Tuesday, 5 September 2017


DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) investigates bizarre and imaginative murders in the picturesque Midsomer County with his new DS, Jamie Winter (Nick Hendrix), and pathologist Dr Kam Karimore (Manjinder Virk). From december 2016 to January 2017, ITV aired four out of the six feature-length episodes from the 19th series of Midsomer Murders. However, the channel decided to keep the remaining two for "later in the year".

Last spring French pubcaster France 3 didn't show them either but these episodes are in the French Region 2 DVD set from Koba Films, now available. Past a soporific premiere, Series 19 is in fact full of pleasant surprises.

- The village That Rose from the Dead: A 1940s themed party celebrates the reopening of Little Auburn, a derelict village left untouched since WW2, while three camps fight about its future. A young man behind an eco-village project, leaves the party on a bike when he's crushed by a tank (no less!) Unfortunately, the rest of the episode doesn't fulfill the promises of this scene. The only real drama is that Sykes, the Barnabys' beloved dog, has gone to Heaven. Paddy, his replacement, is brought rather predictably but at least the transition is better than for the DS.

Neil Dudgeon interrupts a placid mode for a short moment when his character has an encounter with a snake. Guest starring Caroline Blakiston, David Burke, Anthony Calf, Christopher Colquhoun, Hugh Dennis, etc. Written by Rachel Cupperman & Sally Griffith and directed by Nick Laughland.

- Crime and Punishment: The butcher of Bleakridge, the most remote village in Midsomer, is found dead in the cold room of his shop by his fellow members of the local Neighbourhood Watch group. The man was investigating a wave of burglaries in the village, but hadn’t identified the culprit yet. It's a little bit like Hot Fuzz without the comedy in this episode written by Paul Logue and directed by Renny Rye, though we could do without the production's insistence to match up the DS with the pathologist.

Frances Barber plays the leader of "the rural Stasi" (as Barnaby calls the Bleakridge Watch).  Katy Cavanagh, Neil Morrissey, Vicki Pepperdine, Sara Powell, Clive Swift  and Sam Troughton are amongst the other guest stars.

- Last Man Out: After the very good A Dying Art last year, scriptwriter Jeff Povey and director Matt Carter return to Midsomer Murders with this inventive and funny gem. Cricket is a ground for murder as DCI Barnaby and DS Winter investigate the death of a star batsman. They're about to interrogate the man who found the body: Jack Morris, the 12th player of the team. Except that "Morris" is actually Barnaby's old DS Ben Jones, working undercover to infiltrate a large-scale match fixing operation.

It's a pleasure to see Jason Hugues back as Ben Jones, former right-hand man of two DCI Barnaby. The reunion with John, the "duel" with Winter and Ben's confrontation with the match-fixer on the cricket ground are some of the great moments of this episode. John Bird, Susan Jameson and Natasha Little are amongst the guest stars.

- Red In Tooth And Claw: Death strikes in and around a pet show. There's an impressive number of rabbits and someone who plays with scissors in this most enjoyable episode, written by Lisa Holdsworth and directed by Steve Hughes.

Steve Pemberton is a champion rabbit breeder. Michael Obiora plays Oliver Marcet, the locum pathologist. English acting deity Susan Hampshire graces Midsomer County with her presence. Also with Aisling Loftus

- Death by Persuasion: A young woman slips away from a Jane Austen weekend dressed in period attire when she's stabbed in the woods with a feathered quill. A delivery drone becomes a most dangerous anachronistic element in this reconstitution of Georgian times where Barnaby and Winter must "blend in". John's wife Sarah (Fiona Dolman) is writing a novel and there's another temp pathologist, Petra Antonescu (Anamaria Marinca).

An excellent episode penned by a very inspired Chris Murray and directed by Alex Pillai. It seems that both (and director of photography Al Beech) had some fun with this Midsomer version of a period drama, filmed in superb locations. Susie Blake, Abigail Cruttenden, Nicholas Gleaves, Claire Skinner, Karl Theobald and Samuel West are amongst a perfect guest cast.

- The Curse of the Ninth: The winner of a music award is strangled with a violin string and a piece of paper is found in his mouth. Barnaby and Winter face "the Curse of the Ninth", a well-known superstition in the classical music world: once a composer performs his ninth symphony, he's destined to die. Sarah has writer's block. Kam returns and she has something very important to tell to Jamie.

Another excellent episode, which reminds of Death and the Divas (Series 15) at some point. The guest cast includes the great Simon Callow, Robert Daws, James Fleet, Caroline Langrishe and Cyril Nri. Written by new Midsomer Murders scribe Julia Gilbert (Holby City, EastEnders) and directed by Matt Carter. 

The 3-disc DVD box set from Koba Films contains the French dubbing and, fortunately, the original dialogue track (available with optional French subtitles). Based upon the books by Caroline Graham. Produced by Bentley Productions (part of All3Media) for ITV. Exec produced by Jo Wright and produced by Ella Kelly. Music composed by Jim Parker


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