by Kathleen Costa
So many streaming options are available nowadays, each varying in type of programming, devices needed, and membership requirements. I have been a member of AcornTV for over two years, and with a reasonable monthly fee and annual payment option, I have been thrilled with the diversity of genre, original air date, country of origin, number of episodes, and length of availability. From the “iconic” mystery’s genre, two of my favorites are also highly popular and their entire series is available for rewatching and binging: Midsomer Murders twenty-one seasons (1997-2019) based on books by Caroline Greene and Murdoch Mysteries, thirteen seasons (2008-2020) based on books by Maureen Jennings.
Midsomer Murders, an Iconic Drama with a Giggle!
It took awhile for me to lay John Nettles’s Tom Barnaby to rest and embrace Neil Dudgeon’s John Barnaby. Now, I love Dudgeon’s performance, maintaining the intuitive and quiet manner, adding a formal education in psychology and a dry sense of humor. The style of the show is still entertaining ‘after all these year” with clever predicaments, secrets & discoveries, quirky characters, and an investigation that offers fans an opportunity to devise their own theories, but there’s always multiple victims and a twist near the end that always gives me a big ’Wow!” Dudgeon’s DI Barnaby is again supported by DS Jamie Winter (Nick Hendrix) as his current partner with a fun mentor/big brother dynamic, Fiona Dolman as his wife Sarah provides a soft, inner voice and daughter Betty offers insights into his “girl-dad” side, Annette Badland as the feisty pathologist Dr. Fleur Perkins is one Barnaby can’t quite define, and a host of bystanders, witnesses, and victims of blackmail, theft, vandalism, and murder challenge his skills. The only complaint is that a season (aka “series”) is only four 90-minute telemovies! Like Oliver, “Please, sir, I want some more.”
The Point of Balance: During the Paramount Dance Extravaganza a former ballroom-dance champion is found dead putting Barnaby and Winter up against old rivals, jealous partners, and corporate sponsors. But, it’s secrets, PTSD, and state-of-the-art technology that clouds the investigation. On the home front Barnaby is dealing with a visitation from his estranged father.
ICYMI: The actor that plays John Barnaby’s father is Christopher Timothy who played the lead in another of my favorite dramas All Creatures Great and Small (1978-1983; 1988-1990).
The Miniature Murders: At the Life in Miniature Charity Fundraiser a local real-estate agent is murdered in plain sight of the attendees, his girlfriend, his estranged wife, and a man recently released from prison. Barnaby and Winters, however, find the victim is described as an unscrupulous landlord, cheater, and party to the death of young girl years ago. Everyone has a motive, but dollhouses, a purple costume, and a suspicious woman make the investigation difficult.
ICYMI: The miniature houses are so detailed and a fascinating prop. The disgruntled soon-to-be ex-wife now widow is Clare Holman, the coroner and love interest from Inspector Lewis. The lover is Joanna Page from Love Actually.
The Sting of Death: Beekeeper attacked, hives damaged, and bees are missing, but it’s the local doctor who ends up wrapped in a swarm. Apley Gold is a premium honey touted for its medicinal properties. The owner has a miraculous story about his success with apitherapy, an alternate medicine using honey and bee venom. More deaths, cleverly designed, implicate…the bees?
ICYMI: Interesting insights into bees, beeswax, and honey. The Deddington sister is Imogen Stubbs (Sense & Sensibility) and the bee expert is Jack Fox (son of icon James Fox; Laurence Fox’s brother from Inspector Lewis). Barnaby relates my favorite line, “It’s the natural law of karma, Winter, we create our own destiny by our thoughts, words, and deeds for good or ill.”
With Baited Breath: Two events are scheduled for the same weekend in Solomon Gorge: the Psycho Mud Run, an extreme obstacle course competition with Sarah Barnaby and DS Winter as participants, and a fishing contest with contestants vying for a £20,000 prize for hooking the legendary mister of the lake, Ahab. Each group gets creative sabotaging each other with a major route change through the lake potentially sending Ahab in hiding and fishing hooks buried in the mud causing cuts and injuries, but…murder…murder…murder?
ICYMI*: No notable guests or interesting insights to offer, but I am always fascinated by the different pubs that show up…cozy, dark paneling, wood beams, and thatched roof. I’ll have a pint!
Midsomer Murders Season 20 Review HERE.
* ICYMI: In Case You Missed It!
Murdoch Mysteries, Lucky Thirteen!
Whisked back to 1900s Toronto, Canada, the ins and outs, trials and tribulations, family and friends of Station House No. 4 of the Toronto Constabulary are explored. Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) dons his Homburg hat and sets off to investigate several murders, cleverly designed, usually with some fascinating use of technology or techniques referencing a modern link (rear-view mirrors, roombas). Along with the same team of detectives and constables, historical struggles (suffrage, prejudices), cultural conflicts (LGBT community), and contemporary [to us] issues (right to die) are transformed to fit in the early twentieth century mores, and class and gender status.
Murdoch’s support starts with his wife, Dr. Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy), who has moved on from the Coroner’s Office to Toronto Mercy Hospital as a surgeon offering a stark comparison to modern medical practices and ideology. His immediate boss Chief Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig) struggles with a past indiscretion, yet to be made public, downs shots rye on duty, and tries to keep everyone on track. Constable Crabtree (Jonny Harris), in many ways comic relief, continues his writing career and making outlandish theories, that have a tone of our time. Murdoch is still suspicious of coroner Violet Hart (Shanice Banton) from a past ethics issue he’s unable to prove, and although she’s aware of his distant manner, she is professional and competent. Detective Watts (Daniel Maslany) has his own place at the station with a style that is more quirky, sometimes without a filter. Special Constable Robert Parker (Marc Senior), an African-American former Pinkerton agent, nicknamed “Butch” by Brackenreid, unofficially adds his theories and undercover work.
To date the first half of this thirteenth season is airing with nine 45-minute episodes along with every episode and Christmas special from the entire series…it is a binge heaven! I have been an eager fan, seen every episode, and have enjoyed them all. This new season did not disappoint. Each episode had its own clever murder with motives ranging from greed to jealousy to revenge, from a need to hide one’s secrets to showing one’s true nature, from things gone wrong to things gone very wrong. The humor is there, thank you Crabtree and Higgins, as well as creepy Halloween hijinks. The “Oh, no-s!” are there, too, with a relative’s appearance both good and bad, a major secret revealed that could cost one detective a career or their freedom, a cover-up may return to ruin another career, and what is it with the creepy neighbors? Still a favorite!
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