The idyllic villages of Midsomer County reveal their most sinister secrets in these three feature-length mysteries from the perennially popular British series. Neil Dudgeon (Life of Riley) stars as the capable DCI John Barnaby, with Jason Hughes (This Life) as his clever sidekick. THE MYSTERIES Written in the Stars The Sicilian Defence Schooled in Murder
'Midsomer Murders' is so easy going, so cozy, that it's quite possible to forget you're watching it altogether. I know that sounds like a jab, but I assure you, it's not. Have you ever settled down to watch, say, a 'Law & Order: SVU' marathon on cable? Of course you have, who hasn't? Well, during those binge-watch sessions where you haven't even bothered to change out of your pajamas, even though it's 3:30 in the afternoon, it's almost easy to forget what you're watching. 'Midsomer Murders' acts much the same way. It's familiar procedural nature could very well lull you away – like it does me – into a trance-like state. Sometimes it's just enjoyable to watch something that seems so at ease with itself.
Set 24 marks the end of the fifteenth season of the show. It's also sort of monumental. Set 20 saw the departure of series stalwart DCI Barnaby (John Nettles). His cousin DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) took over his job. The switch between main characters was a smooth one, especially because Sgt. Benjamin Jones (Jason Hughes) provided a familiar face to help us with the transition. However, now with Set 24, we find ourselves facing another mainstay departure. These last few episodes, are Jones' last. Set 25 will feature a new sidekick for DCI John Barnaby. And so it goes, just like 'Law & Order' the show moves on even after its most recognizable faces leave.
The three episodes contained on Set 24 mark the second half of the show's fifteenth season. The episodes are: “Written in the Stars” – a murder during a full eclipse viewing; “The Sicilian Defense” – a murder at a chess tournament; and “Schooled in Murder” – murders within the Midsomer cheese and dairy community.
One has to wonder about the startlingly high murder rate in and around the fictional county of Midsomer. For a country hamlet, with satellite villages strewn about over the English countryside, there sure are a lot of people being murdered with vicious regularity. No worries though, Barnaby always seems to take it in stride.
I find Barnaby's lack of emotional outpouring sort of endearing. He never gets too passionate about cases. He seems content with interviewing townsfolk and casually picking out when they're telling the truth and when they're lying.
Barnaby and Jones work together well. They've already got a nice rapport with each other. They wander in and out of the scenes, picking up clues, interviewing shady characters, and investigating crime scenes. Even the medical examiners seem rather idyllically happy considering their job of attending a high number of grizzly crime scenes.
With each episode approaching the 90-minute mark, it can be frustrating to deal with the filler each episode must have. They could easily pack these stories into 60-minute shows, but they're stretched out to feature-length like many British-produced procedurals. If you're a fan of the show, you don't mind. However, if you haven't had the opportunity to watch Barnaby and Jones in action, the idea of watching feature-length episodes might get on your nerves.
It'll be tough to watch Jones go. He helped with the transition between Barnabys. He's been a recognizable face as the world around him changes. His deadpan comedic delivery will be missed too.
It would seem that each set of 'Midsomer Murders' is much like the last. Almost all the episodes are interchangeable, but for some reason they're all watchable. I don't know, perhaps I give it the benefit of the doubt because I've been watching it for so long that it's like visiting an old friend.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a two-disc set from Acorn Media. The disc with two episodes is a 50GB disc, and the second disc with only one episode is a 25GB disc. They are packaged in a standard keepcase that has disc hubs for both of them. Disc one contains the first two episodes, while disc two contains the third one. A slipcover that matches the others in the series is also provided.
The 1080p video presentation provides some lushly detailed visuals of the greenery of the English countryside. It's perhaps the show's most pronounced, and recognizable visual. The rolling green hills, contrasted with the blue-gray sky. It all looks great here.
We get some great colors here. Green is the commanding color and it's perfectly rendered in all its subtle shades. Dark scenes harbor a little more noise than one might find acceptable. Shadows are a tad rough, and crushing hampers the picture every so often.
Detail in close-ups is very nice. Textured clothing appears tangible. There isn't the slightest bit of aliasing in any scenes. There is some banding featured in the first episode as was watch the full eclipse happening. The slowly darkening sky presents some fleeting banding that is noticeable and then soon disappears. Like past seasons the video presentation is quite agreeable. Much like the show itself.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 is a lossless mix, but tends to be confined by its own design. These newer shows really could use the depth of a full 5.1 mix. There's plenty of places where surround sound design could help it create an even more lifelike atmosphere.
As it is all the sound is delivered front and center. Voices are prioritized well, providing intelligible dialogue. The show's music never really drowns out anything else. Sound effects are also nicely done, even though everything is sharing the same auditory space. While, it might not be ideal the 2.0 lossless mix does as well as it can without providing too much of a wow factor.
Each set of 'Midsomer Murders' is much like the last, the episodes are somewhat interchangeable at this point, but for some reason they're all watchable. With agreeable video, underwhelming audio, and a smattering of extras, this is like revisiting an old if somewhat unexciting friend. Fans should be happy with this set.