women’s empowerment: the no. 1 ladies detective agency

“I am just a tiny person in Africa, but there is a place for me, and for everybody, to sit down on this earth and touch it and call it their own.”

THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY is a television comedy/drama/mystery series produced by the BBC and HBO. It is based on a best-selling series of novels of the same name written by Alexander McCall Smith. 

Created by Richard Curtis and Anthony Minghella, it was written by Richard Curtis, Nicholas Wright, and Robert Jones, and directed by Anthony Minghella, Charles Sturridge, and Tim Fywell. 

The series stars Jill Scott, Anika Noni Rose, and Lucian Msamati and had such guest stars as Idris Elba, David Oyelowo, and Colin Salmon. The show was filmed on location in Botswana and the majority of the crew were locals. 

Anika Noni Rose, Jill Scott, Lucian Msamati – The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency


JILL SCOTT as Mma Precious Ramotswe

ANIKA NONI ROSE as Grace Makutsi



MOSAKO MOGARA as Wellington

Mma Precious Ramotswe is described as being cheerful and sensible. When her father dies his sensible daughter sells the cattle she inherited, receives a tidy sum, and then goes and opens the only female private detective agency in the country of Botswana. Grace Makutsi is hired as her assistant. She graduated Botswana Secretarial College with a 97% in her final exams – which she mentions several times. Together the two of them – along with their friends – solve problems big and small using Precious’ mail-order how to be a detective manual and a lot of wisdom, heart, kindness, compassion, and of course lots and lots of red-bush tea. 

  • The television series THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY is based on a series of best-selling books by Alexander McCall Smith.
  • When cast the lead actresses in this series were better known as singers than actors. Jill Scott was a Grammy-winning R&B singer and Anika Noni Rose won a Tony Award for the Musical Broadway show CAROLINE, OR CHANGE.
  • Jill Scott won the role of Precious Ramotswe over Whoopi Goldberg, Queen Latifah, Oprah Winfrey, and 18 African women also considered for the role. 
  • Jill Scott was required to put on weight In order to match the description of Precious Ramotswe. In the process she noticed she had gained seven pounds in just one week. That is both disturbing and dangerous. The day before leaving for Botswana she discovered she was pregnant. She finished filming the season before returning to the United States and giving birth to her son. 
  • Idris Elba, David Oyelowo, and Colin Salmon all appear in the pilot/first episode.
  • THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY won a Peabody Award in 2010. 
  •  What turned into the pilot was originally conceived as a theatrical feature film. 
  • Jill Scott got the part of Precious Ramotswe two weeks before production began. 
  • The government of Botswana provided five million dollars of funding for the show. 
  • The pilot premiered on the BBC on 23 March 2008. The series premiered on the BBC on 15 March 2009. 


  • The only thing that I dislike, intensely, is that there is only one season of this show. This is despite it being popular, critically acclaimed and award winning. HBO did not renew the show for a second season. In 2011 they said they might continue the show as two or more standalone films. But then the following years they announced they would not move ahead with the project. Hollywood knows how to screw things up. That is the one constant in the universe. 


  • I’m not sure if we have enough time for me to list all the things that I love about this show. Let’s start with the cast. Jill Scott as Precious is amazing! You can believe she grew up on a ranch. You can believe she learned how to be a detective mail order. You can also believe she has a heart of gold and a backbone of steel. All done with a smile and that smile can melt an iceberg.

Oh my God! When we first meet Anika Noni Rose she is so annoying. Then we learn her truth – which is a spoiler involving her brother and at that point she stops being annoying and you fall in love with her. 

Lucian Msamati is every man and any man. He is the one you identify with the most – until he gets himself in trouble. Then you back away and see what happens. 

Desmond Dube is the comic relief and is hilarious at it and Mosako Mogara is the little boy Wellington. Like every child actor he steals the show. 

  • I had never heard of Botswana until I started watching this show. Afterwards I did what I always do when I’ve never heard about something – I looked it up. Botswana is an amazing country and in this show it is presented in such a magical way. Old right up against new. Traditional co-existing with modern. Being ethical right there alongside taking care of business. If Botswana ain’t really like this then it out to be. 
  • This is a show about small stories and big people. A woman thinks her husband is cheating on her and cannot believe it when it proves to be true. Twin doctors and malpractice. A love one has disappeared without a trace. It’s about people in trouble and their stories are heart wrenching – and thru it all there is Precious, with her smile, her red bush tea, and her homespun wisdom that somehow finds out all the answers. 
  • This show is also about love. Precious comes from a broken marriage that has left her wounded and her friend Mister JLB Matekoni is just the man to fix what is broken. Comes natural considering he is a mechanic. But will she let him in?

The producers of this show are on record saying how sensitive they were to the fact that they were white people making the very first motion picture filmed entirely in Botswana and presenting a modern Botswana to the world. The film THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY (1980) took place in Botswana but was filmed in South Africa. I’d say that sensitivity paid off because the pilot and the series are amazing. This show left me wanting to visit Botswana. Thirteen years later I still want to visit Botswana and it’s on my bucket list. 

I usually don’t like quoting people directly and out of context, but producer Amy J. Moore said something about the show that sums up how I feel and I want to get it right. Moore said, “That leading a good life is possible, that being a good person is possible, that being a good neighbor is possible, that truth can exist alongside beauty. I thought, this African book can teach the Western world a lot.”

If you come into this show expecting car chases, shootouts, and Kung Fu fights you’re going to be disappointed. Go watch CHARLIE’S ANGELS (1976) and have your brain turn into pablum. If you come into the show expecting an old lady to brilliant outsmart everyone and solve an intricate and complicated mystery that lost you in the first fifteen minutes you’re going to be disappointed again. Go watch MURDER SHE WROTE (1984) and Angela Lansbury will never let you down. But if you want a nice story with nice people that you can follow without getting lost, that will make you laugh and make you cry and make you feel good – then THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY is your cup of tea. Just make sure it’s red bush tea. 

I’ll end with this. If I ever find myself in a quandary, desperate and not knowing where to go, I’d want Precious Ramotswe there to help me. It should be no surprise then that I earnestly recommend you watch this show. 

It is with joy in my heart and a song in my soul that I happily bestow upon THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY a well deserved five gray geeks. Hooray!

Alas we have reached the end of our journey together. I have enjoyed this adventure we shared and hope you feel the same. Until next time remember this, it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile. So be lazy and smile a lot. Excelsior!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s