I’ve only ever seen about three episodes of Doc Martin, and those occasions have really been by accident rather than intent, but after watching last night’s episode, I have to applaud the formula; it’s the same one that makes shows such as Jam & Jerusalem and Vicar of Dibley work.
It seems to go something like this…
Make quirkiness your main ingredient – in this instance, a people hating GP who’s also haemophobic – and lob in loads of other characters with quirks. Mix them all together in a picturesque village setting, add liberal amounts of one-liners and puns then garnish with a love interest or two.
And it clearly works, for Doc Martin has a viewership more loyal than your average Labrador.
Last night’s offering was slightly less vanilla-with-a-twist than normal in that Louisa – local teacher and main love interest throughout – turned up preggers. And with Doc being forcibly attached to the arm of flame haired Edith, there’s a big pot of oh-no-what’ll-happen just waiting to be stirred there.
But there were the usual assortment of smile-out-loud patient-doctor interactions including an egg bound headmaster – who’s actually got the same disease that caused the madness of King George – and the revelation that the pleasant and usually friendly Jimmy was popping steroids and harbouring his homosexuality in the sheltered bay of village life and an increasingly unhappy marriage.
Martin Clunes though, in my humble opinion, is the real reason why this show works so well. There are few actors around with such incredibly expressive faces, and even fewer who can portray a whole plethora of emotions with just their eyes, but he’s one of them.
His character could easily, at the hands of a lesser actor, have become clichéd and boring by now, yet Martin manages to preserve the freshness of the rather unbelievable Doc using nothing more than his god-given ability to parlay humour and gentle comedy into his every move, word and expression.
And Doc Martin as a whole is comfortable in its Sunday night home, and that’s another oddity that seems peculiar to shows of this ilk; they most likely wouldn’t work on any other night of the week, but Sunday seems to be the ‘golden hour’ for this type of gentle, non-taxing sitcom.
So will I become a regular viewer? Well, probably not, because whilst Doc Martin is undoubtedly funny at times, it’s not quite funny enough to make me faithful to it, and nor are the storylines believable enough to make me desperate to see what happens next.