British television will be everywhere in 2011, from The X Factor’s American debut to more Midsomer Murders in the Ukraineby Peter Bazalgette / February 3, 2011 / Leave a comment
Justice is done on Midsomer Murders. But is the show a parody?
We all have guilty pleasures. My guiltiest is watching reruns of Midsomer Murders on ITV3. Perhaps it helps to know that I’m not alone. MM’s many series, the latest of which began on 12th January on ITV1, have sold to more than 100 countries. Two days earlier, another international success, One Born Every Minute, started its second run on Channel 4 after delivering a Christmas Day special. The format—a fly-on-the-wall documentary about birth—has been sold to the Lifetime channel in the US, an augur of a year that will see British talent and ideas achieve further success across the pond. Our television industry is enjoying the sort of currency our music had in the 1960s, when the Beatles first conquered the Billboard charts. More of this later. First, we must do justice to Midsomer Murders.
You’ve heard of the big society, in which everyone is kind to each other? Well, Midsomer Murders is the antithesis: a small society in which everyone murders each other. It adopts the traditional Agatha Christie approach to homicide—all the perpetrators and victims are exclusively and hygienically middle class. There isn’t a hint of the deprivation, drug-dealing or sheer desperation that accompanies most real murders. In Russia and the Ukraine the show is broadcast under the title Purely English Murder. This is how the world now sees us: a country of picturesque Tudor villages behind whose twitching curtains respectable-looking matrons and gin-tippling colonels are poisoning and strangling the hell out of their neighbours before bicycling off to Evensong. The series can be seen as a richly comic creation and perfect seasonal fare. It is an entirely intentional pantomime. Look at the evidence.
The music, composed by the prolific Jim Parker, is faux-horror and played on the theremin, an early electronic instrument known for its eerie sound. The characters in this series opener (Not In My Back Yard) have Ronseal-style, pantomime names as well. So Maureen Stubbs (Joan Blackham) is stabbed. Fiona Conway (Linda Marlowe) is hiding secrets. Geoff Rogers (Hugo Speer) is… well, you can guess—a muscular builder and a lovemaking machine. And Liz Gerrard (Amanda Drew), the corrupt town planner, is a lesbian. The screenwriter, John Wilsher, has only put three murders into the episode, by the way, which in MM terms is tantamount to being asleep on the job. But the…