Murder is the cosiest commodity on the box and a visit to the picturesque county of Midsomer on a Sunday is the televisual equivalent of sweet tea and diamond-print sweaters on a winter's evening.
Can you imagine if it was called Midsomer Muggings or Midsomer Burglaries? Hardly the same rosy glow. No, a good slaying keeps us all sated.
John Nettles stars as the stolid and dependable Inspector Tom Barnaby, a man whose mouth is set in such a grim line of rigidity that you suspect he's moonlighting as a ventriloquist when off-duty.
Mass killing never seems to surprise old Tom or his level-headed sidekick; the chief constable never thinks to assign a murder squad to help them out; and the body count rises steadily for two hours without a sniff of interest from the London press.
It's Christie-land in a contemporary setting, complete with elderly thespians who'd otherwise be acting in repertory productions of Dame Agatha's plays.
All of which makes for wonderfully comforting viewing. In Caroline Graham's original Midsomer novels, Barnaby is portrayed as moody and someone of whom others are fearful, while sidekick Sergeant Troy is little more than a thug in a trenchcoat.
Smoothing away these rough edges is the transfer from book to screen, a process that has several precedents: Inspector Morse is seedier in Colin Dexter's books, while RD Wingfield's Jack Frost is more lascivious and coarse than David Jason's avuncular portrayal.
But there is a sinister underside to all the pictorial policing and for me, it comes in the form of Barnaby's wife Joyce - either she's the unluckiest person on earth or a closet mass murderer.
Every social event she attends results in slaughter: she joins a choral society and someone keels over in the pews, a gathering of amateur artists ends with a painter slumped over his easel. The woman could be the grim reaper with a fringe and sensible shoes.
Luckily daughter Cully is usually on hand to help with any investigation in her flowing floral dresses. Why her parents didn't just call her Laura Ashley Barnaby and have done with, I don't know.
The multi-talented Cully can be relied upon to change occupations to suit any plot contrivance - need a suspect's mysterious holiday plans checking? Well, Cully's just got herself a job in the local travel agents.
Suspect there's something deadly going on at the am-dram theatre company? Guess who's got herself a small but vital role among the players… I'm telling you, if it wasn't for Barnaby's willowy offspring, he'd still be issuing parking tickets in Causton town centre.
Still, despite the surreal touches and increasingly outrageous methods of carnage (crossbows, pitchforks, electrocutions), it's the reliability of Midsomer Murders that matters. All those night-time scenes of impending death, complete with thatched cottages, rustling hedgerows, owl hoots and the screams of foxes.
Plus the thrilling possibility of Richard Briers, Robert Hardy or Honor Blackman turning up to do a guest turn. Quick, get me a cocoa and my slippers, immediately.