Barnaby’s back on the murder trail

FANS of the ITV detective drama Midsomer Murders can anticipate another spate of bizarre deaths across Middle England this weekend when the show returns to the small screen for its 22nd series.

The Wolf Hunter Of Little Worthy will premiere on Sunday April 4 at 8pm as Neil Dudgeon returns as DCI John Barnaby is his 10th year in the role.

MURDER MOST FOUL: Neil Dudgeon and Nick Hendrix PICTURE: ITV/Mark Bourdillon

Chilterns residents get an extra frisson of anticipation from spotting local venues used as a backdrop for the series, which is now in its 24th year and is both the country’s longest-running crime drama and top-rated drama export.

More than 40 towns and villages across the Chilterns, Thames Valley and Vale of Aylesbury have featured in the series and over the past 20 years Joan Street has chronicled more than 120 locations on her Midsomer Murders website.

Renowned for its high body count, dark humour, stunning scenery and a plethora of high-profile guest stars, the show launched with a pilot in 1997, with seasoned TV detective John Nettles in the starring role.

Nettles had been a household name in the 1980s during his 10 years as the fictional Jersey detective Jim Bergerac, but his first outing in Midsomer, probing a murder in the sleepy village of Badger’s Drift, proved such a hit that would go on to play Barnaby in another 81 episodes spanning 14 years.

WINNING FORMULA: Season 22 launches on Sunday April 4 PICTURE: ITV/Mark Bourdillon

By the time Neil Dudgeon took over (ostensibly as Tom Barnaby’s younger cousin John), original sidekick DS Gavin Troy (Daniel Casey) had been replaced after six seasons by DS Ben Jones (Jason Hughes). For the past three series the role of DS Jamie Winter has been played by Nick Hendrix.

Filming on series 21 was halted mid-season by the coronavirus pandemic, but Sunday’s show is the first of six feature-length episodes, also featuring Annette Badland in her role as pathologist Dr Fleur Perkins.

Midsomer Murders is made by Bentley Productions, part of ALL3Media.