Who knew that apartheid was alive and will and living in crime drama?
Brian True-May's admission that he operates a whites only policy for the mainstream detective series Midsomer Murders might not rate in terms of news alongside Japan's multiple crises and the Arab world's continuing unrest, but it casts a stark light on the way people really think in this country.
Take this comment, in the Metro story, from one of the show's actors:
Actor Jason Hughes, who plays DS Jones, said he had pondered the lack of ethnic minorities.
‘I don’t think that we would all suddenly go, “A black gardener in Midsomer? You can’t have that.”
‘I think we’d all go, “Great, fantastic,”’ he said.
Makes you stop and think, doesn't it? A black gardener? Someone give me a calendar, I need to make sure it isn't still 1956.
True-May's point is that English villages, like the ones Midsomer is meant to be like, are predominantly white. But while this is no doubt true - statistically we are a very white nation, even now, in particular outside of the cities - but it is still a red herring.
By creating a show that deliberately focuses on all white communities he is reflecting an image of England back at his audience: one that is both inaccurate and highly problematic. And by NEVER having a black face or an ethnic character (actually, even that description now seems out of date) he is bucking even the law of averages. You mean the local GP has NEVER had an Indian locum? There are NO black kids at all at the local comp? Not one?
I don't watch Midsomer - I find the show terribly slow and cliched. Others tell me that it is some of the most appalling drivel ever broadcast. Apparently its audience tends to be older than my demographic, but is this community, as True-May implies, so fundamentally racist that they wouldn't accept a black character in the programme?
The commentator Simon Jenkins was on R4 this morning defending the producer - he was doing his let's not get carried away schtick. But the more I think about this statement by this smug TV executive the more I tend to think we should get carried away.
True-May is now suspended from his job and frankly, he should be sacked. The big question now for ITV is can Midsomer Murders itself survive? Television is notoriously fickle and sensitive to public opinion: if enough people voice their dismay at this policy, we might just get rid of it.