June 29, 1998 12:00 PM

A&E (Sun., June 28, 9 p.m. ET)

He’s highly competent. Thoroughly professional. But Chief Inspector Barnaby (John Nettles), the protagonist in this new series of British mystery movies, is a bit on the bland side. His June 28 outing, Midsomer Murders: The Killings at Badger’s Drift (the first of five set for 1998-99 on A&E), finds Barnaby investigating two homicides in a quaint village thick with gossip. “Why do I get the feeling everyone is lying to me?” he muses to his wife (Jane Wymark). “They always lie to you, and you always know,” she answers. “That’s why you’re so good at your job.” It’s true: Barnaby follows the clues methodically—with little humor or excitement—and gets to the bottom of things. The same goes for Barnaby’s second movie, subtitled Written in Blood (July 5, 8 p.m. ET), though the plot is more far-fetched and the script gives the detective a touch of color by afflicting him with an allergy to his daughter’s cat. He sneezes, he scratches, he solves.

Bottom Line: Few frills, few thrills

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