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Midsomer Fantasies

I had seen the occasional program of Midsomer Mysteries prior to the current lock down, but I never followed the series closely until I had seemingly endless afternoons to fill, and an Amazon Prime membership to use.

The Barnaby Boys

When one binge watches a series one notices nuances that you might not see if you have weeks between episodes. And what I have found by closely studying the mythical English shire of Midsomer is a place so anachronistic it should be called Potemkin Village Mysteries.

I’m not talking about the usual “quaint detective” tropes: finding parking right in front of your destination, having an extremely limited number of suspects, a murder rate roughly equivalent to Tijuana in a peaceful village (see Cabot Cove, Maine) .

Nope, Midsomer is the most un-English of all English counties. It’s England designed by people who have never been to England and have not seen English media in 60 years. The villages are all picturesque — and truly many English villages are picturesque. My second cousin lived in one, Knutsford, in a modern house in a subdivision within walking distance of the central core. None of the villages of Midsomer have such subdivisions, or even streets of modern houses. Not Badgers’ Drift, nor Midsomer Parva or Midsomer Wellow or Fletcher’s Cross or Lower Crosby or Midsomer Newton. Everyone lives in a modern villa, like the Barnabys, or a manor house or a thatched village from the 16th century. In truth more people live in houses like the Dursley’s than in those atypical homes.

Like this, minus owls.

There’s also the problem of who lives in those houses. I’m only on Season 12 (out of 21) but I haven’t seen a person of colour in any of the shows. Midsomer is ridiculously and relentlessly white. Cornershops are not owned and staffed by South Asians (a stereotype that holds true a lot of the time) but rather by cuddly, eccentric (and possibly homicidal) white people. You see no black batsmen on the local cricket team. There seem to be no immigrants at all, apart from the occasional American millionaire vilified for trying to drag a corner of Midsomer into the 21st century. But England is a remarkably diverse country, immigration from the former colonies has injected some interesting cultures into the mix and you are as likely to hear a Polish accent as any other.

Infrequently the Barnabys will step out for a meal to a pub or steak house. Even more infrequently they will go to an Italian bistro or a French boite. They never go out for a curry or thai food or sushi. No butter chicken, no jerk chicken no kung pao chicken. Again, this is unlike real life, where a cornucopia of delicious dishes await on any main street, and the frozen food aisle at Waitrose or Tesco is like the United Nations of chow.

In Midsomer there are no motorways (freeways) leading to concrete metropolises. Instead winding country lanes straining to include two lanes lead to villages designed by Thomas Kinkade.

In short, (too late!) I am saying that Midsomer Murders are like most television shows — completely untrue and unrelatable (I mean, how did Rachel and Monica come up for the rent on that apartment? And don’t get me started on the homes the ladies on Sex and the City could afford.) But I will watch it anyway. The stories are really well written, and the acting is good, calling upon the talents of some of Britain’s best thespians. It will be my guilty pleasure, at least for another 8 seasons.

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