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Midsomer Murders TV preview

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: December 22, 2013

  • Neil Dudgeon as DCI John Barnaby and Rebecca Front as Reverend Martha Hillcott.

  • Lucy (Sally Bretton) and Lee (Lee Mack).

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Midsomer Murders: The Christmas Haunting – Christmas Eve, 8pm, ITV IT'S the festive season in Midsomer and furniture maker and serial philanderer Conor Bridgeman is stabbed to death with an antique sword during a ghost hunting party at Morton Shallows manor house. Merry Christmas!

As DS Charlie Nelson takes up his new post alongside DCI John Barnaby, historian Brendan Pearce points the finger at blacksmith's daughter Rose Wilton.

All very well, were she not a ghost - of a girl who died 127 years ago.

If that weren't bad enough, another poor unfortunate is discovered in a walk-in freezer, bludgeoned to death with a blacksmith's hammer.

On the plus-side, it's two less cards to write.

Certainly, it's a baptism of fire for Nelson – can he and Barnaby find an earthly motive behind the murder and trap the killer?

"DS Nelson is from the city and he finds village life and the pace a bit different," admits Gwilym Lee, who plays the newcomer.

"It's daunting how everyone knows everyone else's business.

"At the beginning," he adds, "the characters are trying to work each other out.

"Nelson comes in with lots of police jargon, and tends to talk too much. He also likes green tea and is a bit of a health freak, getting up at 6am to go for a run. He's a modern guy - he can cook and keep the house tidy and look after himself."

While Barnaby takes a little time to warm to his new sidekick, Neil Dudgeon, who plays the detective, was only too delighted.

"It's good to bring a new character into the series," he says, "as it will keep Barnaby on his toes."

But he doesn't expect to see his character change very much. "Barnaby's now well embedded in Midsomer life," he reflects. "The villagers have taken me, the wife, and the dog to their hearts, so we are now a fixture!

"John Barnaby's approach is simple," he continues. "He has a degree in psychology and his approach to his work comes from his interest in criminals and why they do what they do.

"He plays his cards close to his chest and adapts his persona to get results, even if it means he has to look weak or silly.

"He is also quite direct and has a likeable black sense of humour, which helps him get through the darker moments. I would describe him as bluff and ironic.''

So how has Midsomer survived so long? "I think the whodunit angle is one of the main reasons for the success of Midsomer," says Dudgeon. "It's a proper two-hour show that you can get immersed in because there's time to look at all the suspicious characters, red herrings and all. The locations are also vital, seeing all the beautiful English countryside, vast stately homes, and sweet little cottages.

"Episodes have characters ranging from poachers to lords and ladies, and the humour is always trickling under the surface. It's also nice that each episode has a slightly independent feel.

"Some episodes are very dark and macabre, while others can be relatively light and quirky.

"I like the variety and change that each film brings."

When he's not working, Dudgeon enjoys spending time with his family and indulging his hobbies. "My passion now is the arts," he says, "and I like going to galleries and exhibitions. I still enjoy football – I have a season ticket at Fulham and get there when I can.

"I also go to the gym - but then I undo all the good work when I arrive at work and have a bacon butty!"

Surely, in this case, turkey?

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