One of British Televisions most storied institutes reached a landmark this year with the airing of Midsomer Murders‘ 100th episode. This might not sound like a lot for viewers used to seeing American shows like The Big Bang Theory pump out 170 episodes over 7 years, but here in the UK, that’s a pretty big deal. After all, since it first aired in 1997, there have only been 4 to 8 episodes aired in any given year.
On top of that, each episode is around 90 minutes (without adverts), which could technically make Midsomer the most prolific feature film franchise EVER.
For its first 13 series, John Nettles starred as DCI Tom Barnaby, a patient and observant CID detective in the the fictional county of Midsomer. On an almost weekly basis, he would solves murder mysteries with uniquely pastoral flavour. After all, most of these killings were motivated by things like siblings squabbling over farm inheritances or the local vicar’s attempt to conceal his affair with a parishioner.
Since Series 14, Nettles has been replaced by John Dudgeon as the show’s full-time lead. Dudgeon, an actor who looks like a blend of David Cameron and Neil Hamilton, plays DCI John Barnaby, Tom’s cousin who moves to Midsomer, presumably with the idea of curbing the county’s phenomenal homicide rate.
And what a homicide rate it is!
It’s news to no one that Midsomer plays host to an awful lot of premeditated killings, but did you have any idea exactly how dangerous it was there?
Between the years of 1997 and 2011, there were 246 deaths in Midsomer. Generously assuming that it has the same population as Oxfordshire (where the show is filmed), the county has an annual murder rate of 32 per million people. To put that in perspective, London recently enjoyed one of its least murder-y years with just 12 murders per million.
But if you think Midsomer is the most dangerous place in TV Land, you’d also be wrong. In Murder She Wrote, Jessica Fletcher’s sleepy hometown of Cabot Cove (population: 3,560) has to deal with a murder rate of 1,490 per million. The numbers are slightly skewed by the fact that Murder She Wrote had 24 episodes a year, compared to the paltry annual average of 6 for Midsomer.
In fact, were ITV to commission 20 episodes for every series, the wooded county of Midsomer would likely have a homicide rate greater than that of Pinochet-era Chile.
For the show’s 100th edition, ITV pulled out all the stops with a very special episode that take place partly in Denmark. As a tribute to the recent popularity of Scandinavian Noir, the episode ‘The Killings of Copenhagen’ guest stars a number of actors from your favourite Scandi-shows.
Keep your eyes peeled for Birgitte Hjort Sørensen (better known as journalist Katrine Fønsmark from Borgen) and Ann Eleonora Jørgensen (grieving mother Pernille Birk Larsen from The Killing). They both play detectives from the Copenhagen Police working with DCI Barnaby on a case involving the death of a Midsomer biscuit magnate.
Fans of The Bridge will also recognise some key locations, including the distinctive Copenhagen Police HQ.
Now in its 17th year, Midsomer Murders is showing no signs of slowing down. The British public’s appetite for mystery is only increasing and as the makers have already proven, the show can survive casting changes and adapt with the times.
So now, we propose a toast: here’s to another 100 episodes. And to the poor unfortunate residents of that most dangerous county.
All 16 series of Midsomer Murders are now available at blinkbox