I am a massive fan of Midsomer Murders. What’s not to like?
Episode after episode you sit down to Bumbling Barnaby and his trusty sidekick wandering around a picturesque village, asking probing questions, but – quite frankly – often doing it so badly the only reason the killer is caught is because they are the only ones left.
For a while I had a bit of a game going between friends and family. Midsomer Murders starts at 8:30pm on TV. Everyone has half an hour to text each other to lock in what they think the a) body count will be, and b) who they think the murderer is.
Inevitably, all the players would watch their a) body count guesstimate again be eclipsed by a show which has more death per episode than the entire James Bond series and b) their chosen murder suspect quickly included in said death toll.
I had a real knack for locking in my murder suspect, only to see them crushed against piles of bottled sauce with a forklift before being thrown naked into a sterilizer (yes this happened) at around 9:05pm.
The world now has 95 episodes of Midsomer Murders. More are planned. It’s a show – as my friend Viv put to me once – not about Barnaby but about the countryside. It’s also a show about blood. There are sites which track how many people die (and how), and the statistics are worrying:
- 265 Murders
- 16 historical including one possible
- 11 suicides including three historical
- 15 accidental deaths including two historical
- Nine natural causes where murder is suspected or relevant to the plot
- One of which may have been a murder
- One unexplained death
- One historical death by firing squad
- One historical massacre (numbers not specified)
That means 2.7 confirmed murders, on average, per episode. Or 324 deaths, averaging 3.4 an episode (this doesn’t include the massacre, but does include possible historical deaths). In one high death, particularly gruesome episode where there was bleeding to death from a spear wound, a bow and arrow murder and an iron bar to the head, Sgt. Scott asked:
“Is the body count always this high in Midsomer”
“It has been remarked on”
Interestingly, there’s been no episode where any media picks up on 265 murders as a story. Wikipedia has this as the summary for episode 93:
The murder of a journalist has chilling echoes of a 1960s horror film starring Midsomer’s own Stella Harris. When Stella’s more famous sister returns after a 40-year family rift, the killings escalate, each reminiscent of a movie plot. Is life – and death – imitating art?
That seems to be more about a movie, rather than a solid investigative news story. It’s about time some of the hacks from Badgers Drift got it on this and exposed the murderous hellhole for what it really is.
They could begin by exposing that the most popular form of murder is a stabbing or a slashing, followed up by shooting or a bash around the head. There’s also been a lot of suicides.
I decided the other day to try and graph the types of deaths in Midsomer, and started logging each episode:
I only got through eight episodes for a couple of reasons, the main being the writers would keep coming up with new ways for people to die, the graph would never make sense. It’d just be a series of small bars. Categorising the deaths was also difficult. In which category do you put “run over by car and then injected with pure liquid nicotine” or “rendered unconscious by concentrated valirium in drink and then drowned.”
Viv reckons I need a column “only in Midsomer”, which is a great idea, but it would dwarf the rest of the results, and again not show very much. The writers are indeed very creative. So creative that in at least one episode, the cause of death for one poor electrocuted burgler is never made entirely clear. One presumes it’s accidental, but with Midsomer, you’d never know. Maybe Joyce knocked him off?
Looking at the table, you can see how creative they really are. Obviously they need the grizzly deaths and it keeps it exciting. I added a new column in each time I needed a new category, and you can see how the thought process from episode to episode. “How about we write an episode where someone dies because the murderer withholds vital medication to keep the heart going?” says one writer. “Perfect,” the others reply. (See episode five – a below average two murders (and a tragic accident) – but still rather inventive.
Viv also pointed out to me that Midsomer Murders is a highly successful English TV export, sold to many countries. The names of the show change from market to market, apparently in Russia it’s called “Very English Murders”. Nothing says Very English like a dubbed Russian accent taking the role of Barnaby.
The different promos television networks run vary widely too:
And finally a very dark ad from the Hallmark Channel (who else?) asking “Will the body count ever stop?”
I wonder if I can get that on a greeting card?