From 1997-2008 British TV watchers had a weekly two-hour “who-done-it” to look forward to just as we had a weekly favorite for one hour in Murder, She Wrote from 1984-1996. Continuity in our lives is healthy even in the form of a tv show. We establish a routine around the time of our favorite show; grab the popcorn and favorite seat. Sunday evenings were set aside for 12 years by many to catch the latest problem for Jessica Fletcher to solve. In England, the same process must have taken place for DCI Barnaby in Midsomer Murders*. Viewers remained loyal and interested enough to keep it on the air for 11 years.
Waiting until sixty-two, 100 minute shows have been viewed to do a review didn’t seem wise to me. I would forget details that are fun and my opinion may change as the series matures. I have watched about thirty episodes so far. I decided to divide my reviews into two parts with most of the first thirty-one having Sergeant Troy as the loyal subordinate. We meet other assistants for Barnaby in later episodes.
Carol (actually Caroline) Graham wrote seven Midsomer novels with the same settings and characters. The first five episodes were based directly on her first five novels. The other two written in 1999 and 2004 were made in later seasons with “Ghosts in the Machine” being the last. “The Killings at Badger’s Drift”, the first episode but not her first novel, written in 1988 has been named one of the “Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time”. Quite a prestigious award for a novelist.
Midsomer is an imaginary county in England with a number of small country villages. It seems the biggest town in the county is called Corston with possibly the only police station, courthouse and morgue. It must be an exceptionally violent county since Barnaby and his co-horts are seldom called to solve only one crime in each small hamlet. Yet I would live in any of these quaint places to be surrounded by lush green lawns, colorful flowers and attractive, middle-class, middle-aged people. The architecture is similar in each village making it difficult to remember if this story started in Midsomer Mallow, Newton Magna, Midsomer Wellow or Midsomer Parva. (And the list of strange names goes on and on!) And . . . it didn’t rain a drop in this county for 15 episodes! Imagine that, in England. Dashes all my earlier conceptions of English countryside where I thought it rained daily.
The stories are complex with many suspects, mis-leading clues and a surprise twist to end the mystery. Don’t be fooled by the music. The theme is whimsical and eerie plus light-hearted yet creepy at times trying to lead you into thinking one way and then twisting another for a surprise. Nicely done show.
Nice-guy Barnaby puts up with Troy who acts really dumb but (how did he ever get to be a sergeant ?) comes through occasionally with a bright idea. We meet and see Barnaby’s wife and/or daughter in every episode making us appreciate his ability to stay grounded no matter how nasty the murders are. More about his family next time.
That’s all for now. Part 2 may follow in January.
*author’s note. After reading the novels this show is based on I may have better details and/or corrections but I begin now with first impressions, suppositions and assumptions based on what I observe and conclude from watching.