Fiona Dolman (Sarah) and Neil Dudgeon (John) with Sykes

NEIL Dudgeon’s debut tonight as the new leading man in Midsomer Murders has been overshadowed by the race row involving producer Brian True-May.

Today it was announced that Brian will step down from the show at the end of the new – 14th – series.

Four episodes have already been filmed and the remaining four went into production this week.

Production company All3Media said: “Brian apologises if his remarks gave unintended offence to any viewers.”

With ITV adding: “We welcome his apology and understand he will step down from his role on Midsomer Murders at the end of the current production run.”

The online version of my feature on Neil – published in today’s Manchester Evening News – is further down this page, together with extra material from our recent encounters.

But first let’s deal with less happy events.

Goodbye: Jane Wymark (Joyce), John Nettles (Tom) and Laura Howard (Cully)

WE met yet again in a typical Midsomer country pub.

One last annual press gathering before John Nettles said goodbye to Midsomer Murders.

His final episode – Fit For Murder – is on ITV1 at 8pm tonight.

But the series lives on with Neil Dudgeon as a new leading man.

I’ve already interviewed Neil and his incoming screen wife Fiona Dolman and seen their first scenes in the next series.

And while sad to see John go, it looks to me like he’s left Midsomer Murders in safe hands.