This essay will allow me to express some thoughts about what happens when the lead actor in a long-running series leaves and the production company has a popular series that they don’t want to cease producing. And bringing in a new lead is always a trick proposition, so how do you do it for something that’s had the same lead this long?
The series is based off Caroline Graham’s long running mystery series of the same name. Other than the name, they bear little resemblance to the series as the original lead character, Detective Inspector Tom Barnaby, in the books was a fairly abrasive, unpleasant man. Not the sort of character that you want to base a television series on, so ITV hired Anthony Horowitz to adapt them for television. The result? Tom’s a sharp-witted but likable character solving murders in Midsomer County, a fictional region of small, charming English villages and often eccentric characters.
The first thirteen series, which are quite excellent, starred John Nettles as Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Tom Barnaby. He iss married with a grown daughter. wife and daughter often were not really present in the dramas, a failing that gets corrected when John Nettles decides to retire and character’s younger cousin, DCI John Barnaby (played by Neil Dudgeon), took over his position.
Yes, they created another Barnaby! At first, it seemed odd and the first few shows actually played off this nicely. (“This is DCI John Barnaby.” “What?!?”) Unlike the first thirteen series. which have little continuity beyond who the secondary players of Medical Examiner and Detective Sergeant are), the story writers for DCI John Barnaby have plotted an entire continual story involving his wife, their eventual child and even their dogs. Even the Detective Sergeants are more rounded out here.
John Barnaby himself is a modern cop down to having a degree in psychology. He’s smart, stubborn and suffera fools very badly. He can be very sarcastic when need be.
I think the new series is better written, and certainly a more interesting story. If you’re interested in seeing them, the Acorn streaming service has all of them now plus thousands of hours of other British mysteries as well.