Midsomer Murders debuted on television in the U.K. on March 23, 1997 and to date there are about 85 episodes of the hugely popular series and counting. Midsomer Murders follows the investigations of Detective Chief Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) in the fictional English county of Midsomer. In the early seasons, his junior is Sergeant Gavin Troy (Daniel Casey), a mildly bumbling foil. In later seasons, DCI Barnaby was assisted by DS Dan Scott, and currently by DS Ben Jones. Midsomer Murders is notable for its carefully crafted stories that revolve around the facade of a seemingly peaceful countryside that conceal all manners of vice and crime, including, but by no means limited to – blackmail, sexual deviances, suicide and murder. The Queen herself is rumoured to be a fan of the show, while John Nettles was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) this past June during the Queen’s birthday honours.
Jane Wymark (above right) plays Barnaby’s patient wife Joyce, who occassionally finds herself unwittingly near the scene of a crime. Laura Howard (above left) plays Barnaby’s daughter Cully, an aspiring actress.
Midsomer Murder is based on the novels by Caroline Graham, with scripts written by some of Britain’s best television writers. John Nettles said: “There’s something warped about the nature of our writers, they come up with extraordinary ways of killing people.”
The action in these decidedly tongue-in-cheek scripts takes place in cozy village locations, replete with stately manor homes and chocolate box cottages. Don’t let the bucolic settings fool you – you’ll soon be shown what evil lurks in the hearts of men. In an episode called Judgment Day, Joyce is chosen to judge a “perfect village” competition, but things are far from perfect in the village of Midsomer Mallow when womanising tearaway Peter Drinkwater (Orlando Bloom) is stabbed to death with a pitchfork. In Hidden Depths egotistical lawyer Otto Benham (Oliver Ford Davies) is drugged, trussed and made into a human target in the middle of his croquet lawn, then fired on with bottles of his favourite vintage wine from a replica Roman catapult.
Midsomer Murders benefits from a topnotch lineup of guest appearances, such as Richard Briers (Good Neighbors), Prunella Scales (Fawlty Towers), Timothy West (Iris), Anna Massey (The Pallisers), Una Stubbs (Till Death Us Do Part), Michele Dotrice (Vanity Fair), Trudie Styler (The Mayor of Casterbridge), Robert Hardy (War and Remembrance, All Creatures Great and Small) and Maggie Steed (Lipstick on Your Collar).
Guest appearances are also made by some of England’s most gorgeous scenery, a subject covered in a book called Midsomer Murders On Location by Sabine Schreiner and Joan Street – ‘The majority of the pretty villages that make up Midsomer country are actually strewn over four counties – Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire. Here for the first time is a comprehensive guide to the gorgeous locations used in the filming of the series.’
Recently Nettles announced he’d be leaving the series after thirteen years and will be replaced by Neil Dudgeon, who will step in as Barnaby’s cop cousin, John Barnaby. In an interview Nettles said, “I wanted to die in noble fashion in the service of my country and then be buried with full military honours in Westminster Abbey. In the event, Tom and his long-suffering wife Joyce will simply retire. It’s always better to leave when people want more.”
The show has garnered itself legions of diehard fans. Visit the Midsomer Murders comprehensive – and regularly updated – fan page here.