Saturday, 14 January 2012

Frustrating books and television

Just recently two different writers for two different media have had me writhing, gritting my teeth and clenching my fists. The first is a well-known television presenter who has also written several novels. I borrowed his latest from the library on my last visit. It's not exactly a who-dun-it, although there is a mystery surrounding the death of a girl back in 1816, nor is it a romance, although the main male character does fall for the woman next door. This latter is in 2010, by the way. The book switches between 1816 and 2010 all the way through. The final outcome is irrelevant to my griping so I won't bother you with the details. Suffice it to say that the denouement depends on a scullery maid from 1816, a 15-year-old girl, being able to read well enough to read novels and a 16-year-old boy from the same year, a miller's son, being able to write and being sufficiently literate to write a daily diary. Sorry, Mr Author - that just doesn't gel with me as I know that well into the 19th century very, very few people of that class could read and write.

On Wednesday evening the Old Bat and I settled down to watch the latest episode of Midsomer Murders. I should explain that Midsomer is a fictional English county centred around the county town of Causton and that the villages of Midsomer Worthy, Midsomer Parva, Midsomer Magna et al are the murder capital of the country. They have, over the years, experienced more murders per 100 population than London, New York, Detroit or any where else you care to mention. Each and every one of those murders has, of course, been solved in the course of a two-hour television programme. For years, the successful detective was Tom Barnaby, played by John Nettles.

(Just going off on a bit of a tangent for a while. The Old Bat is, I think, quite keen on Mr Nettles. I think he frequently looks like my brother. When I mentioned this to him - my brother, that is, not Mr Nettles who I have never met - he told me that his daughter thinks the same. Now it happens that many people think my brother and I look alike. I don't, nor does the Old Bat, but could it be that she subconsciously sees me as the hero in those television programmes? No, don't answer that!)

One of the reasons why those programmes gave so much pleasure is/was the location shots. These were in beautiful Buckinghamshire villages full of cricket on the green, thatched cottages and low-beamed pubs. If the Old Bat liked John Nettles, I rather took to his screen wife, Jane Wymark. Mind you, she seemed to be involved in every organisation in every village, from bell ringing to civil war re-enactment, but that brought her into the plot in most episodes so I wasn't complaining as it gave her bigger parts. Tom Barnaby retired and his place was taken by his cousin, another Barnaby. The new Barnaby is not so much to the Old Bat's taste but his wife is quite a looker as well. She doesn't get such big parts as she teaches full-time so is not involved so much in village life. All that, though, is by the bye. It was this week's episode that got my goat.

I haven't quite decided if the scriptwriter was extracting the Michael or if he was really quite serious, but the story-line concerned the Midsomer in the March Ornithological Society and the sighting of a supposed rare bird, the blue crested hoopoe. Now I'm not an expert, but I suspect there is no such bird. If there is, I don't suppose it looks anything like the stuffed bird which was displayed as an example. This was an ordinary hoopoe with the tips of the feathers of its crest coloured blue. Quite ridiculous. Then two or three of the members of the society were in a hide watching birds which they identified as non-existent breeds. But the thing that really got me going was that one of the members was going out at the dead of night to record bird song. Bird song? At midnight? Of a meadow lark? Do me a favour!

Frankly, if scriptwriters can't be bothered to make their plots at least reasonably accurate in the detail, I don't think I can be bothered to watch the programmes.

But I do wish I could find a 19th century diary written by one of my ancestors. It might help me solve one or two riddles. I won't go into that any further just now - I've dribbled on long enough. I'll save that for tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

I started watching that episode of MM and gave up in appears to be geared towards selling the programmes to an American audience, so accuracy is irrelevant.


The Broad said...

Midsomer Murders doesn't appear to be shown in the States -- at least none of my friends and/or relatives has heard of it. My husband can't stand the new Barnaby because the actor who portrays him played a dastardly villainous type in 'Piece of Cake'!! I, too found John Nettles rather tasty! Still and all MM is reasonable escapism for me -- but I do think that perhaps it's lost its way a bit in the transition. And the murders just aren't as inventive as they used to be either...

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

My research shows that the extremely rare Blue Crested Hoopoe can only be found in Midsomer... and then only on certain evenings

This same research also shows that you are not alone in your frustration