by Kathleen Costa
BritBox and Acorn-TV are the best to whet any Anglophile’s appetite, and with very few, if any, overlaps in programming, I can justify having both services. The monthly subscription fee is very reasonable and foregoing a couple of lattes with scones a month is the least I can do for hours and hours of entertainment. With some shows I’ve not seen for decades, others from PBS I wait too long to return, and some I never knew existed, I am really enjoying my memberships!
Twenty Years of Acclaimed Drama
Not many programs can boast a twenty-year history, but
Midsomer Murders earns 5+/5 Clever Murder Mysteries!
Finally! Season 20 is here more clever than ever! The same popular Midsomer mystery format is not a “follow the clues” engagement, but a character driven storyline often with a very satisfying, sometimes perilous, “Oh, my!” ending. Heading up the investigations, DCI Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) returns bringing the same quiet reserve along with delightful banter and mentor/big brother style dynamic with his partner DS Jamie Winter (Nick Hendrix). Family life, like with the original cast, is always incorporated with wife Sarah Barnaby (Fiona Dolman) returning as an intelligent supportive confidante with endearing banter, and little Betty making a peripheral appearance to showcase the “daddy” side of DCI Barnaby. Even Paddy (rescue Terrier puppy) barks his way into the group for his second season. An informative and entertaining addition to the cast is the mature pathologist Dr. Fleur Perkins (Annette Badland) with a very quirky sense of humor. The murder rate is rising again in Midsomer…you’ll love it!
The Ghost of Causton Abbey begins in 1539 playing out a medieval execution at Causton Abbey. “Legend has it…,” DCI Tom Barnaby explains. “Did you seriously just use the phrase ‘legends has it’” retorts DS Jamie Winter. Brother Josef had been found guilty of poisoning people with his beer and was executed in a vat of boiling hot liquid. Oh, capital punishment in the sixteenth century! But just before his dunk into oblivion, the monk screams, “A curse! A curse upon this place for all eternity! A curse!” DCI Barnaby continues, “…anyone who drinks beer here will come to a bad end.” Would there be any better place to build a brewery, and start production on a new brew christened “Cursed Ale”? Not in public relations terms, but PR may take a destructive hit when a dead body is found boiled in a vat of beer!
Death of the Small Coppers — A butterfly collector, an elite IQ society, a high-school biology activist, and a missing kaleidoscope of “small coppers” make for an interesting mixture, but murder? The investigation uncovers an international connection sprinkling in a few IQ challenges along with rumors of bribes. Can you answer this? On one side is a massive fire, and on the other is a den of lions who haven’t eaten for two months. Which direction would be your best escape route?
Drawing Dead — Two years ago Lord Argo was killed and his sister-in-law put into a coma, and now during Carver Valley’s comic festival she seems to be awakening. But, murder changes that! Graphic novels are very popular, but this new unreleased one, highlighting crimes and misdemeanors of six local residents, was used as the murder weapon. Is the artist a good Samaritan or a murderer?
The Lions of Causton — Football eat your heart out! Rugby is murderously exciting! DCI Barnaby relives his own “glory” days and learns a valuable lesson about the passage of time, but for the investigation it’s the rivalries and in-fighting at a local rugby club, old grudges, blackmail, secrets…and artisanal chocolates? Yes, even chocolates play a part in getting one’s “just desserts.”
Till Death Do Us Part — Weddings can be difficult…bridezillas, feuding families, too much alcohol, but murder? Only in Midsomer! The bride, a radio talk show celebrity, had been stalked and now she’s dead. Soon Barnaby, Winter, and Sarah discover motives of jealousy, past family tragedies, and “Honey, is this a trap?”
Send in the Clowns — No, not clowns! Ferabbee’s Circus comes to town bringing with it a case of coulrophobia for DCI Barnaby to address, but he’ll buck up for little Betty’s sake as well as stay a new case of murder. Along with several sinister clown sightings, threatening notes, a village on edge, and dangerous circus acts a fear of clowns may be the least of his worries.
Don’t Miss this Midsomer Murders Connection!
Midsomer Murders was not my first introduction to Neil Dudgeon, a favorite English actor known for his often reserved, introspective portrayal of DCI John Barnaby. I remember watching him in a guest supporting role as DS Graham Bentley in Lovejoy episode “Bin Diving” (1991), D.C. Costello in A Touch of Frost episode “Nothing to Hide” (1994), and as David Michaels in Inspector Morse episode “The Way Through the Woods” (1995). However, it was his role opposite Dame Diana Rigg in The Mrs Bradley Mysteries that caught my attention.
The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries are based on the characters created by detective writer Gladys Mitchell (1901-1983) in her sixty-six book Mrs. Bradley series. Currently airing on BritBox, I recently revisited the series binging the 90-minute pilot (Speedy Death 1998) and the four hour-long episodes (Death at the Opera, The Rising of the Moon, Laurels are Poison, and The Worsted Viper) originally airing on BBC in 2000. I greatly enjoyed Dudgeon’s role as George Moody, Mrs. Bradley’s devoted chauffeur, detective sidekick/lookout, and often investigative guinea pig. He brought the same quiet portrayal, but endearing banter with Mrs, Bradley. It was very disappointing that the series didn’t continue; there are sixty-six books from which to adapt a script! Why not? It had everything a mystery-loving Anglophile could want: clever Christie-like mysteries, marvelous British locations, gorgeous 1920s fashion, cars, and music along with a humorous and endearing dynamic between Mrs. Bradley and George. But five episodes are all I get, so I’ll enjoy rewatching. Don’t miss it!
Enjoy Gladys Mitchell’s story on YouTube as a radio play. The video is just the old book cover image, but the audio is very good. It’s like listening to an audiobook with sound effects. I loved it!
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