This post originally appeared October 1, 2019.
A day or two after I blogged about my television binge watching habits, and in particular, how I was leisurely watching Midsommer Murders because there were 19 seasons on Netflix, Netflix announced that the program would be removed from their network October 1. At that point I was on about Season 9.
So I commenced to sitting down and watching episode after episode of the program. For the entire month of September, every afternoon and into the evening, I was parked in front of the television, watching Inspector Tom Barnaby, and then when he retired, his cousin Inspector John Barnaby. I watched the parade of sergeants that helped the Chief Inspector(s) solve the murders, all the while wondering how a small community like Midsommer could withstand the loss of four or five people each episode. I dreamed about Midsommer. I began talking with a British accent. I couldn’t stop craving bangers and mash. I would get into the passenger seat of my car, looking for the steering wheel.
Finally, Sunday I felt I simply couldn’t watch another episode. I was at the end of Season 17, and realized that I couldn’t eat another fish or chip. But I’m not a quitter, and I wanted to find out who would replace DSI Nelson. I wondered if the Barnabys would get another dog to replace Sykes. Would little Baby Betty Barnaby finally sleep through the night? So, I compromised. I began watching the first and last episodes of the remaining seasons. The first episodes would let me know if there was a new Detective Sergeant whose name and personality I would have to learn. The last episode would provide any surprises for the next season.
In my blog post about binging, I mentioned that the murders that took place in Midsommer were quite cozy. Maybe a thump on the head or a poison slipped into a cup of tea. But as the television years progressed, I realized that the murders were becoming more and more violent. Brutal, really. It went from a bump on a head with a cricket bat to being run over with an army tank or killed by bites from dozens of poisonous snakes. Really yucky stuff. Nevertheless, I powered on.
But watching the increase in sheer horror as the episodes progressed got me to thinking about our appetite for gore. In 1997, when the first Midsommer murder took place, we could handle a cup of tea laced with strychnine as a murder weapon. By 2019, we were lapping up murders committed by shoving a sharpened stick through into one ear and out the other.
Perhaps it’s because the outside world is getting more and more horrific, but it apparently takes darker plots and more violent murders to get us to pay attention. The same is true of sex scenes, even on television and sometimes even in programs that are in the 7 o’clock time slot. Often when Bill and I are watching one of the programs we like, a scene will make me uncomfortable. That’s when I will turn to Bill and say, “My, we’ve come a long way since Rob and Laura Petrie slept in separate beds.”
I know I sound like my grandmother, but it still seems to me that we are sacrificing clever plot lines and characters and dialogue and replacing it with sex and violence.
By the way, even though Chief Inspector Barnaby and Detective Sergeant Whoever-It-Might-Be face grislier murders, they still do it without a gun in sight. Just sayin’…..