X Files. And they're different beasts. We've got involved.

Because it wouldn't be the English what I d call an icon here. We've never had any village with them. Itjust wouldn't work. Suddenly Wednesday 8.0opm tTVt (not STV), HD recognition [it has never won a Bafta or National we might be in Slough. Ironically, Causton [the r's oNE or the biggest rating winners on Television Awardl but it tends to happen that fictional local town in Midsomer Murdersl is British TV and one of the most success- long-running, succesful shows dont get recogni- supposed to be Slough. And if you went in to fullyexportedprogrammes of alltime - it tion. Ite dismissed that." Slough you wouldn't see a white face there. We're is shown in 231 territories - but what True-May has stewarded the series from its the last bastion ofEnglishness and I want to keep exactly makes Midsomer Murders, the inception and he's extremely proud of it. "When it that way." leafl, village detective drama with the absurd I talk to people and other nations they love John Of course, many people would say that in the crime rate, the success it is? Nettles, but they also love the premise of the 21st century "Englishness" includes other races. The 1,1,th series begins this wee\ the first with- show. They love the perceived English genteel 'Well, it should do, and maybe I m not politically out John Nettles as DCI Tom Barnaby, but eccentricity. It's not British, it's very English. We correct," he replies. "I'm trying to make somedespite starring in 82 episodes Nettles is not are a cosmopolitan society in this country but if thing that appeals to a certain audience, which Midsomer Murders' realbeating heart. That title yolr watch Midsomer you wouldn't think so. I've seems to succeed. And I don't want to change it." belongs to Brian Tfue-May, the co-creator of the never been picked up on that, but quite honestly Apartfrom keepinghis villages allwhite, TrueMidsomer Murders
series and its producer. "It has probably got to be the biggest drama success of all time. The only

thing that beats
20

it

may be Star Trek or The

I wouldnt want to change it." I ask him what he means by cosmopolitan. "Well, we just don't have ethnic minorities

May says he lays down one or two other ground rules. Swearing, graphic violence and sex scenes are all banned. "I don t believe in swearing or bad
Radiofimes

D-2s March 2orr

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-1" id

"$,t

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language ofany description in any show an) We don't need it."

May.

Storylines, on the other hand are given free rein. "If it's incest, blackmail, lesbianism, homosexuality... terrific, put it in, because people can believe that people can murder for any ofthose reasons. The one I do avoid is land issues, because
they're veryboring." True-Maylives in Great Missenden in Bucking-

hamshire, just round the corner from The Lee, which is the village that doubles as Badger's Drift in the programme, and which happens to be the most lethal of all. Midsomer locales. Hearty and well-spoken in blazer and tie, he could walk in to an episode without a costume or a script and fit

"We've never had any complaints. Nothing al all. We've had Ofcom complain because somebody said too many bloodies. The bizarre situation is we've had about five Barnaby houses, five police stations and nobody's ever spotted the difference. They just don't notice."

right in.
"I've been in the business longer than you can

imagine. You don't want to have too much
change," True-May says. "Chopping and changing, rebranding - that's a mistake. Ifyouve got a

T 7ou coulD ARGUE that True-May knows his \/ audience better than anyone. A 2006 L,*"y carried out by the Open Universitl

"We're the last bastion of *:tl:f;*n::;f#J:.:',il:1fl::"',ITj: '#,i::;';:;lkH::::i:*;:1r'1,:'*H:i: ties, so ethnic minorities Englishness and I want lot ofchange. People hate change. Theywant tot Murders: it was described don't walch Midsomer in the report as "striktune in to their favourite programme. They don want to see a director that flies around with the ingly unpopular". The survey didn't consider to keep it that way"
BuaN Tnun-Mav
RadioTimes

and the University of Manchester on behalf ol

camera like a pop video. They want to see the vistas and the countryside."

whether this was cause or effect.

