Midsomer Murders (2019)

Midsomer Murders (ITV)

Midsomer is notorious for being Britain's leading baroque death hotspot: over the years, victims have drowned in tomato soup, been flattened in a printing press and speared with Neptune's trident. Plus who could forget Martine McCutcheon being crushed by a giant cheese?

And it turns out it's been going on for centuries. This week, we met Brother Josef, a monk who was boiled in oil in the local abbey in 1539 – but not before casting ‘a curse on this place for all eternity’! Which would actually explain a lot.

Flash forward 500 years, and the abbey is now home to a trendy microbrewery, whose big launch night was derailed when someone ended up being boiled alive in a vat of beer. ‘I might need to consult a specialist,’ noted the sardonic new pathologist, played by Annette Badland. ‘And possibly a cookbook.’

As usual, the list of suspects was a veritable Who’s Who of British stage and screen talent, including Elaine Paige and Anita Harris, which is camp even by this show’s standards. Paige was particularly good value, giving it the full Norma Desmond (complete with turban) as a faded actress dreaming of a comeback, while Tony Gardner was reliably brilliant as an oily local councillor – the sort of man who says: ‘I shall be lodging a formal complaint with the Chief Constable!’

The plot pinged off in about a hundred different directions, taking in thespian rivalry, sibling rivalry, sexual rivalry, business rivalry and a second murder in which the victim was kebabbed in the abbey with a medieval brewing tool. Eeeuw.

In the midst of this Midsomer madness, Neil Dudgeon, as DCI John Barnaby, keeps as low a profile as possible for a leading man. (When I interviewed him a while back, Dudgeon likened himself to fellow Yorkshireman Geoffrey Boycott, maintaining a solid, defensive batting stroke while Brit acting royalty munch through the scenery around him.)

Personally, I’d take Midsomer’s nod-and-a-wink, Scooby Doo approach to murder over that of, say, Luther any day of the week: they’re equally ridiculous and OTT, but at least this one’s supposed to be funny.

 

TV extra:

 

Cheat (ITV)

You could – literally - set your watch by ITV’s ‘9pm psychological thriller’ slot. But Cheat, a taut revenge tragedy about a university lecturer (Katherine Kelly) drawn into an escalating battle of wits with a manipulative student (Molly Windsor) she accuses of plagiarism, deserves a higher mark than most. The two leads are terrific, while the honeyed quads of Cambridge are a welcome change from the usual rainwashed London streets. A solid 2:1 (with honours).

 

White Gold (BBC2)

Back for a second run, this often juvenile but frequently very funny comedy about a turf war among 80s double-glazing salesman has a distinctly Inbetweeners-ish vibe – and not just because Joe Thomas and James Buckley are effectively playing older versions of their characters from that show. Ed Westwick leads as cocky grifter Vincent Swan (think Del Boy without the  heart), while scene-stealing performances from Linzey Cocker, Rachel Shenton and Lauren O’Rourke stop things getting too laddish.

 

Published in Waitrose Weekend, March 14, 2019

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