It is a crisis I tell you. I am shocked and appalled. We need to have urgent discussions.
OK, none of that is correct, however it is the response of certain people to comments of a television producer. The producer, Brian True-May shockingly claimed that the shockingly English Midsomer Murders did not need more diversity.
Midsomer Murders is a British TV program about a fictional detective investigating murders in typical English village (typical if you allow the poetic license of a crime rate more appropriate to Detroit). True-May describes the show as “the last bastion of Englishness” and commented “it wouldn’t be an English village with [Black or Asian characters]”. Whether the program would be “enriched” by the addition of “diverse” characters is not the point, although its popularity in the home and international (no doubt including some “diverse” ones) markets points to a currently satisfactory formula; the point is the hysterics surrounding his comments. His suspension, “crisis talks,” the “shocked and appalled” ITV spokesman, all point to the unreasonable and utter hysteria that surrounds diversity questions.
He admitted that he was “trying to make something that appeals to a certain audience, which seems to succeed” and he did not want to change it. Shows don’t just feature characters, the often have a character that forms part of their appeal. Some shows have an zany anarchic feel, some a serious cerebral air, some like to flaunt their hipness, Brian True-May’s Midsomer crime was that his show’s character was un-hip but, oh so White.
Despite the crimes, the show itself has a certain genteel air. It lacks the quick cuts and shaky cam of more modern fair. The main character (DCI Barnaby) is a rather ordinary middle class man who lives in a middle class house with his middle class wife. He and his wife sometimes discuss his work over dinner. He even wears pajamas in to bed for heaven’s sake. I suspect that this reflection of ordinary White British life is what so infuriates the opinion givers. Being terminally unhip, the show had slipped beneath the radar. The producer’s big mistake was to reveal the secret of its success.
I have watched the show and do enjoy it. While the pace is more relaxed than frenetic, the story and drama unwinds itself at a pleasant rate. It certainly is not “stuffy” in that it covers trangressive topics such as cross-dressing, incest, and various crimes of passion. Perhaps it is the juxtaposition of quaint village life and simmering animosities that make the show enjoyable. More “realistic” demographics might lose that tension while bringing in others (that could, of course, not be treated honestly). Lest you think I am dull old fogey, I would like to be clear that I am perfectly capable of enjoying glossy, hyperkinetic fair such as The Matrix or Inception.
I have a sneaky suspicion that at least part of the appeal (across all markets) of British shows like Poirot, Sherlock Holmes and Midsomer Murders is their very Whiteness. While Poirot and Holmes did feature ethinic characters, they were usually presented as exotic anomalies (much as they were in the original source material)