DAVID BIANCULLI

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The Killings on 'Midsomer Murders' Relocate to Acorn
December 1, 2019  | By David Hinckley
 


Midsomer Murders
, which some might call the British equivalent of Law & Order, returns for its 21st season with a new U.S. home and an undiminished twinkle in its crime-solving eye.

Season 21 kicks off Sunday on Acorn, where it has relocated from Netflix. In traditional British fashion, the season has four episodes, each a two-hour movie in which a separate murder rattles around until it is solved.

There's been a remarkable consistency to Midsomer Murders over the years, even as the cast has inexorably revolved. It maintains a light touch, to the extent the term can apply to a story that begins with someone getting killed and usually continues with several other victims following.

Neil Dudgeon returns for his eighth season as DCI John Barnaby, who took over for his cousin Tom. Barnaby's current partner, entering his third season, is DCI Jamie Winter (Nick Hendrix), whose relatively young fresh face presents the usual contrast to Barnaby’s gentle weariness with the job and the world.

As in other British crime dramas like GrantchesterMidsomer Murders racks up a remarkably high body count for a pastoral region in the scenic British countryside.

The first episode of the new season plunges Barnaby into the intersecting worlds of dance, robotics, and high-end charity. All turn out to be snake pits of intrigue, jealousy, betrayal, and hardball drama.

It all begins with a charity dance event, underwritten by the megacorporation whose portfolio includes, among other things, cutting-edge artificial intelligence research and technology.

The corporation is run by Andrew Wilder (Nigel Havers), who suffers from a degenerative brain condition that has sent him into a slow and cruel decline. Accordingly, he plans to turn the leadership of the corporation over to his daughter Heather (Carolina Main), who is regarded by some other family members as a devious schemer.

Suspicion and distrust also swirl around Andrew's second wife, Heather's fiancé, and Andrew himself, who is a shrewd businessman and not always an empathetic Dad.

And that's even before a journalist, who is also a dancer, turns up dead.

Before she died, she was researching a feature on Wilder's company, so Barnaby begins by looking into who might not have wanted that story to appear. It turns out she also had some adversaries in the dance world, however, and oh yes, the charity biz isn't always completely charitable on the inside.

In the spirit of virtually every other police show ever made, Barnaby and Winters begin digging for the hundred tiny clues that will eventually enable them to put together the pieces and solve the crime.

They are assisted by pleasantly familiar supporting players, including medical examiner Fleur Perkins (Annette Badland). For Midsomer fans, in fact, it will all have a familiar and comfortable feeling that makes the ride no less pleasant.

Except, of course, for the measurable percentage of the local populace that will continue to be wiped out in each episode.

 
 
 
 
 
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