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Director: Sarah Hellings, Richard Holthouse, Peter Smith, Baz Taylor, and others...

Writing by: Anthony Horowitz, David Hoskins, Jeremy Paul, and others...
(Based upon the books and characters of Caroline Graham)

Starring: John Nettles, Daniel Casey, Laura Howard, Jane Wymark

Guest stars include Honor Blackman, Susan Wooldridge, Isla Blair, Christopher Good, Phoebe Nicholls, Trevor Cooper, and Neville Phillips.

Producers: Brian True-May, Betty Willingale

Available on DVD
Distributed by: Acorn Media Publishing

Genre: Mystery/crime, comedy/drama

Long-running series in the UK (ITV).
Broadcast on A&E (cable) as two-hour episodes.
(On DVD each episode runs approximately 100 minutes.)

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

Set number six in this series was recently released (September, 2005) and for several reasons, it is quite disappointing. The calibre of the stories and their translation to the screen are woefully inadequate. The chemistry between the main characters and even between the secondary, regular characters (such as Barnaby's wife and daughter) is lackluster, at best. Not what we've come to expect. And the various story lines, which I'll get to in a minute, are just not up to the high quality and complexity of the previous cases presented throughout the first five series.

If this were the first series, I dare say, there wouldn't have been any to follow. If you are not already an ardent fan of the series, please start by viewing any of the previous 5 sets before tackling this set.

Set #6 contains "A Talent For Life," "Death and Dreams," "Painted in Blood," "A Tale of Two Hamlets," and "Birds of Prey."

Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) is still a good-natured cop. Again, not brilliant, but not dumb. He tends to get hold of a case and plods along until he figures it out, even though the body count in this series seems to be much lower than in the previous series. The roles of his wife and daughter have been minimalized quite a bit, although they do still figure into nearly every episode. It's disappointing to see that the writers seem to not know what to do with the two of them, or perhaps they've tired of writing them into the plots. Barnaby still has his trusty parnter, Sgt. Troy (Daniel Casey), but by now, he can't really be considered "inexperienced" so the relationship suffers from a lack of chemistry that was so amusing in the earlier series.

(Spoiler: I do know from reading about the series that the actor Daniel Casey was replaced and a new parnter joined Barnaby. Perhaps the "new parnter" will bring a bit of life and enjoyment back into the cases, although I have also read that many British viewers were unsatisfied by the actor who replaced Casey. Most reports indicated that those viewers who loved Casey's character hated the new guy while those viewers who disliked Casey's Sgt. Troy, warmly welcomed the new actor. We'll just have to wait and see. We don't have access to those episodes yet.)

You can still catch this crime drama (both old and new -- series #6 -- episodes) on the cable channel A&E from time to time, and I believe episodes still air on the Biography cable channel on some weekends. Of course, in England, they get to watch series #8 or is it #9 now?

The series are packaged as boxed sets although a few of the episodes can be purchased as individual tapes or DVDs. Currently I could only find four individual episodes available on ("Death's Shadow," "Strangler's Wood," "Blood Will Out," and "Beyond the Grave") however, there are other individual episodes available through A&E's online store.

A word of warning about the A&E versions. They have been edited for television, meaning bits and pieces have been cut to make room for more commercials when the episodes aired on TV. Most viewers won't notice much difference, most of the cuts are minor but they do influence the development of some of the characters and if you are watching and listening closely, some of Barnaby's responses seem a bit strained or don't quite make sense. That's because something has been snipped. I prefer the non-A&E versions because I enjoy the banter that gets snipped, for instance, between Barnaby and his wife over her lack of cooking skills. Of course it doesn't prevent him from solving the crime, in the end, but having bits snipped out leaves gaps in the context that I miss when I accidentally pop in one of the A&E versions.

As I mentioned when reviewing the first five sets, it is not necessary to view the episodes in any specific order, although remember, set five is actually the first season or series, filmed.

Another spoiler: In the pilot episode an elderly woman's death leads to revelations about the sordid side of village life. Remember the undertaker and his creepy mum? It is my understanding that those two actors were so popular, they'll be returning in a future episode despite the fact that they met grisly deaths in "The Killings at Badger's Drift." It is rumored that they will be returning in a future episode as cousins or relatives of some sort of the dead Rainbirds.

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