ALISON BOSHOFF: Midsomer Murders begins filming its 24th season with leading man Neil Dudgeon showing no signs of slowing down
Actor Neil Dudgeon has reached a milestone in his Midsomer Murders journey — his 50th episode as DCI John Barnaby will be screened this Sunday.
Dudgeon, 62, replaced John Nettles in the lead role back in 2011 and has some way to go yet to reach Nettles’ final tally of 81 episodes.
However, executive producer Michele Buck tells me that he is motoring ahead as a new series, the 24th, has just started filming.
Buck, who also produced Poirot, tells me that there was some cake and a brief celebration for Dudgeon.
She adds: ‘We all love Neil, and the audience love him, too. He is the real deal — he’s a nice man, and people can see that.’
One to watch: Neil Dudgeon (right) has reached a milestone in his Midsomer Murders journey — his 50th episode as DCI John Barnaby will be screened this Sunday (pictured with Kevin Whately)
She adds: ‘One of the secrets of Neil’s success is that it really works when you get a glimpse of his home life.
‘(Actress) Fiona Dolman has the upper hand, his daughter Betsy has the upper hand, I think even the dog has the upper hand.
‘He will come back from solving a big case and, as soon as he gets through the door, he is cut down to size — and he doesn’t really mind a bit.’
She went on: ‘The murders in Midsomer are never nasty or grim — it’s whimsy. When you are watching the show, you can relax.
‘The world is scary and awful and grim, but the show is like a safe, warm blanket.’
Dudgeon’s half century show finds him paired on screen with Kevin Whately, who has his own very long history as a television detective in Inspector Morse and Lewis.
The story involves a murder at the local opera society — and Whately sings in it. Apparently music was his first love, and he is rather good.
Back in 2019, Dudgeon revealed that he had no plans to slow down and couldn’t imagine the show ever ending.
‘I see no reason for Midsomer ever to stop,’ he told Weekend Magazine. ‘The only reason it would stop is if audiences go off it or somebody at ITV loses their nerve.
‘I can imagine it going on and on because it keeps reinventing itself.’
He’s still going: Back in 2019, Dudgeon revealed that he had no plans to slow down and couldn’t imagine the show ever ending (pictured with Jason Hughes and Barry Jackson)
He continued: ‘I remember my first episode. Who else would do a story about a vintage car rally in a girls’ school? Line Of Duty? I don’t think Jed Mercurio would be prepared to take that on! We have our own strange little world and that’s what people love.’
Of course, all coppers must retire at some point.
The original Barnaby, John Nettles, hung up his handcuffs after 81 episodes, so could Neil, who’s 58, match his tally? ‘I’m barely halfway,’ he says.
‘I don’t know whether I could last that long.’ But who’d take on the mantle? When Neil joined the show he was made Tom Barnaby’s cousin because in some countries the show is called Inspector Barnaby.
‘There could be offspring,’ he suggests. ‘Maybe Tom’s daughter Cully has realised it was her true vocation, has retrained in the police and is now an inspector.
‘You could have a female Barnaby. You can do pretty much anything with Midsomer, and let’s face it – we have!’
Original: Dudgeon, 62, replaced John Nettles (pictured) in the lead role back in 2011 and has some way to go yet to reach Nettles’ final tally of 81 episodes