IT IS Sunday afternoon, preferably before the war. The wife is already asleep in the armchair, and the children have been sent out for a nice long walk. You put your feet up on the sofa, settle your spectacles on your nose, and open the News of the World. Roast beef and Yorkshire, or roast pork and apple sauce, followed up by suet pudding and driven home, as it were, by a cup of mahogany-brown tea, have put you in just the right mood. Your pipe is drawing sweetly, the sofa cushions are soft underneath you, the fire is well alight, the air is warm and stagnant. In these blissful circumstances, what is it that you want to read about?
Naturally, about a murder…
So wrote George Orwell in Tribune, 65 years ago. And while Orwell went on to bemoan the decline of the English murder, the English Sunday evening murder TV series thrives.
Of course, all countries have crime series. But while we thrill to Denmark’s dense The Killing, this really is the nation of Morse and Midsomer Murders. Gentle, neat, two-hour Home Counties dramas, all wrapped up by a complex-but-not-too-complex detective, and usually involving a slightly outre academic and/or the hint of a teenage lesbian love triangle.
And no foreigners or minorities (except, occasionally, a charming gypsy).
The latter was the great unsaid, until Midsomer producer Brian True-May went and said it.
True-May told the Radio Times:
“We just don’t have ethnic minorities involved. Because it wouldn’t be the English village with them. It just wouldn’t work … We’re the last bastion of Englishness and I want to keep it that way.”
True-May has now been suspended, pending investigation. But has he not just put in words what the show’s policy has been for years? Had anyone ever raised the issue of black or brown faces and the lack thereof on Midsomer before?