Murder in the countryside is a peculiar type of entertainment, and ITV’s Midsomer Murders is perhaps the most entertaining example.The show has been running since 1997, and is still going strong with its often bizarre killings in idyllic rural England, and friendly police officers investigating quirky characters, played by familiar actors, enjoying the chance to ham it up.
Ah, murder in the country is such fun!
Or it was until 2013, when Hinterland appeared on our screens. If, in the family of rural crime shows, Midsomer Murders is the lovable uncle who knows he’s unfashionable, but plays up to his image for gentle laughs, then Hinterland is the moody cousin with an attitude problem, who sits in the corner, taking himself and life very seriously.
While the fictional English county of Midsomer is green and sunny and jolly, the Hinterland version of the real Welsh county of Ceredigion is grey and damp and miserable.
And there are reasons for that. The Barnaby characters (the main investigators) in Midsomer, played by John Nettles and more recently Neil Dudgeon, live comfortable lives in nice houses with loving families.
Their equivalent in Hinterland, Tom Mathias, played by Richard Harrington, has lost his family, and lives alone in a caravan, until it is burned down, when he moves into a low-rent bed-and-breakfast. Here at least he gets some night-time comfort from landlady Manon (Sian Reese-Williams). But even that doesn’t raise a smile.
The original Welsh language version of Hinterland is titled Y Gwyll (which means ‘The Dusk’ – and which helps explain the gloom). Anyway, perhaps the misery of Hinterland is the right way to go: murder is a serious matter after all.
Hinterland/ Y Gwyll is made by Fiction Factory for S4C. Midsomer Murders is made by Bentley Productions for ITV. Both have been exported to many overseas markets, so wherever you are, there’s a chance you can experience these contrasting views of murder in rural Britain.
That headline: The ‘Countrycide’ pun was used by BBC sci-fi series Torchwood as the title for a 2006 episode in which rural deaths were initially attributed to aliens in the Brecon Beacons, only for it to emerge that it was just the mad local cannibals. Ah, the country life.