Midsomer Murders, Last Man Out. Television Review.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 8.5/10

Cast: Neil Dudgeon, Fiona Dolman, Nick Hendrix, Jason Hughes, Manjinder Virk, John Bird, Susan Jameson, Raj Awasti, Tia Bannon, Joe Dixon, Daniel Eghan, Susan Fordham, Frances Grey, Esther Hall, Stephen Hawke, Michael Haydon, Bruce Lawrence, Natasha Little, Mark Powley, Mike Ray, Paul Reynolds, Parth Thakerar, Glenn Webster.

The village green, second only to Lords as a natural home of English cricket, a place where the icy, money tentacles of show business have not crept in and the game remains pure, cricket at its most gentlemanly, where the only thing to worry about is bitter rivalry, untamed jealousy and the wearing down of the natural order; where the Last Man Out might still buy the round or quite easily find himself the target of death.

Cricket has always made a good spectator to the world of murder, the point of fair play, of gentlemanly conduct, of being a good sport and taking the umpire’s decision with good grace is the perfect antidote to the meanness and simmering envy that can spill over once the final ball of the day has gone past the boundary ropes; this balance of two states of mind, order and anarchy is arguably not seen in another sport, only a person with so much time on their hands in the field can test their own patience in such fashion.

For Detective Inspector Barnaby, cricket is made more insidious by the reappearance of his old Sergeant Ben Jones, the emergence of the despicable arm of match and spot fixing and the gruesome way that a captain is killed, one such murder at least which would see the murderer not granted any bail.

To have Jason Hughes reappear as the much admired Ben Jones is a welcome shot in the arm for the series, arguably along with Daniel Casey as Sergeant Troy, two of the most loved characters that the show has produced and his rapport, even after four years from the part, with Neil Dudgeon is full of sparkle, of grounded wit and magnetism. Whist his replacements in the position have been good, unfortunately they have not hit the highs that Ben Jones was able to reach as he worked with Neil Dudgeon or John Nettles.

A superbly laid out episode of Midsomer Murders, a tale of bitterness and the village green amplified to the point where money and show business have ruined the local atmosphere, a place where now nothing is sacred and the gentle pace of life can be seen as over.

Ian D. Hall