Midsomer Murders (1997) TV Review

Director: Renny Rye, Peter Smith, Richard Holthouse, Sarah Hellings, Jeremy Silberston, Nicholas Laughland, Alex Pillai, Matt Carter, David Tucker, Audrey Cooke, Toby Frow, Baz Taylor, Moira Armstrong, Simon Langton, Peter Creegan, Andy Hay, Luke Watson, Charlie Palmer, Rob Evans, Steve Hughes, Paul Harrison, Jennie Darnell, Roberto Bangura, Christine Lalla, Gill Wilkinson
Stars: John Nettles, Jane Wymark, Barry Jackson, Neil Dudgeon, Jason Hughes, Fiona Dolman, Laura Howard, Daniel Casey

A whole week of gruelling deadlines. Finally, you are done with that. Now it’s time to relax and unwind. Like most people, my idea of that would be some good food, favourite drink and something to watch on my laptop sitting in your favourite chair (I prefer the table-chair setup than the on the bed with all the food and drink setup, my partially OCD mind wouldn’t let me relax and enjoy with the constant fear of food crumbs on my bed or even worse spilling my drink on over my white linens). Now cometh the most difficult task: choosing WHAT to watch.

With millions of options across streaming platforms, we are spoilt for choice and in a bad way. Sometimes we lose 30 minutes to an hour deciding what to watch, what would be a perfect reward for such a hard week, but by then our food starts to get cold and our drink warm. For me, this isn’t the case always.

I have my favourite unwinding-after-a-hard-gruelling-week show. In fact, watching another episode of it becomes the mere incentive to slug it out the week before. And the show is my favourite still-running-British-cosy-murder-mystery “Midsomer Murders”. I cannot describe well how much I am in love with this show. It is a different feeling to have a plate of good food and watch some crazy murders in some chocolate box village in rural England.

Don’t take me wrong, I am no sadist, but cosy murder mysteries set in beautiful quaint villages, with regular people with beautiful cottages, cooking homely dinners and making tea in their teapots, it is all so relatable and yet desirable at the same time. I mean except the murder of course.

It is a very tough task to critique anything that one is so charmed with; hence in this article I shall avoid being the smart critic and just gale about my fascination for the show and its actors, so please bear with it! To make it up I promise I will soon come up with some stern review of some other show! Going off the channel description itself, it is neither a movie nor its review; it is a fan post to my dearest (on-air) tv series!

Now coming to the show itself, Midsomer Murders is a British crime drama television series that has been broadcasted since 1997. The show is adapted from novels in the Chief Inspector Barnaby book series (created by Caroline Graham) by Anthony Horowitz and Douglas Watkinson. The show resolves around DCI Tom Barnaby (played brilliantly by John Nettles) and his DCI (played by multiple actors over the years) solving murders around the villages of the fictional county of Midsomer. John Nettles’ convincing performance as the DCI is layered with great comedic timing and a sense of mystery as is needed for the show.

Currently, in its 22nd season, the protagonist has changed to DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) since season 14. As I save episodes as self-rewards after deadlines for myself and never binge-watch the show, I am yet to witness Neil Dudgeon as the next DCI Barnaby. Hence this review of mine is valid only for the John Nettles version of the show. Tom’s funny and endearing interactions with his wife (Jane Wymark) and daughter (Laura Howard) bring about a sense of in the show. They are not just characters at the edge of the scene but form an integral part even in the solving of the murders sometimes.

I have loved the performances of all the Sergeants, but Jason Hughes’ Ben Jones is arguably the best one. Played by a fantastic actor, the character grows with every season and is not the typical permanently “less smart” sidekick that we are used to in cosy murder shows (though he still remains so to some extent in comparison to the DCI). Apart from brilliant actors in recurring roles, the show wins brownie points by roping in brilliant older actors for the episodic roles. These actors rarely get any chance to showcase their acting prowess due to the diminishing number of roles appropriate for their age.

Although the show is set in modern-day England, the pace, the characters, the dialogues and the location renders an old-world charm. The beautiful county of Buckinghamshire, where the series is shot, forms an integral part of the show. It is almost like another character, or should I say a puzzle background. Truth be told, the same scripts with all the brilliant actors would not make quite such an impression if it were not for the pretty-as-a-picture and homey backdrop of Buckinghamshire in the role of Midsomer. Hence credit is given where it is due!

Another element that stays with you is the theme music, a mix of eerie gothic score and a sort of comic notes that is definitely not the incidental kind. Rendered by the use of the theremin these elements lend it a mysterious tone that has gone on to become a signature theme music. I recently heard the score being used in 60 Minute Australia’s special on Ricky Gervais. I would say the background music powered by this theme tune forms another important character of the series.

All in all the stuff that makes the show what it is could be listed as The DCI and his family, the DS, the location, the music, the scripts, the dark humour, the quirky murder scenarios, the actors and the attention to detail. You change any one of them and you lose the very charm of Midsomer Murders. In all of this, the show has given a gnarly image to rural England, such that country-loving anglophiles will have a hard time dreaming to settle in one such charming village, lest they get murdered for plucking the wrong flower in the wrong garden. The county of Midsomer has seen so many quirky murders that it makes one wonder if Miss Marple grew up here!

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.