Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Video Recommendation: “Midsomer Murders”

     I don’t watch much television, as I regard the formulaic crap the broadcast networks (and most of the cable systems) are pumping out as...well, formulaic crap: unoriginal and unappealing. However, the C.S.O. likes an hour or two of it in the evening after a working day. Unfortunately, she too regards the offerings on “regular” TV as unappealing. Its principal value to her is that it bores her to sleep.

     However, we’re Amazon Prime members, and so have access to the Prime Video offerings, some of which have been excellent. Much of the promotion goes to Amazon Originals such as the ongoing “Bosch” series derived from the novels of Michael Connelly, the “Electric Dreams” productions based on stories by the late Philip K. Dick, and the recent “Carnival Row” fantasy series that stars Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevinge. But Prime Video also provides access to properties from other sources. Recently we stumbled upon “Midsomer Murders,” from the British production house Filmrise, and have been delighted by it.

     The series concerns Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby’s investigations of murders (surprise) in various villages in England’s fictional Midsomer County (surprise, surprise). In general, while the investigative aspect allows Filmrise to categorize the show as a “mystery,” it deviates from the usual patterns for mystery fiction in many ways. Those deviations are largely to its benefit, imbuing it with unusual color, pathos, and charm.

     Each episode features a murder...or two, or three, or four, or (in one exceptional case) five. There are occasionally “extra corpses” on stage, just to muddle the affair further. Every episode is staged in a typical English country village: typical, that is, except that there’s a lot of bloodshed going on, considering the modest populations involved. The many facets of village life are always at center stage: the intimacies, the resentments, the dependencies, the struggles over position and prestige, and the memories of the villagers, which in a “tight” social space such as an English country village can be very long indeed.

     Mind you, these are not mysteries for the “armchair sleuth,” who hopes to solve the case along with (or before) DCI Barnaby. As a rule the viewer doesn’t get enough information to solve them. But we find them involving and highly entertaining even so, because of the deft treatment of relationships and the struggles they invariably involve. In this regard, the alternately awkward and humorous interplay between DCI Barnaby and the much younger, somewhat callow Detective Sergeant Gavin Troy add to the show’s delights. The depictions of Barnaby’s own family life – seemingly the only happy family in Midsomer County – are still more icing on the cake.

     Amazon Prime isn’t the only source for the “Midsomer Murders.” Some episodes can also be found via IMDb TV, on YouTube. If you’ve been looking for something interesting and decidedly un-formulaic, give them a try.


jerseygirlangie said...

Absolutely LOVE Midsomer Murders - exactly for the reasons you mention . The deviations from standard police procedure are legion , but, who cares ? The scenery is gorgeous !

We watched all the episodes on Netflix , although, alas , they are no longer available there .

pc-not said...

We have found what you describe to be true, Fran. Cutting the cable and streaming has saved us over $100 per month and also changed our viewing habits. The Acorn network carries many series along the lines of what you described. With the stories, mostly murder mysteries, set in the British Isles and Australia, the scenery and nuances in their local language/culture are fascinating.

Glenda T Goode said...

I watch no, none, nada broadcast tv via airwaves, cable or otherwise. Pulled that plug probably 6 years ago. I stream everything.

Midsomer Murders is a great series. I found it many years ago. Inspector Morse is another. Inspector Lewis follows and Endeavor is the prequel to them both. These British mysteries are well done and devote most of the stories to characters and not to gore or violence which I find refreshing.

All too often the common denominator of a lot of shows is shock value. I find this to be a practice aimed towards the more juvenile viewers who want to be 'awed' by their shows. I'd rather have a good story that respects my intelligence.

Mark said...

I've add "The Expanse" on Amazon Prime to your list. It's gratifying to see good science fiction. I've seen some of your other selections, and will have to check out the rest.

It's impressive what quality is coming out of these "non-traditional" production companies.