Acorn Media // 2011 // 372 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // August 4th, 2013
"One of the reasons we came to Midsomer was to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the countryside." -- Mrs. Barnabt
Even as Inspector John Barnaby as his wife Sarah start on their second season in the not-so-tranquil Midsomer County, they're still getting to know the place. However, a countryside ramble in Midsomer usually means you're getting to know murder suspects, as the cases in Midsomer Murders: Set 22 prove. Nine more human bodies are added to the Midsomer death toll; a dog and a bird are also among the victims this season.
Midsomer Murders: Set 22 features four TV movies, each on its own disc.
* "The Sleeper Under the Hill" -- Crowcall, Midsomer's very own Stonehenge-like circle, now boasts its very own disembowled body. DI Ben Jones (Jason Hughes, Dead Long Enough) runs into an old friend who ends up among the dead. New coroner Kate Wilding (Tamzin Malleson, Dangerfield) turns up at a crime scene.
* "The Night of the Stag" -- Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon, The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries) and Jones are looking for a missing revenuer. Sadly, they didn't think to check the cider vat before Barnaby took a drink with that special ingredient: fermenting corpse. Perhaps he should have listened to Midsomer's old-timey temperance group -- just this once, though.
* "A Sacred Trust" -- A scary nun interrupts a woodland tryst. Soon, vandals desecrate the priory -- and a nun is found dead in the chicken coop. Will the nuns keep a vow of silence on the case -- or will they break out laughing when Jones dons a habit to catch a killer?
* "A Rare Bird" -- The Barnabys run into birdwatchers who've been tweeting about a rare blue-crested hoopoe. Soon they battle about the sighting -- and one of their number becomes extinct.
What does a Midsomer husband say when his wife tells him she's pregnant? "Whose is it?" is the answer that comes up amid the naughty goings-on in "A Rare Bird." The TV movie also finds DCI John Barnaby making fowl double-entendres with his wife as foreplay, DI Ben Jones getting called out of bed a little too early in the evening, jokes about Lady Chatterly's Lover, and gratuitous shots of a dance instructor who rarely seems to be out of her tight togs. Naughtiness is just as much a part of the proceedings as the bizarre in Midsomer Murders. If you watch, don't expect it to be cozy.
Even so, "The Night of the Stag" struck me as a nasty one, even by Midsomer standards. Barnaby drinking a corpse was kind of sick, and a Stag is a night of ritual rape -- which Barnaby and Jones must stop. This one hits hard -- even in a show which had incest as the motive in its first case -- because, for the most part, sexuality is consensual. Fortunately, Barnaby and Jones stop the would-be rapists in time, but it still may be unsettling.
Neil Dudgeon is starting to shape up as a slightly more serious Inspector Barnaby than John Nettles, who played DCI Tom Barnaby, his predecessor, for years, even with the double-entendres in "A Rare Bird." It tends to make the strange cases just a little more unsettling than they've been in the last few sets of Nettles' run; I'll leave that up to you as to whether it's welcome. He does try some "method detecting" in one episode, sampling vegetarian food to get into the mind of a suspect who doesn't believe in meat, but for the most part, his methods are traditional.
Fiona Dolman (Ultraviolet) as Sarah Barnaby gets involved in her husband's cases, often digging for information in her capacity as school headmaster, but she isn't finding corpses everywhere like Joyce Barnaby from Series One. She does get stuff to do: handing a bullying incident at school, joining an archaeological dig, and getting her husband into hiking. The couple seems to exist on frozen ready meals, a touch which reveals them as a busy career couple.
The cases are typical Midsomer, although subtler performances from Dudgeon and Dolman change the tone a touch. The guest actors continue to be over-the-top. I'm still betting on Matt Smith to become the eleventh Inspector Barnaby around the show's fiftieth anniversary -- or at least for Laura Howard, who played the first Inspector Barnaby's daughter, to return as the third Inspector Barnaby.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image and Dolby 2.0 Stereo track are as strong as any recent television production. An interesting featurette, "Midsomer Murders in Conversation," finds Neil Dudgeon and Jason Hughes talking about the changes in the show. They also talk about humming the show's theremin theme; Dudgeon says he can't get it out of his head, and got caught humming it in a supermarket, while Hughes says it's unhummable. After watching a few sets, I'll go with Dudgeon's observation that it's a theme you can't clear your mind of, especially if you're old enough to miss the days of TV theme songs. Crew members are also featured, which is a nice touch. Fans of Sherlock might be amused to see a clip of Mark Gatiss' demise.
I found one episode on the shocking side, but otherwise Midsomer Murders: Set 22 is a solid collection that'll please fans of the long-running series. Newcomers could start here, but I'd recommend looking for a bargain on an older set or, if it's in your area, checking out a few cases on TV. Now that Acorn has nearly caught up, it might be nice if they start packaging each season separately.
Review content copyright © 2013 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 372 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated