11 December 2007 | groggo
The Brits Know How to Do It
Doc Martin is so unusual and wonderfully off-kilter that it becomes addictive within 20 minutes of exposure.
The titular Doc is a guy who was probably a curmudgeon before puberty. He's a surgeon from sophisticated, worldly London who moves to (fictional) Portwenn on the coast of Cornwall because he suddenly becomes ill at the sight of blood. This is not a good omen for a surgeon. He quits to become a general practitioner and he's satisfied, thanks very much, with checkups, prescriptions and referrals.
The foul-mannered, blunt-spoken Doc smugly considers himself above the crowd, but he soon learns he is really BELOW the crowd, out of step with Portwenn's eccentricities, value systems and peculiar burghers, who make the mere lunatics of London look normal by comparison.
Martin Clunes is terrific in the lead role. He is a tall, charismatic and not exactly handsome actor who looks like he would be more comfortable playing cops and heavies. He is, instead, a consummate comic actor. His facial and physical comedy, his frequent bouts of exasperation and bewilderment, are things to behold. (Note: some wags have compared him to 'House,' from the popular TV drama of the same name. House is played by Hugh Laurie, another splendid Brit, and that's about where the comparison begins and ends. They are two very different characters in two very different shows.)
Portwenn's local population, with its twisted logic that somehow makes perfect sense, is represented through the tour-de-force acting of supporting players: Bert (Ian McNeice, who always dazzles playing offbeat, world-weary philosophical characters); Louise (the charming and beautiful Caroline Catz), who either loves Martin or wants to kill him; corn-rowed Elaine (lovely Lucy Punch) as the ditzy assistant with her own set of secretarial ethics; and Doc's Aunt Joan (the great Stephanie Cole, who has been delighting audiences since the 1960s).
Dominic Minghella, he of the Minghella mob of talented artists (brother Anthony directed 'The English Patient'), is the brains behind this brilliant controlled chaos.
Don't miss this program. TV shows that are both funny AND intelligent are the rarest of TV fare.
And a fast footnote: let us all bow our heads and pray that Hollywood doesn't try to remake this.