Sunday, June 16, 2013

All I Need to Know about England I Learned from Midsomer Murders

A few months ago, I started watching the BBC series Midsomer Murders.  Of course, given that the show is about a bajillion episodes long (and each episode about 90 minutes long) I haven't exactly watched all the episodes. 

The show takes place in the seemingly peaceful English county of Midsomer and follows the cases of the great Chief Inspector Barnaby (played by John Nettles).  I say "great" because I don't think there has been a single case where Barnaby was wrong.  He always manages to figure out 'whodunit' within 90 minutes, often saving the life of yet another victim in dramatic fashion, when he realizes that something seemingly banal was actually crucial evidence.

After a while the episodes start blending together and you can start patching together what is going to happen and who the culprit will be based on the circumstances surrounding the case.  Of course, I know that this is TV, but it's terribly fun to make ridiculous generalizations about real places based on fictitious events.  So, without further ado, here is a [probably incomplete] list of "true" things about the English countryside:

1.  There are shockingly few happily married couples in England.
From what I've seen, there is only one consistently happy couple in England:

Sure, Joyce can't cook her way out of a wet paper bag, and Tom is constantly leaving her alone in restaurants/pubs/parks because he has to go check out yet another murder, but they actually seem to like one another.
There is a little addendum to this point:
1b.  If you see a happy marriage, one of them is either a murderer or about to be murdered.
In one particularly cheerful episode, a young engaged couple gets married, only to have the bride murdered.  On her wedding day.  In her dress.  In another episode, one couple looked like the picture of a cheerful couple.  Turns out the wife was completely nuts and was murdering people all over the place.  Best part?  The husband figured it was her, but didn't want to have Mrs. Crazypants put back into the Crazyhouse.  (Yes - BACK into the Crazyhouse.  That was where they met.)

2.  Having a hobby is life-threatening. 
I don't know how many times Joyce has tried to take up a hobby only to stumble over a dead body.  Watercolor group on the green?  Trips on dead body.  Helping restore an old canal tunnel? Almost crushed by collapsing roof, finds room of dead skeletons.  Takes part in amateur theater?  Man killed on stage.

3. Every town has at least two of the following:  a rich and eccentric noble family, a greedy merchant, a ridiculously specific festival, and/or someone or something with an incredibly sordid history. 
Forget the slums of major cities.  Forget the quirkiness of places like Portland, San Francisco, or New York. All the weirdos are in the English countryside.  Madison's Naked Bike Ride?  Completely normal compared to how important Bell Ringing is in Midsomer.  Also, the Picturesque Village Award.  And the county-wide Cricket Tournament.  Or the Fluffiest Badgers Trophy (okay, I made that up).
There are titled families in this series - though at the rate they keep dropping, I'm not sure how many of them can possibly be left.  They are usually involved in SOMETHING, but are more frequently the victims rather than the murderers.  I think the nobility takes the prize for Most Dysfunctional Families.  Probably not something to cheer about.
As any good American knows, money is only good thing in the world.  (Please detect sarcasm there.) Which is why I'm surprised that the rich merchants are usually a step away from being a Dickens villian.

4.  Having kids in England is probably a bad idea.
I suppose this is related to the dysfunctional marriage bullet above, but from what I've seen, anyone under the age of 25 has one of Four roles to fill:
- Finder of dead body (this is the best option)
- Murder victim
- Murderer
- Cully Barnaby
How Cully has escaped being stabbed for this long, I'll never know.  She, like her mother, is always in the wrong place at the wrong time with the way wrong person, but seems to get by without a hair out of place.
Except for the scene from this image, apparently:

5.  Pretty women are almost universally bad news.  If they have long hair, they're committing adultery with someone (or they have in the past).
If a woman walks on the screen in a sexy outfit and heels and her last name isn't "Barnaby,"  she's probably a criminal, a thief or a murderer.  Long hair = adultery.  
This isn't to say that there are no pretty women in this show.  There are.  The actress who plays Cully is very attractive.  But if the first thing the characterization tries to show is that "this woman has sex appeal," she's either going to bite in within a few minutes or steal someone's inheritance.

I don't want anyone to think I don't enjoy the show; I really do.  There is a sort of overall story arc, but you can really watch the episodes in almost any order.
Midsomer Murders, Series 1. 

Seen any other shows with quirky logic all their own?

All I Learned About England,,,Part Two

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