I tried not to like “Midsomer Murders,” but the British TV series won me over. The show starts as a typical British mystery drama, quaint and proper with nothing too alarming or risque, and just clever enough to keep you interested. In many ways “Midsomer Murders” falls neatly into this genre, but it has demonstrated a much wider appeal. Strong writing, interesting characters and solid acting have made this a popular, long-running TV series. As of early 2014, 16 seasons or series of the show have been on British TV. Thirteen of them are available to watch instantly on Netflix.
Much murder and mayhem takes place in the fictional English county of Midsomer. The first couple of “Midsomer Murders” episodes help to establish the main characters, Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby, portrayed by John Nettles, and Detective Sergeant Gavin Troy, played by Daniel Casey. (With a show that has series in the double digits, there are bound to be cast changes along the way. DCI Barnaby retires after series 13, Sergeant Troy is replaced after series 6.)
DCI Barnaby is fair, patient and insightful. He solves cases with equal parts methodical police work and intuition. Sergeant Troy is eager, but less patient and perceptive than his boss. As the show progresses, he comes to earn his keep. Barnaby’s wife and adult daughter, played by Jane Wymark and Laura Howard, respectively, are featured prominently in many episodes. A British sense of humor is evident in “Midsomer Murders.” There are ongoing gags about Sergeant Troy’s driving and Joyce Barnaby’s cooking.
The murders and associated crimes that take place seem fairly tame by today’s television standards, but it’s worth remembering this series started in 1997. The show relies more on the likability of the main characters, turns of plot and the eccentric villagers that seem to pop up in every episode to keep your interest. “Midsomer Murders” is based on a series of books by Caroline Graham. Anthony Horowitz, creator of “Foyle’s War,” wrote the screenplay for several of the episodes in the early years of the show.
Fans of British mysteries could do much worse than “Midsomer Murders.” Watch online or stream to your TV via Netflix instant viewing. Almost all episodes are self contained stories, but you may as well start at the beginning and work your way through. There are four to eight episodes per series, and they clock in at about 100 minutes each. “Midsomer Murders” is a reliable source of entertainment you can turn to when there seems to be nothing else on TV.