A detective drama, it focuses on the main character of Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby, played by actor John Nettles (of Bergerac fame) and his efforts to solve the various crimes that afflict Midsomer.
The programme possesses a unique style. It is almost entirely set within the closed, backwards-looking fictional English county of Midsomer. Midsomer is a world whose inhabitants are wealthy, amoral and snobbish eccentrics, often obsessed with the small lives they lead in these isolated communities. This provides for friction between them, which is observed with a self-mocking, sardonic humour.
The show often highlights the fa?║ade put up by people. To the eye, Midsomer is a picturesque, peaceful and prosperous county, but behind the well-trimmed hedgerows and cricket on the village green is a society brimming with all kinds of vice. Barnaby, by contrast, offers a stable homelife and an exceptional morality.
Each story is built up carefully, with underpinning currents and unsolved mysteries adding to the bemusement of the detectives. There are usually false leads, such as those who have committed petty crimes, or harbour some dark secret that they attempt to conceal from the world. Despite the sinister, atmospheric edge that runs through the show, it maintains a constant humour.
One feature of the programme is the large number of deaths, especially considering that Midsomer is a small, rural county. Because of the bizarre nature of the place, this does not seem entirely improbable. The show at times even plays on this lack of realism, with characters often commenting on the astoundingly high numbers of deaths. For example, when he is called to a murder scene on his first day, Detective Sergeant Dan Scott asks, "Is the body count always this high around here?". Barnaby replies dryly, "It's been remarked upon."
First transmitted in the United Kingdom in March 1997, filming is currently underway on the eleventh series of the programme, which will bring the total number of episodes to sixty-six, and a twelfth series commissioned to be filmed in 2008. Viewing figures for the series are healthy, and the feature-length drama attracts a number of actors from the stage and screen in guest-starring roles. The majority of the early episodes were written by Anthony Horowitz, who, with the original producers Betty Willingale and Brian True-May, also created the series. Current writers include Peter J. Hammond, David Hoskins, Douglas Watkinson and Andrew Payne.