John Nettles portrayed Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Tom Barnaby in the British ITV Networks' Midsomer Murders television program from 1997 until 2011. He was there from the beginning, and his departure left fans wondering how, or if the show would continue. By casting Neil Dudgeon as Tom’s cousin John Barnaby, the producers found a way to move forward without too much disruption. In Nettles’ final show, “Fit For Murder,” Tom announces his retirement, and introduces John. The basic premise of Midsomer Murders remains unchanged, and the 16th series (season) is currently in production.
That basic premise of Midsomer Murders is a good one. The show is based on the novels of Caroline Graham, and takes place in the fictional English county of Midsomer. Midsomer County is a wealthy enclave, and the settings are often quite beautiful. It is against this idyllic backdrop that an inordinate number of murders occur, and the perpetrators are usually the least likely candidates.
The locations of the murders range all over Midsomer County, and we follow Tom from a golf course to a touristy model town, to an old village school, and some grand estates, among many other places. His final case, “Fit for Murder” happens at a weekend spa that he and his wife are visiting. There is no rest for the wicked it would seem.
While the settings are certainly attractive, the mysteries themselves are what keep us coming back. For some reason, it seems that the English have a knack for crafting great murder mysteries. Caroline Graham’s Chief Inspector Barnaby novel series upholds the long tradition of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie.
The new 15-DVD, 15-episode box set Midsomer Murders: Tom Barnaby’s Last Cases contains all seven Midsomer Murders from series 12 (2009-10), and all eight from series 13 (2010-11). As the title indicates, these are the final 15 mysteries featuring John Nettles as DCI Tom Barnaby. While I have not as of yet had the opportunity to watch every episode of this long-running program, I can say that of the many I have seen, I have never been disappointed. This is certainly the case with the final 15 of Nettles’ run with the show.
Acorn Media has carved out a nice niche, releasing select British programs on DVD for the American market, and Midsomer Murders is one of them. I took a chance on one of the sets, and was very pleasantly surprised. Evidently, the DVD sets of Midsomer have done well, as these programs have already been previously released separately by Acorn. Having the two series packaged together in this manner is great for those who may not already them.
Midsomer Murders: Tom Barnaby’s Last Cases is housed in a four-volume box set, with a full DVD devoted to each mystery. The breakdown is as follows:
Series 12: Part One: “The Dogleg Murders” (100 minutes), “The Black Book” (100 minutes), “Secrets and Spies” (100 minutes), and “The Glitch” (100 minutes). Bonus materials include cast interviews and fact sheets. While Midsomer Murders is a television show, there is an advisory for “The Black Book” on the back cover to alert the viewer that it contains brief nudity and sexual themes. Previously released as Midsomer Murders: Set 17.
Series 12: Part Two contains: “Small Mercies” (100 minutes), “The Creeper” (100 minutes), and “The Great and the Good (100 minutes).” There is a 23-minute interview with Jason Hughes as a bonus on “The Great and the Good,” and “The Creeper“ contains brief nudity. Previously released as Midsomer Murders: Set 18
Series 13: Part One contains: “The Made-to-Measure Murders” (100 minutes), “The Sword of Guillaume” (100 minutes), “Blood on the Saddle” (100 minutes), and “The Silent Land” (100 minutes). “Blood on the Saddle” contains an interesting “Behind-the-scenes” photo gallery. Previously released as Midsomer Murders: Set 19
Series 13: Part Two contains: “Master Class” (93 minutes), “The Noble Art” (89 minutes), “Not in my Backyard” (89 minutes), and “Fit for Murder” (89 Minutes). John Nettles’ final starring appearance as Tom Barnaby comes in “Fit for Murder,” and the DVD also includes the bonus feature “Barnaby Through the Years” photo gallery and a “Saying Goodbye to Barnaby” essay. Previously released as Midsomer Murders: Set 20.
If you add it all up the run time would be approximately 24 hours. Although I would not necessarily recommend sitting down for one 24-hour marathon of Midsomer Murders, I would understand if you chose to do so. The series really is that addictive, and I believe it is one of the best British television shows going. For those who have yet to fall under the spell of Midsomer Murders, it is most definitely worth investigating.