THERE were more dark deeds afoot on the village green on Sunday night when the Midsomer Murders team returned to the Buckinghamshire village where the whole grisly detective series began.
There could hardly be a more picturesque setting that The Lee near Wendover, and 24 years ago it was transformed into Badger’s Drift for the pilot episode of what would become the UK’s longest-running crime drama and most popular drama export.
This week the pub was back at the heart of the action as a line-up of guest stars joined the regular cast for the second of six feature-length episodes making up Season 22 of the drama, with Neil Dudgeon enjoying his tenth year in the starring role.
Tension mounts after a local outcast controversially acquitted of a brutal murder years previously returns to the area – and a death on the village green means Barnaby and sidekick DS Jamie Winter (Nick Hendrix) are called in to investigate.
Prime suspects include John Thomson as Cooper Steinem (best known as Pete from Cold Feet) pulling pints behind the bar, Lily Allen’s dad Keith Allen as Harry Marx and The Queen’s Gambit star Jacob Fortune-Lloyd as the ambitious Gideon Tooms.
Welsh actor Allen has played a variety of “baddie” roles in the past, with a CV that ranges from Shallow Grave and Trainspotting to Kingsman and Marcella.
But undisputed star of Sunday’s instalment, filmed in 2020, was Hannah Waddingham from Game of Thrones in a bravura performance as larger-than-life Mimi Dagmar, Midsomer’s most flirtatious estate agent, whose suggestive asides left even DCI Barnaby looking a little uncomfortable.
Chilterns residents get an additional delight from spotting local venues used as a backdrop for the series, as Joan Street can testify – over the past 20 years she has chronicled more than 120 locations on her Midsomer Murders website.
Says Joan, who lives in London: “I was inspired to start the site having recognised some of the locations in a very early episode called Written in Blood. Initially it was only going to be a website for the locations but somehow or other it grew and grew!
“I launched the first pages way back in 1999, never envisaging the series would still be going on in 2021. It was a bit of fun but gradually almost became like a second job. Midsomer’s popularity increased every year with more and more locations being used; something that fascinated many viewers.”
It wasn’t long before the site had more than a million hits, with more than 2,300 members joining a forum linked to it.
“A friend and I used to go out on weekends trying to track down some of the locations used,” Joan recalls. “We were very naive at first but soon learnt that a lot of detective work needed to be done in advance to find them. The quirkiness of Midsomer was also a huge appeal. We became totally addicted.”
The series became such a worldwide success that a series of guided and self-guided tours have been launched across the region showing tourists favourite locations, from Henley and Marlow to Thame and the Hambleden Valley.
Joan admits: “Prior to Midsomer I’d never visited any of the places used in the Chilterns. It was a voyage of discovery. I now know almost every town and village and we both ended up loving the area.”
The Lee has featured in at least four other Midsomer episodes, and Sunday night saw its picturesque cottages back in the public eye, this time as Tamworth Springs, home to an ill-fated social and health club for recovering heart bypass patients.
The Stitcher Society was broadcast on Sunday April 11 on ITV and is still available to watch on ITV Hub. Midsomer Murders is made by Bentley Productions, part of ALL3Media.