Dick De Jong
August 26, 2013
If the popular Midsomer Murders crime drama is any indication, then the bucolic Midsomer must be the most homicidal county in the English countryside.
The British TV series, based on the books by Caroline Graham, began in 1997 and according to IMDB, "As of 2011 there have been 200 murders in Midsomer, including 12 from poisoning (one from a tropical frog), 9 drownings (one in a vat of soup), 6 burned to death (one in a straw effigy) and even 4 villagers killed by bow and arrow."
Luckily, the Barnaby cousins, DCI Tom Barnaby (Tom Nettles, who retired in 2011) and now DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon), have been bringing the killers to justice with understated aplomb.
DCI Tom Barnaby and DCI John Barnaby
Set 22 of the series features Dudgeon and his partner-in-crime-solving, DS Ben Jones (Jason Hughes), in four episodes that originally aired on ITV in England in late 2011 and January 2012: The Sleeper under the Hill, The Night of the Stag, A Sacred Trust and A Rare Bird .
Even though Dudgeon and Hughes had worked together before, in the earlier episodes of this set, it didn't seem like they had found their rhythm yet. And the interplay between partners is an essential element in the appeal of these procedurals.
Without that chemistry, a series relies on the strong personality of the lead, the surprising plot twists and the non-stop action.
The writers of Midsomer Murders do season the episodes with I-didn't-see-that-coming moments. But as much as I like British dry wit, the humor in the shows was too arid and the pace too laconic for my tastes.
I prefer the mercurial Idris Elba and his jousting with the devilishly dry Ruth Wilson in Luther. And despite the tales being oft-told, the empathy between Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman invigorates Sherlock.
With that said, there is no denying that Midsomer Murders has built a large and loyal following over the years. For those fans on this side of the pond, these box sets are a great way to keep up with the Midsomer misdeeds.
I imagine that the one Bonus "Midsomer Murders in Conversation" will only appeal to the true aficionado as it features Dudgeon and Hughes talking about their roles, their careers and how they have intertwined in the past - nothing very enlightening.
DS Ben Jones (Jason Hughes) in disarray
Cast: Neil Dudgeon, Jason Hughes, Fiona Dolman, Tamzin Malleson
Length: Four mysteries, 372 minutes total
Rated: Not rated
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1