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Masterpiece presents ‘Midsomer Murders: Super Sleuths' on PBS

A PBS special on super sleuths DCI Tom Barnaby (played by John Nettles) and partner Sgt. Gavin Troy (played by Daniel Casey) is on Masterpiece describing how the popular crime drama was formed.
A PBS special on super sleuths DCI Tom Barnaby (played by John Nettles) and partner Sgt. Gavin Troy (played by Daniel Casey) is on Masterpiece describing how the popular crime drama was formed.

Masterpiece on PBS is presenting a special on the popular British crime/mystery drama series “Midsomer Murders.” As a fan who watches the series regularly, curiosity took over as to what the special was about.

The plot focuses on behind-the-scenes of the program, with stars of the series giving their assessments and the roles each plays. The actors shown are currently seen on Washington, D.C.’s PBS stations that cover the adventures of CID Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Tom Barnaby, played by actor John Nettles. Nettles played the character from its beginning of the series (1997) until 2011; when he decided to leave and was replaced by actor Neil Dudgeon.

Much of the special showed murderous clips of the series. Two gritty and gruesome scenes involved a woman being beaten with a cricket bat while another was a man tied up in a circle while the killer shot glass bottles on his victim.

The special also concentrated on Caroline Graham, the author and creator of Midsomer Murders. She wrote seven mystery novels in the DCI Barnaby series, the first being The Killings at Badger's Drift in 1987. All of her Barnaby novels have been televisied. A comment was made about Graham's writing in that she was “dipping her pen in acid.” When the novels ran out, original versions were written for television. Graham was only 14 when she became a full time novelist.

The fictional village of Causton in the English countryside is beautiful in nature; with a galore of trees, flowers, and bushes with cleanliness; houses neatly put together, others huge mansions with baroque settings. All present a peaceful and serene setting. Nettles on the program that has murder in mind gave this remark, “A beautiful nature of countryside, marked with the savagery of murder.”

Besides Nettles giving his compliments about the series, other actors included Jane Wymark (who plays the DCI’s wife, Joyce Barnaby), Laura Howard (who plays Cully Barnaby, their daughter), and Daniel Casey (as Sgt. Gavin Troy, Barnaby’s sidekick). Troy was the first partner with Barnaby, later in the series Barnaby had two more. Troy was eventually promoted. Howard stated that Causton was a village that "was slightly mad, but seems perfectly normal.”

Producer Brian True-May also spoke and stated he found the “perfect Barnaby” in Nettles. Before Nettles took the role he was already a household name in British television, playing in the crime drama “Bergerac” as Detective Sergeant Jim Bergerac on the BBC. DCI Barnaby is described as (to paraphrase) a “balanced man, who is happily married, is proud of his daughter’s accomplishments, is believable, and charismatic with a vague comic element.”

The English rule-life with a twist on Midsomer would make audiences wonder due to so many murders (140 deaths have appeared on the show with Nettles) as to “who would want to live there?” But Barnaby is seen as the top dog in police work in this peculiar town; he's very thorough, so villagers feel safe that no matter who gets murdered, the problem will be solved and the killer will be brought to justice. And there’s plenty to investigate; from sexual perversions (which Nettles describes as a “marvelous notion of sexuality”) to cult meetings, beloved infidels, and of course ghastly and painful death scenarios. High-quality actors are picked to represent the series.

There's another important vibe that adds to the show's popularity – the theme music. Haunting and riveting, the music describes the mystery in a covert and veiled way by composer Jim Parker. There are other musical pieces throughout the program, depending on the scene or what's about to take place. Wikipedia depicts this on Parker –

Composed by Jim Parker, the iconic main theme is a moderate-tempo waltz, performed (primarily though not exclusively) on an unusual electronic musical instrument, the theremin, which has a sound not unlike a low whistle or a human voice. The theremin part is played by Celia Sheen.

Sheen was also in the program playing the theremin part. Soundtracks "The Best of " and "Music of" Midsomer Murders were made by Jim Parker.

Midsomer Murders last month celebrated its 100th episode with "Nordic noir" spice being filmed in Denmark. reveled this about the series –

Despite its picture-postcard setting, hundreds of people have died in Midsomer; by the time the 100th episodes airs, there will have been 281 murders, 12 accidental deaths and 11 suicides. In terms of bizarre and gruesome murder implements – we’re talking death by cow, death by poisonous frog, death by French guillotine, a hatpin in the ear, a tower of newspapers, a gargoyle from a roof and shelves of Midsomer Blue cheese.

Barnaby is now played by actor Neil Dudgeon and his partner Nelson is played by actor Gwilym Lee.

From –

Jo Wright, Executive Producer of the show, said: “Midsomer Murders is incredibly popular on prime time Danish television. It is known as ‘Barnaby’ and has been running for 12 years winning 40 per cent of the audience share.

“The idea to shoot in Denmark came about because we wanted to do something special to mark the 100th episode, and it’s great to be working with DR, producer of the award winning series The Killing.”

Producer Louise Sutton added: “This is very exciting for us as it is the first time that Bentley Productions have taken Midsomer Murders out of the UK to film. And it is also fantastic to work with Danish actors from the The Killing and Borgen."

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