Doc Martin (ITV, 2004-2019)
I have never really been a big fan of those cosy drama series that have filled up the Sunday night schedule that try to leave viewers feeling good and finish off the weekend in a nice way, including Heartbeat, Monarch Of The Glen, and so on. But the reason I was attracted to this one was because it starred Martin Clunes, who had already been a success in various shows including Men Behaving Badly, although of course this was something rather different.
Doc Martin was a long-running comedy-drama that was built on two basic ideas. Firstly, Clunes played Dr Martin Ellingham, who lives behind the bright lights of London to move to Portwenn, a sleepy village in Cornwall, and he tries to adjust to his new surroundings. I wouldn’t suggest that this was a show that consisted of more shots of nice scenery than any actual story happening, but it did help to attract the viewers. And secondly, despite being an efficient doctor, he can’t stand the sight of blood!
Martin isn’t rude to his patients as such, but he can be very blunt with them, often telling them to “stop talking” and insist that they take his advice. The basic structure of an episode wasn’t complicated. Most stories featured Martin walking around and noticing that a ruddy-cheeked bumpkin is about to do something rather unsafe. His ticking off is often greeted with a “no, Doc, I’m alright here”-type comment, before they conveniently fall off their ladder and do themselves a damage just before the final advert break to set up an exciting climax.
Martin then rushes to their rescue, and also does his “what on earth were you thinking?” lecture, whilst hoping that there’s little blood. Martin didn’t take any nonsense, even from a small dog that always liked to run after him. There were a few other characters that would soon became familiar. One of the teachers at the local school is Louisa, and despite his grumpiness she soon falls for him, and they eventually get married and have a child.
There is also the local policeman, who was originally PC Mylow, who was later replaced by the rather dense PC Penhale. And there is the pharmacist Mrs Tishell, and Martin also goes through various receptionists including Pauline and Morwenna who never really seem that interested in their job. And we mustn’t forget Bert Large, who runs various businesses including food stalls alongside his son Al. Finally, a few of Martin’s relatives turn up including his aunt Joan.
Doc Martin unsurprisingly ended up doing rather well for ITV. There were 70 episodes in nine series (I think that it has now come to an end, although maybe it could return one day), along with a two-hour Christmas special in 2006. There have also been plenty of repeats on ITV3. The show has been released on DVD containing all the episodes, and extras include outtakes and a look behind the scenes.