Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Midsomer Murders’

Murder before Bedtime

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 10th February, 2018

SpiralIt’s interesting how different people choose their own routine before going to bed at night. For some, it’s a glass of whisky, for others reading a few pages of a novel. But for me there is one thing above all that settles me, preparing me for a good night’s sleep — a good murder mystery. In Britain we have been well served on that front of late, with several TV channels screening detective stories, usually at 9pm or later; BBC4 has notably established a tradition of broadcasting a two-hour session of a continental who-done-it on a Saturday night. Series 6 of the French drama Spiral has just finished and tonight we can savour the first two episodes of the second series of Sweden’s Modus. BBC iPlayer even has box sets available sometimes; last night I binged on the last three episodes of the rather weird and bloody supernatural drama Requiem before heading off to sleep. What’s striking is how complex some of the scenarios of murder series are these days, highlighting not just the disturbed psychological state of killers but also the often dysfunctional personal lives of detectives, too. Midsomer Murders (reportedly a great favourite of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel) is more chocolate-boxy on that front, as well as in its choice of idyllic English rural settings — though the idyll is repeatedly shown up as an illusion by the carnage going on behind the scenes, often multiple bodies in each programme. Which brings me to the question: why do grisly murder stories appeal, especially late at night? The standard psychological explanation is that they are a way of assuaging our anxieties (especially for women, apparently). And the same is true for the genre in books. We are witnesses experiencing vicariously some of our worst fears or dreams being acted out, but are then able to retreat to our safe beds strangely calmed. So, yes, in a way fictional murder before bedtime is a type of therapy — though an addictive one at that.


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Nothing Like a Murder before Bedtime

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 6th May, 2017

Nordic NoirThe German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, once confessed that her favourite television programme is Midsomer Murders. This raised a few eyebrows, but I completely understand. Those of us who have busy and sometimes stressful lives, especially if this involves lots of face-to-face contact with strangers, need to wind down from time to time. And there is nothing like a good murder mystery to lift one out of one’s daily concerns and send one to bed somehow relaxed. Psychologists would doubtless have an explanation for this, not necessarily sublimation. I used to like Midsomer Murders too, though these days I find it a bit too formulaic and occasionally archly twee. Much more my style are the sometimes extremely gruesome Nordic Noir series that BBC Channel 4 broadcasts on Saturday nights, especially the ones from Denmark. The acting is often superb, the stories imaginative and the settings spectacularly atmospheric. The fact that they are sub-titled, not dubbed into English, is a definite plus as far as I am concerned, as one really enters into the spirit of the programme. Actually, I don’t own a television (though I do have a TV licence), so I watch them on my desktop computer, whose screen is as big as many TVs. That means I can complete my evening’s work at my desk and just switch over to iPlayer, journalism and politics pushed to one side, as I settle down to the latest grisly murder drama. So, guys, what’s on tonight?

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Murder Most Foul

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 6th September, 2008

Why are the British so addicted to murder mysteries? I confess that I am as hooked as the rest. At school, I devoured the entire oeuvre of Agatha Christie, alongside the more acceptable blood and guts of William Shakespeare. Having an appalling memory for plot, I can still watch a Hercule Poirot as if the story were totally fresh. And Midsomer Murders is the one TV programme I watch regularly, besides Newsnight and Have I Got News for You.

This evening, for the first time, I attended a Murder Mystery Evening, courtesy of Beckenham Liberal Democrats. The murder story’s title was ‘The Victim in the Vestry’, and the location for the event was most appropriately the Parish Rooms in Bromley. The Master of Ceremonies was Michael Chuter, who is a dab hand at these evenings. I admit I failed to work out the villain of the piece, despite several clever clues (and not a few red herrings). I know I would go back for more. And I’m still no nearer understanding why what in reality is a horrible crime is in imaginative terms so utterly entrancing.

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