When you think of the stereotypical little England, you come up with images of cricket on the village green, old ladies having tea and cake, giant manor houses – that kind of thing. Mix in a lot of murder, and you have one of ITV’s best shows: Midsomer Murders.
It’s hard to believe that the show started almost twenty years ago. Yet, in its eighteenth series, it continues to be as bizarre and tongue-in-cheek as ever.
For a show so full of slaughter (the killers here put horror movies to shame), it’s also incredibly fun escapism that has been deservedly popular since its conception
Midsomer Murders Season 18 has seen our hero DCI John Barnaby (played by David Cameron-a-like Neil Dudgeon) face six different cases, from serial body-snatching, to the appearance of a UFO which resulted in people suffocating in mysterious pods. Barnaby has also confronted killers linked to an international cycling competition, a new sculpture park, an archaeological dig, and the annual harvest festival, all while maintaining his stolid expression.
Midsomer often comes under fire for being predictable, poorly written and generally laughable. Love it as I may, I would find it hard to argue that it is the best thing on TV – but its hokey quality is part of what makes it so endearing!
We all know it’s a bit crap, but that only makes it better. It verges just on the right side of hamminess; it’s the sort of show that I reckon would be great fun to film.
Season 18 has proven to be quite divisive among fans for a couple of reasons.
Former series’ producer Brian True-May commented, in 2011, that the show didn’t have any non-white characters because it was meant to represent a “bastion of Englishness.” This season seems to have gone out of its way to overcompensate for this, to a level that some fans believe to be distracting.
The Season 18 series opener, ‘Habeas Corpus’, also proved to be quite controversial as – in a shocking turn of events – there was a grand total of no murders! Yes: Midsomer, pretty much the bloodiest show on television (now that Jessica Fletcher has retired from the writing business), managed not to kill any of its residents for an entire episode – the sky will be falling soon.
That said, the tale was so bizarre that it was about halfway through before I had the faintest clue what was happening.
Whether you like it or not, ‘Habeas Corpus’ is proof that the show’s formula is open for change and can evolve as needed
A lot of the attraction of Midsomer, though, is the murders.
As well as the aforementioned alien pods, this season has also seen people’s deaths being caused by: their lungs being inflated by a bicycle pump; crushing by wrecking ball; crushing by gravestone; suffocation in dirt; a spear to the back; and being trampled by a horse. Just ‘cause you got one murder-less episode doesn’t mean you’re going to be safe for long.
The supporting cast are a touch uneven in talent. I am a fan of Barnaby’s capable DS Nelson (Gwilym Lee), and his wife (Fiona Dolman) – with whom he shares no apparent chemistry – but I’m less impressed by the new pathologist, Kam (Manjinder Virk). Virk delivers her lines so earnestly, but her acting is a bit rubbish.
These guys are backed up by a who’s who of English acting talent – faces that will make you say ‘oh, I like her’ or ‘oh, it’s him from what’s-it-called.’
Have no fear, crime fans, for Season 19 has been commissioned, so we will have yet another bout of slaughter in the Midsomer villages fairly soon.
I know the show is completely absurd, and considered to be old people fodder, but it’s also indisputably brilliant: Midsomer Murders is truly the blood-stained jewel in ITV’s crown.