When compared against the great British detective series - including Thaw's Morse (and Whately's Lewis), Hickson' Miss Marple, and Kitchen's Foyle's War, it is easy to think of Nettles' Midsomer Murders as a bit of a lightweight. The Chief Inspector is happily married and looks and sounds like a spokesperson for the sponsor of a daytime soap opera in the 1950's.
But Midsomer stands on nearly equal footing with some of the greats. The balance is simply shifted more towards light and bright than gravitas.
As with all of these British detective series, one can re-watch them many, many times. And if you actually want to follow the plot, repeated viewings are necessary. (And not just because they can put one to sleep, sometimes instantly).
- First viewing, Spent trying to figure out in what shows one last saw the various guest stars. And I can enjoy all of the locations. By the end I know who was killed and by whom, but no real sense of the inner plot mechanics.
- By the third viewing, I start following the plot all of the way through.
- And by the fifth viewing, I can really start enjoying all of the nuances of the dialogue, including double entendres, dry humor, and specific performances.
- Made to Measure - As one might guess by the name, it centers around a village tailoring shop. Not only are there bolts of estate tweeds but one can see an uncharacteristically somber Plilip Bretherton . (He played Allister Deacon on favorite series As Time Goes By.)
- Worm in the Bud - My absolute favorite. There are Barbours, tattersalls and Jack Russells, but best of all there is the utterly charming family of the Kennel Master.
- Ring Out Your Dead - Adrian Scarborough gives a wonderfully convincing performance as an obsessed bell ringer. Expect lots and lots of bell ringing and a few quick shots of a nice old yellow lab.
- Murder at Badger's Drift - The first episode ever made, and features the marvelously creepy undertaker and his mother. It has a shooting scene with some beautiful Purdeys.
- Dead in the Water - This episode focuses completely on the Rowing Club and it would be hard to imagine where I could see more examples of exquisite wooden boats, replete with dashing men wearing Navy blazers and caps. Although because it is on a river, it may feature an odd rat or two.
- Death of a Stranger - Worth watching for some beautiful fox hunting scenes.
- Stranglers Wood - It features Phyllis Logan, who to my surprise, plays Mrs. Hughes in Downton Abbey.
- St. Malley's Day - "Ludlow, the bell!" "The bell, Ludlow!"
- Dead Man's Eleven - I will watch anything that features Robert Hardy, but even if he wasn't in this episode, it is worth watching solely for the one line about how they are planning to sell their massive estate so they can move to... Orlando. (How much fun was had in that writing room choosing that destination.)
- Judgement Day - How many celebrations can one region support? Worth it to see a tipsy Josephine Tewson, Keeping Up Appearances's Elizabeth.
- Birds of Prey - Beautiful birds of prey, their eggs, and over-sized waxed jackets.
- Market for Murder - Just to see Angela Thorne looking fabulous - whether up on the roof in her pearls or driving her old 240 wagon. In real life she was the wife to Peter Penry-Jones ("Peter, Marquis of Ross" in Midsomer's "The Electric Vendetta"), and mother to Rupert Penry-Jones (who played Adam Carter on MI-5 or better known as Spooks) and who is in turn is the spouse of Dervla Kirwan (Assumpta Fitzgerald on Ballykissangel).
- The Creeper: Great Dower house.
- The Great and The Good: Good woolens, great cottage, and an always appreciated dog in the lap.
- Death in Chorus - Choral music and pretty, cold weather village scenes.
I have heard some describe this portrayal of small village life as satire. I prefer to think of it as more akin to Peter Mayle's Provence: appreciative in many depictions ("Sartre" sent me this index to Midsomer locations: http://midsomermurders.org/locationsindex.htm), while playful with the themes, eccentric characters, plot twists, and other inevitable tropes.