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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Midsomer Murders - Set Four'
(John Nettles, Daniel Casey, et al / 5-Disc DVD / NR / (2002) 2004 / Acorn Media)

Overview: The cozy villages of Midsomer County reveal their most sinister secrets in these contemporary British television mysteries. Inspired by the novels of Caroline Graham, modern master of the English village mystery, the series stars John Nettles ('Bergerac') as the unflappable Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby with Daniel Casey ("The Wingless Bird") as his eager young assistant. Guest stars include Hugh Bonneville, Gemma Jones, Wendy Craig, and Paul Venables.

DVD Verdict: Many of you might have watched 'Midsomer Murders' over the commercial-ridden A&E channel and have joined millions on both sides of the Atlantic in becoming devoted fans. For you, good news. Acorn Media has issued the fourth set that includes five more episodes in a boxed set of 5 DVDs. Briefly, the first story "Tainted Fruit" is about the death of an old man through the alleged negligence of the young and sexy landlady. "Ring Out Your Dead" is a Dorothy Sayers-type tale of bell ringers, but this time about their being killed off. "Murder on St. Malley's Day" tells about a sinister elite Club in a strange school. "Market for Murder" finds some ladies secretly doing very well on the stock market, too well perhaps. Finally, "A Worm in the Bud" centers around a suicide note sent by e-mail after the body has been found. I found the first two series just a little less striking, a little more low-key, than those I have raved about in the Wimsey, Poirot and Miss Marple series. I add that 'Midsomer Murders' seems a recycling of the 'Inspector Morse' series but without that character's idiosyncrasies. But by the third series, I found myself pretty hooked on the show, and although I find the plots extremely complex, that will make you want to view them at least a second time. But that is the point in owning recordings. I should interject here that some television series are rich and enjoyable enough to deserve repeated viewings: Poirot for its humor and period settings, Marple for its characters, Wimsey for all three of those elements, and now 'Midsomer Murders' for the reasons stated. John Nettles plays Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby with a droll sense of humor that is most appealing and most of his ongoing problems in the early episodes stem from his job's keeping him away from his lovely wife (Jane Wymark) and daughter (Laura Howard). His sidekick, Sergeant Troy (Daniel Casey) is simply Barnaby's sidekick but there is a humorous interplay between them. And it is very good to see that gorgeous English scenery with its old inns and the like. Oh yes, and very minimal foul language, but some unnecessary nudity of the "we may do it so we must do it" variety in the third series adds nothing to the quality of the show. Still I can highly recommend all four series. These are all Full Screen formats (1.33:1) and comes with the Special Features of a Midsomer Map, Cast Filmographies, and a Caroline Graham Biography.