I have to admit, Neil Dudgeon has exceeded my initially low appreciation expectations, and worked his way into the Midsomer series in worthy succession to his "cousin," John Nettles. These episodes continue the long-standing pattern of bringing top British actors with great parts and crisp dialogue into the most murderous county in all the Realm, cavorting with talented glee through fanciful plots and sub-plots.
The telly was tuned religiously to the broadcasts - and the TIVO certainly did a better job of editing out the commercial breaks than the sad efforts apparent in the first series discs. The plan was to buy the set when it came out to keep the library complete - the entire series has been played at least half a dozen times over the years, full of old fiends as they portrayed an astounding number of characters.
The initial price of this set was slightly absurd (I'm being kind) in an age where iTunes and NetFlix have democratized media, so we waited until the set was more appropriately priced, making do with DVDs burned from the broadcasts.
At last, the price was dropped to an affordable level, and after two complete viewings, has joined the library. The writing is up to the high standards as always, and the performances are as well. The first episode - Dark Rider - is the weakest of the lot, rife with cartoonish ghoulishness, but a romp nonetheless. Neil Dudgeon (Barnaby) is a bit acerbic, and the tension between him and Jason Hughes (DSI Jones) is uncomfortable. Things seem to improve in the remaining episodes, as the flights of fancy of the writers border a bit less on the precipice of credulity. Dudgeon/Barnaby is still hard to read, and not good at resolving the tension with Hughes/Jones - but this may be a deliberate plot atmosphere to engage the viewer.
As always, the last scene of the last episode comes too quickly, but the stunningly good portrayals by guest actors of characters made of whole cloth are still there, awaiting the next viewing. You WILL come back for a second - or third, or more - visit, when yet another night offers naught but reality TV and "somewhere's there's talent" . . .