ask out one girl I had met at church!

SR: What about your faith? What does going to church mean to you?

MD: The spirituality I have from going to church, to Mass, gives my life balance. I feel like a better man when I leave. And I don’t always leave feeling “in a great place” spiritually. But I leave knowing I have given back a little to God; an hour a week is not a lot to ask for all that God has given me.

SR: How do you keep your “center” in this business?

MD: You have to take your ego out of it and get into the business of acting for the right reason. I just want to work. Celebrity has never been my way. And I have plenty of reasons to be grateful and humble.

My dad was ill for most of my life and mom did most of our raising. I was not a good student. I eked by in high school. I was not emotionally prepared for college and got kicked out

I worked hard as a carpenter for eight years. It was a difficult time. I knew there was more to life but didn’t know what it was or what I really wanted to do. I came to Los Angeles in 1987 and fell into this business by chance. I didn’t know anyone so I listened and paid attention.

I have never forgotten the ditches I dug or the houses I built. Every time I walk into a store I thank God that I am able to buy this food.

Any rewards from acting have been great but I take it with a grain of salt. I had plenty of years of not having money and I was always careful. The thing is, for me, to stay humble I remember my roots, and what’s important in life.

Actors often have trouble finding their center. But we are all blessed to be able to do any work in this business. Anyone can get a job, let’s see if you can get a second job; this is where acting is a challenge. Reputation is a lot in this business and being dependable and hardworking is important. But no business gives people more second changes than Hollywood, except the Catholic Church that is very forgiving….

SR: I remember you from Life with Bonnie

MD: Bonnie Hunt is a very centered woman. She and co-star Marianne Muellerleile are still friends and pretty well grounded friends, too.

SR: How are things with The Secret Life of the American Teenager?

MD: At first we wondered: is this an ABC Family show? And as the show progressed we realized that “Yes, it is.” Every episode ends with a poignant moment, sometimes the situation is difficult but the show leaves you wanting more. On the show we have discussed the unwed teen character’s Amy Juergens (Shailene Woodley) her baby, adoption, what’s the impact on the audience, or the audience response to the dilemmas. Brenda Hampton (the creator of 7th Heaven, too), is so aware of the different opinions about the storylines and how the story will be perceived. My character of the dad, George Juergens, well, I am having the most fun as an actor because I am unfiltered; I get to play against type because this guy makes big mistakes. He lies and cheats on his wife. But they let me bring in some comedy and quirkiness to my role. I think the show is wonderful. It seems controversial because it deals with teens and sex, and the consequences, but this is the way life is, the way things are. Positive things can come out of a challenging storyline like this. People write and tell us how much they love it

Even though the subject matter is tough, it tries to convey the realistic message that being smart about sex, abstaining from sex is important. Characters very fleshed out. Yes, there are different views. I love this job and I am excited to be on this show even though it may be perceived as challenging or controversial. The Secret Life of the American Teenager stirs up important conversations between kids and their parents and this is a very good thing. If through the story we can convince even one teen from making a mistake then this makes it worth it. On the show, we think we do influence young men and women in a positive way.  Brenda Hampton has three adopted children, and adopted pets, and she cares about her family and her extended family, us. I am so impressed by her writing, especially her overall awareness of where the story and consequences are going; how the show is perceived by her audience and how the characters move forward. The show is entertaining and thoughtful and it is an honor to be part of it.

 cima1

Without a Trace to Receive CIMA Award

 without-a-trace

The  Catholics in Media Awards will be given out this Sunday, March 29, 2009 at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

The Catholics in Media Award

I had a wonderful opportunity to interview executive producers Greg Walker and Jan Nash who will be present to receive the award:

Sr. Rose: I have a friend who said that your show, from the very beginning reminded her of the Good Shepherd, looking for the lost ….

Greg Walker: Jan and I came on the show after the first episode and we have always operated from the premise of the characters looking to try to find a spiritual center (emotional/intellectual) on each episode…Our FBI guys deal with lost souls and need to bring them back into the fold….

We were always puzzled, or challenged, by who would do the job in terms of the FBI looking for the lost in each episode, and what would happen when they would lose, or get lost in their own lives.

And the premise for each episode is that Jack Malone (Anthony LaPaglia) is a “hope junkie.”

SR: We in CIMA have been talking about Without a Trace for years and in fact gave the show a commendation early on and it is always on our recommended list. But do you know which episode really decided us? “The Miracle Worker” on January 14, 2009.

GW: We thought it was that one! It was a special episode. The characters want good outcomes. This idea has guided how the agents exist within the show since the beginning. And even when the outcomes are not positive, that the story show that the loss will not have been in vain.

