T HE E n g l i s h c o u n t y o f Midsomer is rural, astonishingly murder-prone, picturesque and completely white.
It’s also fictional, the setting for Midsomer Murders, a TV series that has run for 14 years, offering a steady diet of violent crimes in leafy l a n e s a n d v i l l a g e s , a l l r e a s s u r i n g l y s o l v e d b y avuncular Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby.
N o w M i d s o m e r ’ s c o z y world has been rocked, and its producer suspended on Tuesday, after he said that the show ‘‘ wouldn’t work’’ if there were any non-white people in the cast.
‘‘ We are a cosmopolitan society in this country, but if you watch Midsomer you wouldn’t think so,’’ executive producer Brian TrueMay told Radio Times magazine, adding t hat ‘ ‘ quite honestly I wouldn’t want to change it’’.
‘‘ We just don’t have ethnic minorities involved. Because it wouldn’t be the English village with them. It just wouldn’t work,’’ he was quoted as saying.
‘‘ We’re the last bastion of Englishness and I want to keep it that way.’’
I TV, t he net work t hat broadcasts the show, said in a statement t hat i t was ‘‘ shocked and appalled’’ by True-May’s comments. I t said True-May, one of the show’s co-founders, has been s us p e nded b y p r o d uci ng company All3Media pending an investigation.
True-May’s equation of ‘‘ English’’ with ‘‘ white’’ was s t r o n g l y c o n d e mn e d b y s o me , b u t d e f e n d e d b y
COZY NO MORE: Actors John Nettles and Daniel Casey in a scene from TV show others, who say he is simply telling it like it is: the vast m a j o r i t y o f n o n - w h i t e Britons – who make up about 8 per cent of the total population – live in cities or suburbs.
Daily Telegraph columnist Christina Odone accused a ‘‘ metropolitan creative elite’’ of trying to rewrite reality by foisting ‘‘ multicultural fantasy worlds on viewers and listeners.’’
Historian and thriller writ- er Guy Walters – himself a resident of a ‘‘ typical, exclusively white’’ English village – said that while True-May’s description of monoculture villages was not inaccurate, ‘‘ the problem with his words is it looks like he is saying that is a desirable state of affairs’’.
Ash Atalla, a television producer who helped create hit comedy The Office, compared True-May’s comments t o ‘‘ when you have a mad old uncle round for Christmas lunch, and they say something rather extreme about homosexuality or about colour’’.
‘‘ This t hing,’’ radio.
‘‘ There are people of a certain age that like to view Englishness as all white. I don’t think that’s the case any more.’’ And some say the a p p e a l o f s h o w s l i k e Midsomer Murders is less is a generational Atalla t ol d BBC a b o u t r e f l e c t i n g r e a l Englishness – traditional or modern – than about a potent mix of coziness and menace, bloody murder in picturepostcard settings.
It’s a recipe followed time and again, f r om Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, solving murders in the fictional village of St Mary Mead, to Col i n Dexter ’ s I ns p e c t o r Morse series, set amid the spires and quadrangles of academic Oxford.