Wednesday night at 8pm on ITV1 sees the return of Midsomer Murders. Tom Barnaby has retired and his cousin, John, (who we met in a previous series) has kindly come up from Brighton to take over as Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby in the interests of continuity.
Now this is quite a turn up for die-hard Midsomer fans. The main character has left, but we are thankfully rescued by someone from the same genetic pool. Not like poor old Taggart. The eponymous Taggart dies and, 300 years later, we still have a programme called Taggart but with no Taggart.
That would not do for Midsomer Maniacs. No no. We are gently lulled back to a happy state by another Barnaby and he seems to be a decent chap with a glint in his eye and I’m sure I will like him. Phew everything’s back to normal.
Except it isn’t. It’s not enough that there are more murders per square mile than South Central, that anyone in a floral frock will almost certainly cut your throat, or that an innocent reading circle is more than likely a murderous gang of octogenarian hedge fund managers.
It’s far worse than that. There are No Brown Faces in Midsomer.
Now. I live in a small, middle class, rural village, in the East Midlands, twelve miles out of Leicester. Leicester, along with Peterborough, now has more than 50% ‘of the population who are not White British, that is Asian, Afro Caribbean etc. Being an escaped Londoner, I enjoy going into Leicester and seeing a broader ethnic mix and I relish the cultural diversity that comes with it.
But in my village, the one next to it, the two next to that and the several beyond that, I can count on one hand the amount of brown people who live there. Boy the Younger’s school, which is in one of these villages, has a few brown families, not that anyone even thinks about it, and Boy the Elder’s school which is about 5 miles out of Leicester hardly has any – in fact I’m not sure I’ve seen a single one.
I make no judgement about this. I will not attempt to suggest reasons why there are few brown faces, or hint at any socio-economic undertones governing the demographics, it is simply a fact that in rural villages one is less likely to see the cultural diversity that exists in large towns and cities. My Asian friends live in villages nearer to Leicester because they are professionals and their jobs are in the towns or cities.
Brian True May, the producer and co-creator, phrased himself badly when he suggested that the presence of ethnic minorities would make the show less English, or that he was appealing to a certain audience and wouldn’t want to change it. I asked two of my brown friends if they had an opinion on it and their view was pretty much that they’d never noticed. But now they’re hopping mad about it – actually I made that last bit up, they couldn’t give a toss.
Criticising Midsomer Murders for lack of racial diversity is missing the point. It’s far more important to encourage the television companies to commission a broad range of good drama that reflects both historical and contemporary society. There’s a lot of crap on our screens that neither informs nor properly entertains. How about paring that down and spending the money on quality programmes and encourage some of the brilliant upcoming writers and producers to make something that will make us catch our breath?
Midsomer Murders is a jolly good detective drama, set in a fictional county with a preposterous and jaw-dropping amount of intrigues, deaths, maniacs, deviants and mutilations. Despite that, there are no depictions of graphic violence, there is no swearing and there are no sex scenes. On the whole, I’d say that the ethnic representation is the most realistic thing in it.