There’s something to be said for British crime dramas. American television knows that crime dramas are good draws – after all, 7 of the top 25 Primetime Broadcast Network shows are crime dramas (all ages). British shows record longer, and have a tendency to focus more on character development. There were also the murder mystery shows like Peter Falk’s Columbo, and others, that were almost two hours in length, and felt like mini-movies. Midsomer Murders is more like the last of these types of crime dramas. Set 17 contains four of the seven episodes.
For the unaware, Midsomer Murders tells the tale of Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) solving crimes in the (seemingly) quiet fictional county of Midsomer. Since 2005, DCI Barnaby has been joined by Detective Sergeant Ben Jones (Jason Hughes) – present in this season. Barnaby is methodical and fair, while also being sagacious and perceptive. He’s the kind of tv-detective who follows a case where it logically takes him. Jones is less noteworthy, but still provides worthy insight in cases.
One thing noticed in the set is that there is at least one character in each episode that makes you wish their fictional mother had a healthcare plan that included abortion. There seems to be a rule that requires a token hateful, bigoted, spiteful, wicked individual to throw themselves into every episode. Sometimes, that’s helpful, like in “The Black Book,” but was utterly off-putting in “The Dogleg Murders.”
Something worth noticing, dubbed the “Murder, She Wrote Conundrum.” The trope’s namesake’s main character, Jessica Fletcher had a nasty habit of either knowing the murderer or the victim a majority of the time. One would expect a ‘big bad’ to reveal themselves by the last season and claim responsibility for tearing apart Fletcher’s life. There’s a similar problem here: 12 seasons of murder mysteries would lead a person to suspect that this fictional town of Midsomer can’t possibly be a nice place to live, now, could it? Also consider that there are more seasons after this one. Just food for thought.
The acting is actually superb. Almost all characters are all fleshed out, and the overall quality is legs up over many US shows. Some moments are even – dare it be said – compelling. Midsomer Murders comes with a high level of production value. It’s shot in bright tones, and weather conditions are realistic. There is more value placed in person to person interaction than many other elements.
The DVDs come with production notes and commentary. These include notes about how the actors approached certain aspects of each episode. In “The Dogleg Murders,” there is detail about how John Nettles approached golfing. These production notes, while quite lengthy, can add a new level of enjoyment for the viewer. The best part is that the notes are purely optional, and if reading about how a show is produced is boring, then these notes can be completely ignored.
People who like Law & Order: Criminal Intent will find themselves enjoying Midsomer Murders. There is a level of intellectualism and curiosity that is difficult to find in other shows. Give it a shot; you might just like it.
FINAL GRADE: B+
TRR DVD Revue by Geoffrey Beebe