But it's this studied conservatism

- the D

19-25 March 2ou

21

I put it to Neil Dudgeon, 50, that viewers should see a black farein Midsorzer. But he's only just got the job and thinks a change ofDCI Barnaby is probably change enough.
"As

SARFRAZ MANZOOR: LIFE IN A WHITE LAND
I am, like many others, a huge fan of Mad Men. The series, as you probably know, is set in early 60s America and focuses on the men who work for a New York ad agency. Needless to say these men are all white. Now imagine if a television executive, worried about the lack of racial diversity, had ordered the writers to install a black character into the Sterling Cooper ad agency. lt would have helped give the firm a more racially balanced workforce but it would also, in pre-civil rights America, have been historically perverse.

to whether I would want

to change anything, I thinkit's a

problem for Brian and ITV. You've got this thing that's
phenomenally successful. You want it to go on being successful. If people have been quite happy for it not to really change in 14, years, there's no reason to suppose they're goingto want it to change now I daresay there are some things where I would
want abit more of this and abit less ofthat - but thatt a long way in the future."

In the original books by Caroline Graham, Barnaby's
sidekick Gavin Tioy is unapolo-

getically politically incorrect
and not averse to making unsavoury comments. T|oy appeared ear\ in the series, although he

The world of Mad Men is largely a white world. a similar story for the costume dramas that British television excels at. l'm not, I have to admit, a natural viewer of such dramas, but I doubt very much if I would suddenly start watching Downton Abbey if it had a smattering of black faces. When I was growing up in the 80s I didn't watch Doctor Who wondering why none of the Cybermen were Asian. lf a series is set in the past it seems ridiculous to start imposing

It\

was a far more palatable character on screen.

These days, Barnaby is

( picturesque places and uniform faces has made Midsomer a television evergreen.

accompanied by DS Jones. What does Jason Hughes, 4o, that who has played Jones for the past five years,

think ofthe continued absence ofblack

faces

down in Badger's Drift? "I've wondered that myself and I don't know. It's an interesting question. This isn't an urban would not merely be another So-something drama and it isnt about multiculturalism. That's detective with the minimum of gimmickry or not to say that there isn't a place for multiculturquirks, but one with exactlythe same name. alism in the show. But that's really not up to me The new DCI Barnaby, who appears this week to decide. I don t think that we would all suddenly played by Neil Dudgeon, is the old DCI Barnaby's go, A black gardener it Midsomer? You can't cousin. This wasnt just to appease British view- have that!' I think wed all go, 'Great, fantastic."' The buck stops with True-May. He has made ers; it was a sop to foreign sales because, abroad, Midsomer Murders is known as BarnabE (the the series a huge success and is plotting its future. name change came about originally because Is he about to let multiculturism impinge on the Midsomer Murders wottld have been confusing village idyll any time soon? "No. It would just look out of place!' BenjiWilson in other countries). When Nettles announced his intention to leave two years ago, True-May and his team spun a handover storyline whereby Nettles' replacement

HISTORICALLY ACCURATE IN NEW YORK Mad Men is an all-white world for good reasons modern concepts of representation and suggesting that we have, for example, Asian characters popping up in Pnde and Prejudice But what about a television drama like Midsomer Murders set in an English village today, albeit an idealised one? Like costume drama, I have a suspicion that one of the reasons why such dramas are popular is precisely because there are no non-white faces in them; the shows hint at a simpler time when the class system stood and everyone knew their place - a time before mass immigration. Were lto watch a costume drama, the chances are I wouldn't see anyone who looked like me. That in itself doesn't worry me. What's important is that there is diversity across the range of dramas rather than in every individual series. The challenge for television executives isn't how to start introducing historically inappropriate diversity into costume dramas, but how to ensure a range of drama is commissioned. Escapism is fine, just so long as we continue to commit to dramas that depict a more complicated and contemporary portrait of life. My worry is that it's easier to retreat int6 a simplified rendering of the past than it is to grapple with the messy realities of the present.
tw i tte rco m /sa r f ra z m a n zo
o

THE FACTS

MIDSOMER:

o There have been 251 deaths - a mere 222 o'f those have been murders. o Murder weapons include a Celtic speal vintage claret, liquid nicotine, King Neptune's trident, a frog and a slide projector.

.942actors

(and 22,000

extras) have been hired

(over the Years. o Even if a scene is shot in the rain, technicians lay on sunshine to make sure it
always looks pleasant. o On a cold day the cast suck ice cubes to keep

r

their breath transparent.
Radiofimes

D-25 March

2011

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