Okay, I admit it, I've been wasting a lot of time lately watching more than my fair share of television on my computer. I just love the heretofore incredible idea of having a whole season (or more) of a show at my beck and call. Who knew computers could be this much fun?
MIDSOMER MURDERS is not the best murder mystery series ever conceived, but it sure is the most picturesque. Every episode is filmed in some gorgeous area of England - indoors and out. I mean, you can overdose on the beautiful scenery and charming houses and village streets - well, you could possibly, I can't. Ever since I read my first Agatha Christie, I haven't been able to get enough of this sort of thing. I LOVE the 'illusion' of peaceful English country life. Murder most foul among the tea and scones.
Of course the people living in the Midsomer region do tend to spoil the bucolic scenery with their unpleasant behavior and propensity for murder and sex, but hey, nobody's perfect. Apparently, according to author Catherine Graham who created the Midsomer series of books, English villages are the epicenter of murder on a grand scale. Not to mention, sordid sexual entanglements.
The earlier episodes - begun in 1997 - aren't as good as those in later seasons, though the debut, THE KILLINGS AT BADGER'S DRIFT is pretty good, mainly because of the scenery. The story itself is typically creepy (lots of creepy doings in these villages) and the denouement is kind of icky. But the scenery...!!
I've never read the Catherine Graham books, in fact, I'd never heard of them until I began watching MIDSOMER MYSTERIES a few years ago. But I'd given up on the series. It's just lately that I've been indulging my penchant for murderous village life.
Though the motives for the vilest murders, resulting in several dead bodies in every episode, are often weak and rarely make any real sense, I still get caught up in the general creepiness. Some of these old ladies can really swing a blunt instrument.
I enjoyed many of the episodes purporting to show village life with all its nasty underpinnings. One of my favorite shows so far is from Series 4 - RING OUT YOUR DEAD. Though again the murder motivation is weak. I do like the actress - Rosalind Parr - who plays the older vamp with an eye on the hapless Sgt. Troy. She once played a vamp-combo-Nazi spy on a very enjoyable Hercule Poirot episode.
John Nettles, a beefy, hard-edges sort of guy who takes getting used to, plays Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby. He's a no-nonsense type who appears to have an unlimited supply of patience when it comes to his associate, naive and unobservant Sgt. Troy, played wonderfully by Daniel Casey. (In later years, the cast began to change, but I haven't come to those shows yet.)
Both these actors grew on me as I got deeper and deeper into the series. Admittedly, watching several episodes over several days, makes you look at the shows from a different slant, but on the whole, I guess I like them more now than I did then even if I could have done without the occasional forays into Chief Barnaby's home life. I mean, his wife and daughter are just not that interesting. But I suppose they are there to 'soften' Barnaby a bit.
I was surprised to find Orlando Bloom in one of the early episodes and Honor Blackman in a later one, but then the actors on each show are all pretty good if not always well cast. Still, they do look more like true villagers than glamorous show folk which is a good thing.
MIDSOMER MURDERS is available to watch online at Netflix and other sites around the web. It may also be available at your local library.