Monday, June 2, 2014

Doc Martin: Season One

Not too long ago, my family stumbled (not literally) upon a program that's apparently pretty huge in England called Doc Martin.  Going through its sixth season on BBC America, the program seemed designed from the start to give me things I enjoy:

1)  British humor.
2)  House M.D. with an (more noticeable) accent.
3)  Big city character stuck in a rural town humor.
4)  Snark.

Did it deliver?  In many ways.  Is it my new favoritest show to ever show?  Nnnnnot quite.

Marin Clunes plays Dr. Marin Ellingham (who everybody calls "Doc Martin" despite his protests), a surgeon who, due to his own medical issues, has to leave his practice and becomes a general practitioner.  He's brash, blunt, to the point, and rather tactless.  His most common quotes are:


"You're an idiot."

"What are you doing?"

"Are you stupid?"

"Get out'

Don't think of him as the diamond in the rough.  He's somehow the diamond and the rough.

As per the typical sitcom situation, a small fishing village manages to have a cast of characters all with their own medical conditions, from rare genetic disorders to serious injuries.  Each character also has a uniquely distinctive personality quirk or trait, such as the heavily obese plumber (with the appropriate last name "Large") who acts like he knows everything, or his son, the earnest young man who dreams of a life beyond drains and clogs.  You have the local school teacher who takes a shine to Martin (sort of) and is reciprocated by him (kinda) but finds him oafish and insulting.  You have his insufferable secretary who, at one point, manages to turn the entire town against him when he fires her for incompetence and almost costing a child his life.

Needless to say, some characters are more enjoyable than others.

One such character is his Aunt Joan, who operates as small farm outside of town and has a soft spot for Martin as big as he is socially awkward.  She seems to be the one person in town who can make him change his behavior towards others, even if she has her own flaws that Martin isn't afraid of commenting on.

Now, unlike your standard American series that feels the need to stretch itself out for half of a year, the first season of Doc Martin coasts in at a simple six episodes.  Enough time to establish characters, motivations, and focus on individual stories instead of requiring some huge overreaching plot.

And yet, they actually do manage an overreaching plot in the relationships the characters have and how they grow and turn as time goes on.

In all honesty, in some ways the town reminds me of how Maine is frequently portrayed in media.  Eccentric characters, a disdain for the big city, a tough time accepting people from "away" and a standoffish sense if you offend their small town values.  That's not to say it's a horribly inaccurate portrayal, but it doesn't apply to everyone here.  I've only met a few people like that.

However, the main star of the cast is, of course, Doc Martin himself.  He's callous enough to be funny, and his insistence on not caring how offended you are when he's right gives him a bit of a likable quality.  It's enough to keep you going through six episodes as you see him get settled and need to adapt his former way of thinking to a smaller, more intimate setting.  Plus, there's enough genuine humor through the characters that even the ones you don't like have some good moments (except one, who I'll address tomorrow), and some genuine heart in some of the stories.

I recommend watching it.  It's quite enjoyable, and at only six hours, won't take too much time out of your life.

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