Jan [Nash], with her background in spirituality, well, she really is able to bring much depth to the stories. In the world of story-telling there are so many that can end in any way possible, but we strive to achieve a balance in our stories to let the audience go to sleep at 11:00pm!

SR: Jan, I am intrigued. Can you share with us something about your spiritual background?

Jan Nash:  I am a big fan of God… a big, big fan…. I grew up in a Baptist household in Wheaton, IL. God, spirituality, has always been a big part of my life. Without a Trace is a terrific vehicle to inject spiritual questions into people’s daily life and work. We are interested in what really matters to people.

SR: Without a Trace is in its 7th season. What does this mean to you?

GW: Without a Trace is of those shows where you have the freedom to chart a personal journey for the missing person, and if it can center on a human and spiritual relationship it provides a framework for people, characters to strive to do what is right.

SR: Greg, what is your spiritual background?

GW: My perspective comes more from education about social justice. I went to Bellarmine, a Jesuit High School in Santa Jose, CA. My wife and children are Catholic as well. And this is important to us.

SR: So, what was your first reaction to learning of the Catholics in Media Award?

GW: If we had nominated an Emmy I wouldn’t have been as proud as seeing the letter in my inbox. There are a few priest teachers in Bellarmine High School in San Jose who will be happy to learn of this award! More than anything I am overwhelmed at receiving this award, this acknowledgement. It felt to me like the honor I was always seeking that I didn’t know existed.

JN: My first reaction was: An award? What for? Here we are in our 7th season, operating under the radar, doing jobs we enjoy which is a source of great satisfaction. So to me, winning this award is unexpected, delightful and it caught us by surprise.

SR: Going back to “Without a Trace” and to another episode from Season 2 with Hector Elizondo playing a priest, an episode I have never, ever been able to forget, you treat the themes of spiritual darkness with such reverence and respect.

GW: Jan wrote that episode called “Revelations” in Season 2 and it’s great that you remember it so well. But going back to “The Miracle Worker”, when we, with the director Paul McCrane, and the team of writers, can access big emotions early on, and here it was about ten minutes in when the first emotional break happens in the montage of people praying, it can turn out really well.

And our FBI agents do make fun of the weeping statue at the beginning. But at the end, when Jack brings his prayer on a little piece of paper and tucks it under the statue, well, that was a strong emotional moment.

JN: TV is a lot of people rowing in the same direction, and when they do, you get some great stories.. The idea for “The Miracle Worker” came from one of our staff writers. We have nine other colleagues who write and figure out how this episode – and all of them – work.

GW: It takes a long, long time; you need to have a lot of people in the room. This episode went through at least ten different incarnations before it was finished. The director gets a lot of the credit.

JN: One of the other great things about being in TV is that there is a short time between writing and producing the show and it being on TV, and it is there week in and week out and is a show that people watch. Well, this gives us a lot of satisfaction as story-tellers. We hear stories about how people respond so positively to the show and we get a lot of validation when this happens.

THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY

no-1-ladies

Fans of the nine-part series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith will enjoy this two-hour premiere (pilot episode) on HBO on March 29.  The premiere will be followed by six or seven episodes (though it is not clear if the series will air right away or pick up in June.)

The series tells the story of Mma Precious Ramotswe (Jill Scott). When her beloved father dies, she sells the valuable cattle he has bequeathed her and opens a detective agency in Botswana. Precious hires a quirky recent graduate from the local secretarial school, Mma Makutsi (Anika Noni Rose)  and makes the acquaintance of  garage mechanic JLB Matekoni (Lucian Msamati) who becomes her very proper suitor.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film/pilot episode of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. It follows the original novel well and is beautifully filmed.

Though it is kind of sad to think that this was director Anthony Minghella’s final project as well as that of  executive producer Sydney Pollack (both passed away in 2008), the series is a fine testimony and finale to their work.

Precious lets it be known that she wants to use the time and gifts that God has given her to do good. She also has personal demons to deal with and lessons to learn along the way. For a televison movie made by men, based on books written by a man (only author Smith, of European descent, was born and lived in Africa ),  it has a keen womanly sensibility to it. 

The actors are well-chosen. The ensemble cast is made up of American and African actors and to me the Americans are quite credible at least to the extent that they mirror their literary characters so well. Whether or not their accents are authentic or their behavior consistent, I will have to leave that to the good people of Botswana to judge.

Richard Curtis, Amy J. Moore, Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein were also executive producers for the series which was produced originally for the BBC.

Wikipedia offers more information; seems to have been posted by someone from the UK who has seen several episodes:

The No. 1 Ladies\’ Detective Agency

This is a series you can just … enjoy. It has color, originality, community and family values, and lots of heart.