The cozy villages of Midsomer County reveal their most sinister secrets in these contemporary British television mysteries. Inspired by the novels of Caroline Graham, modern master of the English village mystery, the series stars Neil Dudgeon (Life of Riley) as the capable Detective Chief Inspector John Barnaby, with Jason Hughes (This Life) as his earnest, efficient partner, Detective Sergeant Ben Jones. Guest stars include Warren Clarke, Joanna David, Genevieve O'Reilly, and James Dreyfus.
Mysteries include "The Sleeper Under the Hill", in which Barnaby and Jones investigate a group of Druids in Midsomer Mow; "The Night of the Stag," wherein local bootleggers come under suspicion after the disappearance of a government inspector; "A Sacred Trust," as vandalism and violence send shock waves through Midsomer's cloistered nunnery; and "A Rare Bird," in which the detectives investigate whether competition between ornithology enthusiasts led to murder.
It's amazing that the countryside hamlet known as Midsomer has any people left alive. So many grisly murders happen in the English countryside you'd think someone would take notice and realize that something isn't quite right. Maybe all this country air brings out the murderous rage in what are otherwise decent country folk.
'Midsomer Murders' is the perfect definition of a lazy television show. I don't mean that the writing and execution of the show's mysteries are lazy, I mean that this is the type of show one can curl up on the couch in a bathrobe and watch. It's the kind of show you want to watch when there's nothing else to do and it's raining outside.
I mentioned in my review of the 21st set that it was hard seeing long-time detective Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) bow out. He'd been such a mainstay that it was almost impossible imagining the show running without him. In my opinion the show couldn't have done a better job in replacing him with Tom's cousin Detective Chief Inspector John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon). John is a little friendlier than his cousin. He attacks each case with a smile on his face and an unbeatable sarcastic wit. Backing up DCI John Barnaby is his trusty right-hand man DS Ben Jones (Jason Hughes). He's there to provide comic relief, and to act as a punching bag for Barnaby's relentless barbs.
The 22nd set of the series, put out by Acorn Media, consists of four feature-length episodes. "The Sleeper Under the Hill," "The Night of the Stag," "A Sacred Trust," and "A Rare Bird," comprise the second half of the show's 14th season.
'Midsomer Murders' has always done a decent job at weaving intricately interconnected tales of betrayal, greed, and murder. There are always a few twists thrown in that keep me guessing. I must confess that I'm usually stumped by the motives up until the end rolls around. Much of the time it's relatively easy to figure out who was involved with the murder, or murders, but it's not so easy trying to understand the motives behind the nefarious actions.
Like so many detective shows, the procedural nature of the story takes precedence. We're met with a crime scene, and a group of shifty-eyed suspects. Their seclusion to small countryside towns only adds to the intrigue. These are always towns where "everyone knows everyone," and everyone usually has a motive to kill everyone else. Sadly, Barnaby and Jones usually stumble upon towns and places where people usually try to kill each other instead of talk out their differences.
In "The Sleeper Under the Hill," Barnaby comes face-to-face with a twisted clan of Druids who may have sacrificed one of their villagers on a stone alter. "The Night of the Stag" features a group of alcohol haters, bootleggers, and a murderous apple tree harvester. "A Sacred Trust," takes a group of nuns in a local nunnery and paints them as the most unlikely of suspects. Finally, in "A Rare Bird," Baranby investigates the murder of an infamous bird watcher.
There are never any shortages of weird storylines in 'Midsomer Murders.' It seems that each episode is more outlandish than the next. That doesn't matter though, because how picky are you getting when you're sitting there in your bathrobe and slippers. If you're looking for light whodunit entertainment, well then, you came to the right place.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Midsomer Murders: Set 22' comes complete with two 25GB Blu-ray Discs. Each disc contains two 90-minute episodes. They're packed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase, which comes with a generic cardboard slipcover.
Like the 21st set of 'Midsomer Murders' this release shows the same drawbacks. Depth and dimensionality waver. Noise spikes occasionally. And fine detail suffers in the mid-range.
There's a soft, fuzzy appearance to most shots. Background light tends to bleed in causing soft lighting that covers faces and detail. Shadows are pretty harsh at times and crushing can be a real problem. Black areas don't always appear as deep as they could. Sometimes the blackness has a bluish hue to it that's distracting. Darker scenes are also home to noise spikes.
The 1080p presentation does shine, however, when the show is in full daylight. Well-lit close-ups feature quite a bit of fine facial detail. The English countryside, in the daytime, is extremely well represented. The greens and browns are lushly vibrant. There's a good amount of detail in landscape shots too. The point is that these 'Midsomer Murders' releases are always mixed bags when it comes to video presentation. You have to accept the great with the not-so-great.
Nothing has changed significantly here. The audio presentation, which is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, is a mirror representation of what we heard on the previous release. There's nothing overtly special about these 2.0 mixes. Sure, they're lossless, but they have a hard time immersing the viewer in the show.
The dialogue is centered clearly. This isn't a mono mix though, so we have some semblance of directionality going on. If characters talk out of frame then the channel on the appropriate side reproduces the dialogue. The same goes for sound effects like the crunching of gravel underneath care tires, or the hustle and bustle of a busy town pub.
These mixes do just enough to get the show's point across. They never mess up terribly with the execution, there just isn't a lot to get excited about.
There's a reason they rerun 'Midsomer Murders' on PBS, it's just the type of show you'd think to find there. It skews toward an older audience. An audience entrenched in police procedurals who don't want to think too much about detailed serialization. Most of the episodes are compartmentalized, and can be watched without ever seeing any other episode. For that reason I say 'Midsomer Murders' is worth a look instead of for fans only. The fact that you can just jump in wherever and ride along with the show is a definite plus.