Midsomer Murders Set 20
Recurring character(s): Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (John Nettles), Detective Sergeant Ben Jones (Jason Hughes), Joyce Barnaby (Jane Wymark), Cully Barnaby (Laura Howard), Dr. George Bullard (Barry Jackson), Detective Constable Gail Stephens (Kirsty Dillon), Detective Chief Inspector John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon)
Original air date(s): UK: 10/06/2010, 10/13/2010, 01/12/2011, 02/02/2011
DVD Date: 07/03/2012
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 360 minutes
Note(s): Episodes in this series are based on characters created by crime novelist Caroline Graham.
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Review: Midsomer Murders Set 20 will probably best be remembered as the set of episodes that mark the end of the career of DCI Tom Barnaby. He first played the character in 1997, based on one created by crime novelist Caroline Graham, who featured the police detective in a series of mysteries set in fictional Midsomer County. (Several of the early episodes in the series are adapted from her novels.) John Nettles, who plays Barnaby, announced his retirement several years ago, giving the screenwriters a chance to create create a logical subplot that allows the series to continue with a new DCI … who just happens to be Barnaby's cousin, John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon). The "new" Barnaby was introduced in an episode of Set 19 — "The Sword of Guillaume" — and makes a brief appearance in the final minutes of the final episode of this present set. (His image on the DVD cover is somewhat disingenuous, since he really doesn't play a role in any of these episodes.)
The four episodes in Set 20 are typical of the series, ranging from the good to very good to the really quite good. It's a rare episode, indeed, that fails to satisfy.
The opening episode, "Master Class", is among the really quite good. Intricate and cleverly plotted, it shows off the skills of the Barnaby and Jones quite well. At times it tests the bounds of credibility, but this is not all that uncommon, often adding a bit of whimsy or something unexpected to the episode.
"The Noble Art" is one of the merely good episodes. It is also a "costume" episode, one in which hundreds of extras are dressed up in period clothing. The costume episodes can be quite entertaining, but this one tends to wear thin very quickly, involving the recreation of a boxing match. Possibly if I appreciated the sport of boxing, I might have enjoyed this episode more.
Sometimes the murder doesn't occur until the second half of an episode, but the dead bodies are falling left and right early on, dying in some of the most creative ways, in "Not in My Backyard". The property development storyline is, of course, a cover for a more complicated scheme by a ruthless killer. I'd rate this as a very good episode.
Finally, there's "Fit for Murder", a nicely plotted episode though one that doesn't play out nearly as good as it probably should have. Almost certainly the director was trying to foreshadow Barnaby's retirement, showing him as weary and worried about his future. Quite frankly it's a little depressing at tiimes. It also puts Jones in "dumb cop" mode, something I never appreciate. The series works best when both cops are smart and even though Barnaby figures it all out in the end, Jones makes a contribution. Not so much here.
Over the years 13 seasons of the series — the US DVD sets do not match the UK seasons — Tom Barnaby was assisted by three Detective Sergeants: Gavin Troy (played by Daniel Casey), Daniel Scott (John Hopkins), and Benjamin Jones. Jones has lasted the longest and continues in the series with John Barnaby. (Midsomer Murders is airing its 15th season this year; we're a bit behind here in the US. A 16th season yet to be ordered, but it is almost certain to be so.)
Midsomer Murders has been one of our favorite murder mystery dramas. This 20th set is a must for all fans of the series. And we look forward to Set 21, DCI John Barnaby's first cases, when it is released on DVD later this year.
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