“I get a lovely view from the moral high ground.”
Going into its 18th season (er, make that series, for you lot across the pond or simply fans of the use of proper British terminology) Midsomer Murders is going strong with no sign of stopping. This set contains the stories of Midsomer County, England’s most idyllic landscape with the highest murder rates in the world (or at least England), and continues to delight fans both long-term and newbies. And that is one of the selling points of Midsomer Murders–you don’t have to have followed the show from Series 1 to be able to jump in to any episode. Yes, there’s an underlying mythology which provides a throughline for the show however it’s a gentle stream rather than a raging river. Fans in the know will understand all the references to characters now departed and the like but newcomers will still understand everything going on. No reference is so obtuse as to be conspicuously alienating to a new viewer.
And speaking of departed characters it’s my first chance to talk about relative newcomer Detective Sergeant Charlie Nelson (Gwilym Lee, Animal Ark). Series 17 marks his second with Midsomer Murders and I have to say he’s settled in nicely. There’s much less of a learning curve with him than there has been with other DS’s who have come before, and the show’s writers have taken the opportunity to use his arrival as an opening for more exploration of not only his character but that of Medical Examiner Kate Wilding (Tamzin Malleson, Teachers), who becomes Nelson’s landlady. And while we’re on the subject of opening things up Midsomer Murders has been a staple since 1997 and has shown an enviable consistency in tone, character, popularity and approach. But Series 17 marks the first time we have one of our main characters experiencing a significant life change since Tom Barnaby retired in 2011 and that is the arrival of Betty, John and Sarah Barnaby’s baby who was born at the end of Series 16.
I’ve stated before I’m a fan of Midsomer Murders and Series 17 only solidified that assertion. The show has followed a consistent formula and its reliance on standbys with just a dash of change helps create an extremely watchable murder mystery. I continue to appreciate the countryside, the bevy of characters we see who provide us with a wealth of suspects, and the clever writing which manages to take a theme and tie a murder to it in a way which always keeps me on my toes until the very end. I was worried about the addition of DS Nelson to the show but I’m happy to be able to offer another recommendation for curious viewers.
Midsomer Muders: Series 17 contains the four 90-minute episodes of the 2015 season. Brief descriptions are included here:
“The Dagger Club” – Death is a gamble in this tale of secret love, addiction and deception.
“Murder by Magic” – It’s fundamental religion versus illusion on the surface but the murders may have a deeper motive.
“The Ballad of Midsomer County”— Delving into the world of folk music the past comes into the present and reveals buried secrets.
“A Vintage Murder” – A vineyard and the family who run it are at the heart of more than just murders.
The technical specs for Midsomer Murders releases usually highlight natural embellishments if any. This go around we have a 1.78:1 widescreen video transfer and while the colors are indeed naturally beautiful the night shots can be too inky at times with the screen going so dark I have to wait for a musical stinger cue to let me know I’m going to see something. The audio is a simple stereo mix and it’s serviceable as well. Everything is kept low key when it comes to the technical side of the equation and it produces a natural style which works well for the most part.
In terms of special features we have three featurettes. One delves deeper into the magic tricks features featured in “Murder by Magic”, one touches upon the actors involved in making Midsomer Murders and the final one contains a behind-the-scenes look at Series 17 and includes interviews with Neil Dudgeon and Gwilym Lee.
Midsomer Murders is a breath of fresh air in the realm of forensics-heavy crime procedurals on American television. It’s understated yet well-acted, well-written, and well-directed and an overall quality example of British television done right. Midsomer Murders: Series 17 is the way to go in terms of a purchase. I’m on record as being a fan of the Series releases as opposed to the Sets which break up seasons. I mentioned before and as of November 2015 Netflix still offers streaming of Series 1-16 if you want to play catch up.