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Is Midsomer becoming CSI?
on January 16, 2013
Midsomer Murders used to provide a mystery to unravel at a slow, leisurely pace amid the lovely setting of an English village and its eccentric inhabitants. Murder was the propelling force for action, but the real focus was on characterization, personal interaction, the setting and the culture of the English village as interpreted in the series. In particular, the viewer normally faced with the carnage of popular movies and television could find respite with a cerebral journey as Barnaby and Jones unravelled the mystery of the day. Enter Season 21 of Midsomer and the gruesome visage of a dismembered body in Echoes of the Dead and giggling, invasive school girls in Death in the Slow Lane. Dark Secrets fared a little better but salacious elements, gratuitous sex and incest, occupied center stage too readily and too much. I have not viewed The Oblong Murders yet, so perhaps all is not lost if it contains some saving grace.
Ironically, the formidable acting skills of Neil Dudgeon as Chief Inspector John Barnaby and Jason Hughes as Detective Ben Jones are apparent, but the characters they play are not the Jones of yore or the new Barnaby introduced before the departure of John Nettles. They are strangers. They are not the Midsomer inhabitants we have come to know. The medical examiner, Dr. George Bullard, played by Barry Jackson also suffers character misalignment. In Series 21 he seems be less inquisitive and now ready to accept any answer. His rhetorical bantering formerly appreciated by viewers is lost. The close family unit of Joyce (Jane Wymark), Cully (Laura Howard) and Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) that gave warmth and gentleness in the world of law enforcement and crimes has disappeared. The caring between John Barnaby and his wife seems real, but it is more visceral than the warm fuzzies of Tom and Joyce and the love of child and parents.
I do hope the writers and producers reexamine the best elements of previous Midsomer series and reinstate what made the series so well appreciated by viewers---the caress of the camera on the scenery, the uniqueness of quirky inhabitants, the caring and interaction of the characters, the culture of the village life and the humanity of all. It was decidedly NOT gratuitous violence and sex, gruesome visuals and intellectual sparsity.