MIDSOMER MURDERS. ITV, UK. Series 12, Episodes 1-3. 19 March, 26 March & 7 July 2009. John Nettles (D.C.I. Barnaby), Jason Hughes (DS Ben Jones), Jane Wymark (Joyce Barnaby), Barry Jackson (Dr Bullard), Kirsty Dillon (WPC Gail Stephens).


   This long-running programme returned after a short break with three episodes, the first, “The Dogleg Murders,” set in and around a golf club. It’s been a while since I unreservedly enjoyed one of this series and this was no exception.

   It had many of the usual and welcome light touches, but the members of this ridiculously snooty club were unreservedly obnoxious in extreme. When the motive for the crimes was revealed it was trivial in the extreme. Only a homicidal maniac or a uncaring scriptwriter would think it reasonable.

   The second, “Secret and Spies,” has as its background MI6 adventures in Berlin before the fall of the wall. At first I thought it might return to a proper story but no, unfortunately, the characters were so eccentric that they beggar belief. There is an extended cricket sequence which, like all other cricket sequences, was just so silly that no one who has ever played the game could possibly believe it.

   The third programme, “The Black Book,” which involved the lucrative forgery of paintings by Midsomer artist Henry Hogson, seemed at fIrst like a return to the Midsomer Murders of old but it went on for 20 minutes too long and had a wholly unbelievable conclusion.

   There was a time when this series was an amusing frippery, but the plots were well designed and the crimes had a logical background to them. However, the producers seem to have gone the way of so many before them in deciding that since the success of the programme depends on its amusing background they would emphasise the quirkiness, letting the series live on its charm and series characters.

   Unfortunately in a detective series, no matter the ambiance, that’s not enough.