This highly popular detective series was first aired on 23 March 1997 when the pilot episode "The Killings At Badgers Drift" was transmitted. ITV announced it as a one off film but it was very successful with figures in the region of 13.5 million viewers, and the film won the Best Drama Award that year. The film was based on the 1987 novel by Caroline Graham which was regarded by the Crime Writers' Association as being one of the Top 100 crime novels of all time. The initial series which followed was based on Graham's other four Inspector Barnaby novels, these were "Written In Blood", "Death Of A Hollow Man", "Death In Disguise" and "Faithful Unto Death". Having filmed the majority of Graham's novels featuring Barnaby (A Place Of Safety & Ghost In The Machine have not been filmed as yet) the producers turned to other writers to provide new stories for the subsequent five series. These have included contributions from prolific and accomplished writers such as Anthony Horowitz ("Agatha Christie's Poirot"), Douglas Watkinson ("The Professionals", "Boon", "Emmerdale") and Christopher Russell ("The Bill", "Cadfael"). In the past six years since it made its debut on British television there has been nearly thirty episodes and there is no hint of the series finishing yet. The series is notable in that it has brought John Nettles back to prime time TV after the "Bergerac" series finished in 1993. In this series he played Sergeant Bergerac, a Jersey copper fighting alcoholism and has had uncomfortable relationships with several girlfriends, a role far removed from that of Inspector Barnaby.
The first episode of the seventh series entitled "The Green Man" was aired on 2 November 2003. Daniel Casey who plays Sergeant Troy has left the series. The character has been promoted to Inspector and is leaving Midsomer to take up a position in Newcastle. John Nettles will have a new sidekick in John Hopkins as Sergeant Scott who will be introduced when the remainder of the series is broadcast in January 2004.
"Midsomer Murders" is a wonderful series, although like many long running series, it has occasionally fallen below it's own standard in that the ideas for new plots sometimes becomes strained after so many episodes. The characters are rich and well realised by first class actors and it gets full mileage out of it's rural setting. Guest stars have included Alan Howard (the nephew of Leslie Howard) and Samantha Bond (Miss Moneypenny in all the James Bond films since "Goldeneye"). The quality of this series to my mind is that it should make it to the big screen someday. There would be no need to change anything as all the ingredients for a good cinema feature are there already. These days most of the quality stuff is on the small screen and a lot of mediocre stuff is lumbered on our picture houses.
It has been announced that John Nettles will be quitting the show after playing Inspector Barnaby for twelve-years since the show made its debut. However, he will still be seen in it until 2011 and it looks very much like the show will still continue very much in the manner of other TV shows such as Taggart and McCallam, which carried on without their title characters.