The way ITV's Midsomer Murders is packaged can be confusing for fans of the series based on the stories by Caroline Graham. In a typical box set, the releases go by the season. In the case of Midsomer Murders, purchasing a set in the proper order can make for an interesting head trip.
The series stars John Nettles as Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby, who spends his days traveling the country of Midsomer knocking out crime with the ease of a Sunday morning drive. The crimes are often committed in picture-perfect towns inhabited by people who seemingly love to get into each other's belly lint and end up in danger as a result. Unlike other fictional detectives such as Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes or Colin Dexter's Morse, Caroline Graham's Barnaby is a bit more friendly and has a family of his own.
Despite this difference, Midsomer Murders still follows the rule of having a partner who is put in charge of the more bothersome aspects of investigating. Three partners have fought against crime with Barnaby; they include Gavin Troy (Daniel Casey), Dan Scott (John Hopkins), and Ben Jones (Jason Hughes). Set nine's collection of episodes come from the first four stories of the show's eighth season, which would have Dan Scott as the partner.
Having just replaced Daniel Casey's Troy, John Hopkins's Scott never seems to quite fit into the quirkiness of the series. No matter the situation, he always seemed to keep his cool. I'm sure if he had stayed on he would have developed as a character, but I suspect Hopkins could see the writing on the wall and merely exited when it was possible. After season eight's "Midsomer Rhapsody", his character didn't reappear for a farewell episode like Troy did with "The Green Man" in season seven. Instead, he was mentioned in the opening scenes of "The House In The Woods" (season nine) as having called in sick.
I sure hope they at least mention in the next season if he got better.
The four season eight episodes included are as follows:
- Things That Go Bump In THe Night
- Dead In The Water
- Orchis Fatalis
- Bantling Boy
If you have seen the episodes featuring Daniel Casey's Troy and haven't yet watched the newer episodes, rent "Bantling Boy" from your local video store or Netflix if possible. I say this because it's the only one (involving a horse, a secret group, and a game that connects the two) that is not only well written, but gives Dan Scott something to do other than hit on a chick ("The Straw Woman" in season seven). "Dead In The Water" is a dull affair dealing with rowing contests, "Things That Go Bump In The Night" deals with religion and corruption (blah), and "Orchis Fatalis" tries to create a mystery around a flower, which if you are into plants would be interesting.
Currently for Americans, the only way to catch the show, other than renting episodes of this series, has been the Biography Channel's Mystery Sunday lineup. Recently the channel had the nerve to cut it down and send a few shows to Saturday morning, with Midsomer Murders being one of them. Fans have expressed their outrage, but it doesn't appear as that will change anytime soon.
If you've got more than a few bucks to spare and you want to see what all the hype is about, you may do well to get set five of the series. Those episodes are from the first season and are well-adapted from the actual published stories by Caroline Graham. You also get to see Gavin Troy and how wonderful Daniel Casey's chemistry is with John Nettles in these stories.
Set nine of Midsomer Murders is sort of the black sheep of the show's history. But much like the infamous Trial Of A Timelord season of Doctor Who, I'm sure the perception won't fit those who don't listen to fan commentary. Just don't go say those episodes suck on a forum; you might get an "I told you so."