February 10, 2017


When the world gets you down, try a few Midsomer Murders (Emma Brockes, 9 February 2017, The guardian)

After binge-consuming bad news for two weeks I have given up, and now find myself bingeing instead on something designed to soothe the nerves but that, in its country of origin at least, has come to stand for something much gloomier: episode after episode of Midsomer Murders.

It is hard to explain to American friends, some of whom have watched and admired the show, quite the nature of the disregard in which it is held. It is as slickly made as Inspector Morse, with the same am-dram overtones. John Nettles, who appeared in the first 80 - 80! - episodes, is the standard curmudgeonly turn-of-the-millennium British TV detective. The premise is ludicrous - with a body count that, over the years, exceeds the population of the village - but no more so than Miss Marple.

And yet, uniquely among these titles, not only has Midsomer Murders become shorthand for a version of England considered narrow to the point of offensive, but also the idea of watching it is thought akin to slow death, like Songs of Praise but a thousand times worse.

Not now, however. If the aim of escapism is to travel as far from one's present condition as possible, then Midsomer Murders is the most outlandish journey I can make in one evening, back to a time of affable sexism and coded homophobia. A teacher sleeps with a pupil and the storyline lays the blame squarely on the latter. I had always imagined the broad appeal of the show to be that it took place in a "gentler time", before everyone spoke in italics, but that's not it at all. Watching Midsomer Murders is like finding an old copy of News of the World lying around in a Home Counties pub: all tarts and vicars and incest. It's amazing.

First rule of Midsomer, if Tom's wife wants to participate in your village group, run!

Posted by at February 10, 2017 5:39 PM