Based on Caroline Graham's novels and featuring the stolid crime-solving skills of Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby, Midsomer Murders
made their television debut in 1997 and continue to keep viewers happy with that potent whodunnit ingredient: spectacularly bloody murders in the most tranquil rural settings the Shires have to offer. Midsomer is a vaguely defined area of villages and hamlets with charming names like Badger's Drift and Goodman's Land. It also has the highest number of violent deaths per capita outside the average war zone. Serial killings abound to test the nerve of Barnaby (John Nettles) and his sidekick Sergeant Troy (Daniel Casey), a dullard easily perplexed by a world which refuses to stick to his black and white view of things.
Nettles is excellent; there's a hint of Bergerac still, now heavier of jowl and broader of beam, though the chasing is necessarily limited and the DCI enjoys the home comforts of an understanding wife and a spirited daughter. "Every time I go into any Midsomer village, it's always the same thing", he huffs. "Blackmail, sexual deviancy, suicide and murder." Ain't it the truth? The murders are astonishing. Family feuds, jealousy, incest, industrial espionage, all erupt at regular intervals leaving a trail of bodies with throats slashed, limbs dismembered and blood absolutely everywhere. Rivers of sheer nastiness run deep beneath the superficially pastoral perfection of Midsomer. Thank goodness there are still men like dependable Barnaby to get to the bottom of things. Eventually.
Sure of Barnabys eventual success, Midsomer Murders make for a cosy, even comforting, couple of hours curled up in front of the television. And they make a great showcase for star turns from the great stable of British character actors, too, from Celia Imrie and Elizabeth Spriggs to Imelda Staunton and Duncan Preston, who invariably turn this whimsical stuff into the tastiest possible ham.--Piers Ford
MIDSOMER MURDERS. DVD No 6. DEATHS SHADOW.
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different cover picture.