Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mysteries on DVD Review: Midsomer Murders, Barnaby's Casebook

Mysteries on DVD: Mystery Books that have been Adapted into Screenplays and Made into Movies

is pleased to publish a review of a "Mystery on DVD", a movie or television series that has been adapted from or based on a mystery book, or an original screenplay written with characters created by a mystery author.

Midsomer Murders: Barnaby's Casebook (DVD cover)
Information on Midsomer Murders: Barnaby's Casebook

Midsomer Murders: Barnaby's Casebook. Original air dates: September 2001 through December 2004; DVD release date: 01/05/2010.

Recurring characters: Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (John Nettles), Detective Sergeant Gavin Troy (Daniel Casey, first 11 episodes in this set), Detective Sergeant Dan Scott (John Hopkins, last 6 episodes in this set), Joyce Barnaby (Jane Wymark), Cully Barnaby (Laura Howard), Dr. Bullard (Barry Jackson). Episodes in this series are based on characters created by Caroline Graham.

Midsomer Murders: Barnaby's Casebook includes the 17 episodes that originally aired on ITV in the UK in chronological order, but were released in a different order in the US (and comprise individual Sets 4, 6, 7, and 8).

Midsomer Murders

Review: I recently reviewed Midsomer Murders Set 13, which starred Jason Hughes as Barnaby's current partner, Detective Sergeant Ben Jones. What's interesting about this set is that it includes episodes with both of his predecessors, DS Gavin Troy and DS Dan Scott. Gives one a chance to compare and contrast them!

It's probably best to start with DCI Tom Barnaby himself. He's a solid policeman with good instincts and even better leadership kills. He's also a family man, with his wife (long-suffering wife is probably a more apt description) and daughter appearing in most episodes.

Midsomer Murders: DCI Tom Barnaby (John Nettles)

John Nettles has played the character from the beginning in 1997, when the episodes were based on actual books by Caroline Graham. (Graham wrote seven books in the series, of which only the first five were actually adapted.) Sure he's evolved over time, but he's also been a constant, offering a sense of familiarity the series that is most welcome. Sadly for fans of the series, he's announced he's leaving at the end of 2010, after starring in more than 75 episodes. ITV (which broadcasts Midsomer Murders in the UK) has said a new DCI will appear to replace him. It will be a tough act to follow.

But as much as the series is about character, it wouldn't have lasted long if the stories, mysteries if you will, weren't compelling. And that they are. More about that later.

Midsomer Murders: DS Gavin Troy (Daniel Casey)

Barnaby's first partner was DS Gavin Troy. I think he was also the best of the three who have been in his position. He also seemed to work the most seamlessly with Barnaby, each playing off the others strengths.

Of the 17 episodes included in this set, Troy appears in the first 11, leaving at the end of "The Green Man" when he's promoted to Inspector. The episode that follows, "Bad Tidings", introduces his replacement, DS Dan Scott, who subsequently appears in the remaining 6 episodes of this set. Scott is a Londoner who resents being assigned to a post in Midsomer County. This resentment is most evident in this first appearance, but seems to simmer beneath the surface throughout his stay. He never comes across as likeable, and even Barnaby seems to just tolerate him, though he admits Scott can be quite charming when he chooses to be. In the end, he appeared in only 14 episodes of the series.

Midsomer Murders: DS Dan Scott (John Hopkins)

And now to the episodes themselves. By and large, they are excellent in both plotting and execution. Many episodes have a single plotline (the murder mystery itself), but several have parallel subplots, typically involving Barnaby's family and most tangentially related to primary plot.

Here's a list of the episodes in this set:

"Tainted Fruit"
"Ring Out Your Dead"
"Murder on St. Malley’s Day"
"Market for Murder"
'A Worm in the Bud"
"A Talent for Life"
"Death and Dreams"
"Painted in Blood"
"A Tale of Two Hamlets"
"Birds of Prey"
"The Green Man" (last episode with DS Gavin Troy)
"Bad Tidings" (first episode with DS Dan Scott)
"The Fisher King"
"Sins of Commission"
"The Maid in Splendour"
"The Straw Woman"
"Ghosts of Christmas Past"

Midsomer Murders: Map of Midsomer County

Midsomer Murders: Barnaby's Casebook also includes two bonus discs, both of which add real value to this set.

The first disc is "Super Sleuths", a documentary about the show's first decade. But my favorite is the second disc, "Map of Midsomer Murders", which provides information about the fictional county and the filming locations for the episodes. It's a behind-the-scenes look that puts an interesting perspective on the villages of Midsomer County.

The entire set is attractively packaged in a sturdy case that resembles a, well, casebook, perfect for shelving. I strongly recommend it.

Midsomer Murders: Barnaby's Casebook runs for about 28 hours (each episode runs approximately 100 minutes) and is not rated (though is comparable to TV-PG; there are, however, no instances of suggestive dialog, coarse language, explicit sexual content or violence).

The DVD of Midsomer Murders: Barnaby's Casebook is available to purchase. The episodes on this DVD are also available to rent individually from Netflix. More information about the series can be found at Mysteries on TV: Midsomer Murders.

Reviewed on 01/21/2010 by Mr. E., television and movie critic for Mystery Books News.

Review Copyright © 2010 — Omnimystery — All Rights Reserved.

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