CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Why in Midsomer, the puns are lethal

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the weekend’s TV: To bee or not to bee killed? Why in Midsomer, the puns are lethal

Midsomer Murders


Queen Elizabeth: Love, Honour And Crown 


Frank Muir, the dapper humorist never seen without his pipe and pink bow tie, used to tell a story about an Inuit fisherman who felt the cold.

No matter how he wrapped himself up in sealskins, the poor fellow spent every day huddled in his canoe with his teeth chattering. So he decided to install a wood stove in the prow.

Result — disaster. The boat caught fire and sank, and the unlucky Inuit was turned into a smoked iceberg. The moral, said Frank, was plain: you can’t have your kayak and heat it.

Muir, who died in 1998, would have loved writing for Midsomer Murders (ITV), where wordplay is lethal. Every pun leaves a victim.

DCI Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon, front) never does any detecting in Midsomer Murders

The latest episode in this 24-year-old show began with apiarist Griff Rhys Jones getting bashed on the head in a honeycomb maze by a maniac in a beekeeper’s veil. He survived, only for the murderer to make a second attempt, this time by dumping him bound and gagged in a sarcophagus and embalming him in honey.

Griff, alias Dr Deddington, got off lightly. The local doctor (Renee Castle) was smeared in bee pheromones and stung to death by a rogue swarm, while an unwelcome townie (Aaron Anthony) got jabbed with a syringeful of bee venom before a barrel of beeswax turned him into a 6 ft candle.

DCI Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) was unimpressed. He wears the perpetual grimace of a man who cannot see the point of cryptic clues and double meanings. Local oddbod Melissa Deddington (Jacquetta May) was buzzing around him, trying to convey the killer’s names through Shakespearean allusions, but Barna-bee was having none of it.

Faulty tower of the weekend:

Decorators sprucing up Delgatie Castle in Scotland on Hire My Home (C4) found the previous owner had built bookcases over the windows. Basil Fawlty, furious if guests wanted a room with a view, would approve.

He never does any detecting. Each clue is examined with distaste and discarded. Barnaby knows that, if he scowls for long enough, the killer will give up and come forward unprompted to explain all the puns. 

Pathologist Fleur (Annette Badland) adds to his misery and ours with a series of excruciating jokes. ‘Kill or bee killed,’ she said. ‘Buzz off and let me get back to work.’ ‘Bee off with you.’

The cast go through the motions, following the formula and waiting in line to be bumped off as though they’re queuing for their Covid vaccine. 

Occasionally, someone is caught acting — former Play Away favourite Derek Griffiths frothed and raged as the mad vicar, as if he were auditioning for a Hammer Horror. This bee-hiviour is discouraged (sorry, it’s catching).

Still, an invitation to appear is regarded as a compliment, and Holly Willoughby was delighted last week when Neil asked her on This Morning to take part in the next series. No doubt Holly will appear in the Christmas special, strangled with ivy by a serial killer called Carol.

Just as formulaic was the rehash of royal history in Queen Elizabeth: Love, Honour And Crown (C4). Talking head Piers Brendon was good value, though. He claimed the Duke of Edinburgh was caught climbing over a wall at Buckingham Palace after a late night in Soho in the 1950s, and described Prince Andrew as ‘a few sandwiches short of a picnic in terms of intellect’.

But there was little here that fans of The Crown on Netflix do not know by heart. We heard about Princess Margaret’s ill-fated affair with Group Captain Peter Townsend, and why Prince Charles might have been happier at Eton than Gordonstoun.

According to rumour, Prince Philip chased the Queen Mother, out of Buckingham Palace and off to Clarence House, by ordering the central heating to be turned off in her apartments. It’s an amusing story, but whether it’s true is another matter.

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