Midsomer Murders: a suspension of disbelief
I don't suppose I have watched many more episodes of Midsomer Murders than the new BBC Chairman, Chris Patten has watched Eastenders. I know that my elderly mother is a big fan. So are millions of others
Such Midsomers as I've seen make a gentle modern example of the 'bucolic idyll', the genre of country life fantasy directed at people who do not live in the country, showing a world that does not exist, often never existed, but which, ever since the time of Theocritus, has been satisfying and pleasurable for many.
This week the creator of the long-running series has been suspended for saying that he did not consider Midsomer parts for blacks and asians. 'It wouldn't work', said David True-May, if the illusion of the English village were broken by their presence. Most newspapers carried the story this morning.
I had never heard before of Mr True-May. If I had done, I would certainly have felt gratitude to him for the pleasure he has brought my mother. He has created a potent and pleasurable illusion that 'works', I will guess, precisely because it is illusory. That is how the bucolic always works.
Ths creation of satisfying illusion is a task, one would have thought, for which the bosses of ITV were greatly less suited than their now abused producer. When Mr True-May said that ethnic minorities in Midsomer would 'deter viewers', he was talking about a popular fiction not a place. His offending remark was precisely in that context, pointing out that the real countryside was 'cosmopolitan' and his own creation was not.
Was he saying that his viewers would be deterred by black faces in the street? No. Only that they might easily be deterred from watching his show if it didn't work so well. 'Not working well' is a common reason why drama fails. The single most important fact about an idyll is that it is not a depiction of real life. Since Midsomer is a village with apparently some two murders a week, this should not be hard to grasp.