SO now we know.
Life of Riley star Neil Dudgeon is to take over from John Nettles in Midsomer Murders.
Yorkshire-born Neil, 49, will begin filming this summer after ITV bosses gave the go-ahead to a 14th series.
With confirmation that Tom Barnaby will not be killed off – simply retiring with his wife Joyce into the sunset.
Here is the official release, just in:
ITV announced today that Neil Dudgeon will replace John Nettles in the long running successful detective drama MIDSOMER MURDERS.
Neil is to play DCI John Barnaby, a cousin of the original DCI Tom Barnaby, who also works in the force.
He will appear in tomorrow night’s ITV1 episode (10 February) entitled ‘The Sword of Guillaume’, based in Brighton. Tom Barnaby is despatched to the South Coast and enlists his cousin’s help in solving a crime.
John has appeared in more than 80 episodes of MIDSOMER MURDERS over 13 years and finishes filming in July. Neil will then take on his role when the 14th series of Midsomer Murders begins shooting at the end of July.
Commenting today John Nettles said: “I wanted to die in noble fashion in the service of my country and then be buried with full military honours in Westminster Abbey. In the event, Tom and his long-suffering wife Joyce will simply retire. It’s always better to leave when people want more.
“It has been a joy to be involved in such a long running series, with so many good actors and great storylines. If Neil has half the good times that I have had on Midsomer then he will be in seventh heaven. I am only worried that he is much younger than I am and a much better actor!”
Said Neil Dudgeon: “It’s great to be joining such a brilliant and successful series. It’s the kind of television that isn’t on a lot anymore, yet there is still a great appetite for it. I will do my very best to follow in John’s footsteps. He’s a hard act to follow but I’m really looking forward to starting work properly as the new Barnaby in the summer.”
Producer Brian True-May added: “Although we will miss the huge contribution that John has made to the series, the brand of Midsomer is so strong that I am confident of its continuing success. We look forward to our new Barnaby tackling more murder and mayhem in Midsomer.
“Having worked with Neil Dudgeon twice on Midsomer Murders already, I feel he is the perfect choice. I admire him as an actor and know he will be a wonderful addition to the team and a great ambassador for the series.”
Peter Fincham, ITV’s Director of Television, Channels and Online said: “We’re delighted Neil will carry on the Barnaby name. He’s a fine actor and we’re pleased he’s agreed to join the series. John has been hugely instrumental in creating a much loved character and a highly successful long running series for ITV and we’re very grateful to him.”
Neil added: “It’s brilliant to be joining such a fantastic and successful long-running series. The production values are so high and it seems to me that as the waters of quality television have receded, MIDSOMER MURDERS stands up against the prevailing waves.
“It will be exciting to get stuck into some juicy murders. I have always enjoyed whodunits and I like the mental exercise of discovering who the culprit is, while along the way you have the great red herrings, the smaller dramas within the bigger ones.”
Neil admits to some nerves at stepping into John Nettles’ shoes.
“John is a fantastic ambassador for the series. He makes it look very effortless and easy and I admire that. Big movie stars like Spencer Tracy are charismatic yet always point to the story rather than to themselves. John is like that too. He does an understated beautiful job of guiding the viewer through without being flashy. I admire him enormously.”
Neil has appeared in MIDSOMER MURDERS before and is a long-standing fan of the series.
“I love sitting down to watch it with a glass of wine and the fire lit. You know you are in for a treat. I just hope I can play my part and that people will continue to enjoy it.”
DCI John Barnaby currently works for Brighton CID and helps his cousin Tom (John Nettles) with an investigation at the seaside town.
Explains Neil: “John Barnaby is very canny and guarded. He plays his cards close to his chest and adapts his persona to get results, even if it means he needs to look weak or silly. His eyes are on the prize.
“He is quite direct and has a likeable black sense of humour, which I imagine you would need to get through the darker moments.
“The two Barnabys get on very well – it’s like an old friend you haven’t seen for a while and you slip back into the relationship. They understand each other,” he adds.
Neil’s other TV credits include Sorted, Common As Muck and Mrs Bradley Mysteries.
The good news for fans of Jason Hughes is that he is staying on as sidekick Det Sgt Ben Jones.
Tomorrow night’s episode introduces Neil’s character as Barnaby’s cousin but does not include any hint of a takeover.
That will come when John shoots his 81st and final episode this summer, with filming of the final scenes in mid-July.
Neil will start filming episode 82 – the first without Nettles – about two weeks later.
He previously appeared as a gardener in Garden Of Death, an episode first broadcast in 2000.
But John will remain on screen in Midsomer for some time to come – at least until 2011 – with nine of his new films yet to be shown on ITV1.