Excellent Boxed Set
Sires | It's a Toss Up Right Now | 09/26/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One of the things I have enjoyed about the release of so many television series on DVD is the opportunity to own so many British television series that I have missed for one reason or another over the years.As a reader of Caroline Graham's mysteries, I was pleased to find this series based on her characters. Well written and well acted-- John Nettles as Inspector Barnaby is particularly appealing-- these stories peer under the peaceful facade of Midsomer County where a whole bunch of worms are writhing.One thing I really enjoyed about this series is the lack of prettification of the actors. Many of the main characters are unabashedly middle aged and their faces show it, yet they are still attractive and vibrant. I think it was Charlotte Armstrong who once wrote how some signs of experience in the face was more interesting than "the bald brow of youth." This show illustrates this.Don't buy this series for the DVD bonus extras though. They hardly exist."
Part British cosy, part procedural, with first-rate, murdero
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 07/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you're in the mood for civilized British television mysteries, where the mean streets have more cobblestones than crushed beer cans, where the occasional drug user is not a grubby loser, where the chief copper has a happy home life and no angst to share with the viewers, Midsomer Murders might be just the thing. It's part cosy, part small-town procedural. The mysteries are consistently well developed and puzzling, and the acting is solid.
Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby's territory takes in the English county of Midsomer. All the little picture-perfect villages and small towns have a wide and varied assortment of English citizens, ranging from wealthy magistrates and high Church of England prelates to milkmen and shopkeepers, wives and lovers, thieves and...a lot of murderers. Barnaby (John Nettles), with his police sergeant, Gavin Troy (Daniel Casey), must apply all his experience, skepticism, persistence and unflappability to solve them.
The charm of this series lies partly in its setting. Midsomer County is a very pretty place, green and cared for. The towns are tidy, filled with competent and knowledgeable tradesmen; the villages tend to have a few eccentrics and a lot of thatched roofs. This could be much too cosy except for three things. First, the performance by John Nettles. He's a fine actor who is completely at home in the role. Watching his Barnaby think his way through clever mysteries, unfailingly polite and unfailingly unintimidated, is a pleasure. Second, the mysteries themselves. This series has been going on through eight seasons. DVD sets are out for six of them so far. The mysteries are almost always real puzzlers; not flashy, but well disguised. They are consistently interesting and well written. They play fair with the viewer. The clues Barnaby discovers all have been there for us to find as well as for him. Third, the quality of the production and the actors. I suspect a substantial budget has been allocated for each episode. The series looks first-rate. The actors are first-rate, too, which is typical of British productions which find their way over here. Daniel Casey does a fine job as Barnaby's assistant. He respects his boss and is smart enough to learn from him. But he also can be exasperated at Barnaby's penchant for not sharing everything. And he occasionally gets put out when an apparently important car trip (Troy always drives them) turns out to be a trip for a bacon sandwich Barnaby's been thinking about. Barnaby's wife is played by Jane Wymark, and it's a pleasure to observe how much at ease the two actors are with each other. They play a long-married couple, still in love and with a comfortable kind of middle-aged affection for each other. All the actors do outstanding jobs, and there usually is a sprinkling of well-known names. In Set One, which consist of four programs of about an hour and forty minutes each, there are Richard Briers, Judy Parfitt, Nicholas Farrell, Kathleen Byron (seen more than 50 years earlier as the deranged Sister Ruth in Black Narcissus), Cheryl Campbell, John Duttine and Prunella Scales.
For the record, Set One's mysteries are: Death's Shadow (slashing and burning to death), set in the village of Badger's Drift; Strangler's Wood (strangulation), set in Raven's Wood; Blood Will Out (shotgun blast), set in Martyr Warren; and Beyond the Grave (bludgeoning and haunting), set in Aspern Tallow. The programs in each set do not reflect very accurately the order in which the programs appear in each season's series. It doesn't make any difference since each mystery is self-contained. The DVD picture is excellent. There are a few extras such as a map of Midsomer County showing the towns and villages, cast filmographies of the major players and a biography of Carolyn Graham, the author of the books the series is based on."
A Middle Aged Hero
C. O. DeRiemer | 07/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In the age of young, buff superheroes, it is refreshing to come across a middle-aged detective who manages to be a realistic, likeable character married to an age appropriate woman along with a daughter. Why is it that the British can create such characters and the Americans are always left with "younger and more vacuous" characters? The setting is idyllic and soothing, often a sharp contrast to the plot. I enjoyed all the episodes immensely. The pairing of the younger detective with Nettles works well."