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THE MIDSOMER MURDERS SERIES #6(2005)
Director: Sarah Hellings, Richard Holthouse, Peter Smith, Baz Taylor, and others...
Writing by: Anthony Horowitz, David Hoskins, Jeremy Paul, and others...
(Based upon the books and characters of Caroline Graham)
Starring: John Nettles, Daniel Casey, Laura Howard, Jane Wymark
Guest stars include Honor Blackman, Susan Wooldridge, Isla Blair, Christopher Good, Phoebe Nicholls, Trevor Cooper, and Neville Phillips.
Producers: Brian True-May, Betty Willingale
Available on DVD
Distributed by: Acorn Media Publishing
Genre: Mystery/crime, comedy/drama
Long-running series in the UK (ITV).
Broadcast on A&E (cable) as two-hour episodes.
(On DVD each episode runs approximately 100 minutes.)
Reviewed by Cherie Jung
Set number six in this series was recently released (September, 2005) and for several reasons, it is quite disappointing. The calibre of the stories and their translation to the screen are woefully inadequate. The chemistry between the main characters and even between the secondary, regular characters (such as Barnaby's wife and daughter) is lackluster, at best. Not what we've come to expect. And the various story lines, which I'll get to in a minute, are just not up to the high quality and complexity of the previous cases presented throughout the first five series.
If this were the first series, I dare say, there wouldn't have been any to follow. If you are not already an ardent fan of the series, please start by viewing any of the previous 5 sets before tackling this set.
Set #6 contains "A Talent For Life," "Death and Dreams," "Painted in Blood," "A Tale of Two Hamlets," and "Birds of Prey."
Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) is still a good-natured cop. Again, not brilliant, but not dumb. He tends to get hold of a case and plods along until he figures it out, even though the body count in this series seems to be much lower than in the previous series. The roles of his wife and daughter have been minimalized quite a bit, although they do still figure into nearly every episode. It's disappointing to see that the writers seem to not know what to do with the two of them, or perhaps they've tired of writing them into the plots. Barnaby still has his trusty parnter, Sgt. Troy (Daniel Casey), but by now, he can't really be considered "inexperienced" so the relationship suffers from a lack of chemistry that was so amusing in the earlier series.
(Spoiler: I do know from reading about the series that the actor Daniel Casey was replaced and a new parnter joined Barnaby. Perhaps the "new parnter" will bring a bit of life and enjoyment back into the cases, although I have also read that many British viewers were unsatisfied by the actor who replaced Casey. Most reports indicated that those viewers who loved Casey's character hated the new guy while those viewers who disliked Casey's Sgt. Troy, warmly welcomed the new actor. We'll just have to wait and see. We don't have access to those episodes yet.)
You can still catch this crime drama (both old and new -- series #6 -- episodes) on the cable channel A&E from time to time, and I believe episodes still air on the Biography cable channel on some weekends. Of course, in England, they get to watch series #8 or is it #9 now?
The series are packaged as boxed sets although a few of the episodes can be purchased as individual tapes or DVDs. Currently I could only find four individual episodes available on Amazon.com ("Death's Shadow," "Strangler's Wood," "Blood Will Out," and "Beyond the Grave") however, there are other individual episodes available through A&E's online store.
A word of warning about the A&E versions. They have been edited for television, meaning bits and pieces have been cut to make room for more commercials when the episodes aired on TV. Most viewers won't notice much difference, most of the cuts are minor but they do influence the development of some of the characters and if you are watching and listening closely, some of Barnaby's responses seem a bit strained or don't quite make sense. That's because something has been snipped. I prefer the non-A&E versions because I enjoy the banter that gets snipped, for instance, between Barnaby and his wife over her lack of cooking skills. Of course it doesn't prevent him from solving the crime, in the end, but having bits snipped out leaves gaps in the context that I miss when I accidentally pop in one of the A&E versions.
As I mentioned when reviewing the first five sets, it is not necessary to view the episodes in any specific order, although remember, set five is actually the first season or series, filmed.
Another spoiler: In the pilot episode an elderly woman's death leads to revelations about the sordid side of village life. Remember the undertaker and his creepy mum? It is my understanding that those two actors were so popular, they'll be returning in a future episode despite the fact that they met grisly deaths in "The Killings at Badger's Drift." It is rumored that they will be returning in a future episode as cousins or relatives of some sort of the dead Rainbirds.
MIDSOMER MURDERS - SET #6
- "A Talent For Life" -- Who knew that the seemingly rich socialite didn't really have a penny to her name, when did they know it, and did they kill her because of it, or inspite of it? The story line had potential but the writers took the easy way out and decided the killer was the one person it shouldn't have been. The conclusion is quite unsatisfactory as far as I'm concerned. I expected a more intricate, complex, and devious solution. (I thought the daughter-in-law should have been the killer but apparently no one else did. No one really even considered her as a suspect!)
- "Death and Dreams" -- Barnaby's life is supposedly in jeopardy as he follows strange clues, that really aren't all that strange, to a conclusion that anyone who is in the least bit paying attention will figure out nearly an hour before Barnaby does.There was no fun with this one, and not really any suspense. The story plodded along, the killer or killers eluding Barnaby and Troy at every turn, even though they should have seen this one coming from a mile away, as the saying goes. I'm not even complaining that it's yet another "was it or wasn't it a suicide?" to start things off. The ploy works well if there is an interesting story to wrap around it. In this case, they should have solved the crime early on, saved a few lives, and spent the weekend gardening or barbequeing in the backyard.
- "Painted in Blood" -- Joyce Barnaby finds a fellow painter from her Midsomer Florey watercolor class stabbed to death, in the bushes. Poor Joyce. Even though she has critical information, she is pretty much ignored throughout the unraveling of the "crime." Two stereotypically obnoxious, smart-ass, thoroughly dislikable National Intelligence Squad agents take over the case and the results are so predictable I wonder why the writers even bothered with this one.
- "A Tale of Two Hamlets" -- Someone has taken on the task of killing off the remaining Smyth-Webster family but the "bad blood" between the villages of Upper and Lower Warden is simply hokey and unbelievable. I know that not all sleepy villages are cozy and picture-perfect but the portrayal of the "poor side of town," with its debris strewn roadsides was pathetic. The visual effect was to completely disrupt the flow of the story. Not to mention the story line itself was boring beyond belief. Frankly, whoever was killing the Smyth-Websters was doing the villages a favor, if you ask me. I just wish they'd have killed them off faster!
- "Birds of Prey" -- A secret invention, an apparent suicide, and the attempted theft of falcon eggs somehow get jumbled together without much enthusiasm. The two terrified elderly ladies who were being bullied by their house guest should have been the more prominent focus if you ask me. When the chemistry between Barnaby and Troy isn't working, the rest of the too tangled case just makes for tough going for the viewer.
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