Sea­sonal mad­ness rife in rural Eng­land

Mid­somer Mur­ders 8.30pm, ABC

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - Susan Kuro­sawa

DE­TEC­TIVE Chief In­spec­tor Tom Barn­aby ( John Net­tles) pre­sides over a patch that must have the high­est corpse count in Eng­land. In a typ­i­cal episode, there are bod­ies in the li­brary of the lo­cal squire’s manor, at the vicarage and be­hind the co­conut shy or tombola stands at the vil­lage fete in Bad­ger’s Drift.

Barn­aby and his latest off­sider, De­tec­tive Sergeant Ben Jones ( Ja­son Hughes), use old- fash­ioned polic­ing to track the killers. The weapon of choice for Mid­somer mur­der­ers is a sharp­bladed in­stru­ment or shot­gun. There’s no DNA match­ing or clever lab work, rarely even fin­ger­prints or sus­pi­cious long blonde hairs on the tweed jack­ets of re­tired colonels. The crimes are solved via in­tu­ition — which Barn­aby has in spades — and dogged plod­ding by Caus­ton CID’s finest duo.

There’s an agree­able charm to all this and the scenery is lovely: rounded hills and coun­try lanes, thatched cot­tages and Tu­dor tea shoppes.

It’s all so sto­ry­book Eng­land one wouldn’t be sur­prised if a stoat in a pi­nafore were to pop out from un­der a hedgerow and of­fer Barn­aby and Jones a nice cup of tea.

But, of course, all is not as it seems and there’s an Agatha Christie- like un­der­cur­rent of evil. Barn­aby has the nosi­ness and per­sis­tence of a Miss Marple and the cast of char­ac­ters in each episode is at least as var­ied as any Christie vil­lage mys­tery. It’s a se­ries that has al­ways at­tracted ter­rific guest stars, too, from Mag­gie Steed to Richard Bri­ers.

Tonight’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion launches a new sea­son. Mid­somer Mur­ders has been in pro­duc­tion for 10 years and shows lit­tle sign of age and sag, other than Barn­aby’s ever- more- portly stom­ach and shorter ties, and the deep­ened frown lines of his wet- week of a wife, Joyce ( Jane Wy­mark). No

It’s al­ways the same . . . black­mail, sex­ual de­viancy, sui­cide and mur­der’

wo­man alive would put up with that corpse- both­erer Barn­aby ex­cept the hard done- by Joyce; he has never been known to fin­ish a meal, show up on time for a fam­ily oc­ca­sion or stay to its end.

So here we are in the su­perbly named Mor­ton Fen­dle with a young man found gassed in his vin­tage car in a dis­used air­craft hangar.

To solve the crime, Barn­aby and Jones must fol­low odd leads, via swim­ming pools and ken­nels. They even go un­der­cover at a 1940s jazz and swing night at the lo­cal parish hall, dur­ing which Joyce is given a rare air­ing and ac­tu­ally gets to dance with her hus­band.

As usual, there are red her­rings, nosy park­ers and sus­pi­cious sorts lurk­ing in the rhodo­den­drons. ‘‘ In any Mid­somer vil­lage, it’s al­ways the same thing . . . black­mail, sex­ual de­viancy, sui­cide and mur­der,’’ Barn­aby fa­mously mut­tered in an early episode. If there’s a man alive in Eng­land who can fer­ret out a killer, this is our chap.

Prob­lem solver: John Net­tles as DCI Barn­aby

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