Making little sense: Trading in real-life murder for TV crime shows

The dichotomy of how I can be appalled by the lead story on the local news being about some terrible murder, followed by details of two or three more seemingly every evening, then find comfort in a murder mystery is beyond me.

But there is our own Amy Wood, reporting details of some grisly shooting in Greenville, then at some gas station in Spartanburg, followed by a body in a well in, all together now, Anderson, and I find myself saying to Paul, “I used to laugh at my mother when she said she stopped watching the news because it was nothing but murders, but she was right!”

“I know,” Paul nodded, “It’s crazy. You’d think we were in New York or Chicago.”

“Well,” I sighed, reaching for the remote, “enough of that. What do you want to watch? I think I recorded some Midsomer Murders.”

Because that’s it, isn’t it? The various CSI shows don’t really give my soul the balm it needs after a violent newscast, but oh, give me an old “Murder, She Wrote” or, even better, the long running British series, “Midsomer Murders,” set in achingly quaint English countryside complete with thatched roofs and roses twined around the cottage doors, and I’m all set, perfectly comfy cozy and waiting to see how the handsome Chief Inspector Barnaby figures out who wired a car on a country lane so that its occupant, upon turning the key to start the engine, was electrocuted and fried like a tater tot.

After the body is removed we get to follow the Inspector back to the police station which is impossibly neat- more eye candy- and I suspect any American cop does a spit take upon seeing walls painted a cool, mint green and taupe with immaculate desks devoid of any paper work: just giant, turn of the century computer monitors, and a few extras dressed as constables, milling about.

But the producers know what we shell shocked viewers want: soothing scenes of make believe. Barnaby begins his investigation, going round various homes, having tea in the garden with a seemingly unlikely suspect, or the local riding stable, or, best of all, the local pub to quiz the bar maid.

“Oh, why can’t we have a pub like that over here?” I whine, upon seeing the 400 year old oaken beams, fire in the grate, and pints of ale in the hands of its occupants, “And get a proper cod and chips instead of flounder? I freakin’ hate flounder. Why-”

“Shhh,” says Paul, as Barnaby just gleaned an important clue and dashes off with his slightly dim sidekick, Troy, as they leap into his expensive, gleaming, sedan and purr past the hedgerows down narrow lanes and descend upon the killer, who, as always in every episode, only slightly resists, which is a good thing since no one carries a gun.

“Book and caution him, Troy,” says Barnaby, who then goes home to his long suffering wife, Joy, for a nice dinner. And the episode is over.

Out of curiosity, I looked up how many actual murders do occur in England, and what I found was that in the entire United Kingdom, which includes Scotland and Wales, in 2014, there were 537. Not bad for a country of over 65 million. And since hand guns are illegal, it makes for great murder mysteries because the writers have to be really creative: the retired major stabbed with an old battle sword stolen from a local manor, a spurned wife poisoning her ex husband with rat poison found in the garden shed, the rich and snotty socialite who deservedly gets beaned in the back of the head with a cricket bat.

“If we had Inspector Barnaby over here,” I suggested, switching off the television after the show was over, “he could solve every crime.”

“It wouldn’t be that difficult for him,” Paul replied. “It would be basically the same crime every week: two drunk guys fighting over the remote and shooting each other somewhere around Pelzer.”

I nodded in agreement.

Oh, to live in civilized Midsomer- where evidently every murder in England happens just down the lane...

Reach PAM STONE at pammstone@gmail.com.