My New Favorite Quirky Show

Apr 16

Doc Martin
is Northern Exposure without the moose.

I don’t think they have moose in Cornwall, England, where the TV show is filmed, but the fictional town of Portwenn has more than its share of eccentrics, neurotics, and downright lunatics.

DocMartinMartinClunesDoc Martin himself qualifies in at least two of these categories. Not certifiable, but not exactly . . . normal either. His bedside manner is SO not warm and fuzzy, it can be viewed as downright hostile. The words, “gruff”, “cold” and “ill-mannered” come springingly to mind. Or will, if you don’t take his advice, which, it seems to me, is pretty much always spot on.

No “take-two-aspirins-and-call-me-in-the-morning” kind of guy, he pronounces (Doc Martin tends to pronounce rather than merely say) that most headaches can be cured by lying quietly in a dark room for 15 minutes, and he won’t give you antibiotics for that cold because it’s a virus and yes, as a matter of fact, it could hurt to give you those pills.

Other Techni-colorful characters in town include Bert Large, whose surname suits his size and personality and who goes from being a plumber to running a very pleasant cafe in a single bound; Doc Martin’s secretary, Elaine, who gives new meaning to the word “attitude,” adds “innit” onto every sentence, and manages to be lovable and (I hate this word) vulnerable all the same; the local cop whose many insecurities include fearing that size does matter and that he doesn’t quite measure up (he takes Big Boy pills that promise “enormous results” but are actually only vitamins); and the local pharmacist who, for no apparent reason, wears a brace on her neck and her heart on her sleeve.

LouisaInDocMartinShe’s not the only one who “fancies” the doc, whose actual name is Doctor Martin Ellingham, not that anyone in town can ever be persuaded to call him that. He’s also admired, bedside manner or not, by the local grade school teacher, the adorable Louisa, who is probably the only person on the planet who could see past the problems of this man and get to the kind human behind the dark suit, white shirt and tie, which he wears all the time, even to go fishing.

The good doctor has a worse quirk than that: while practicing as a highly successful surgeon in London, he developed haemophobia (fear of blood), which is not exactly a great thing in a physician. As Bert Large says, it would be as if a plumber had a fear of water. Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, now does it, if you catch my drift.

Totally ridiculous plot line, innit?

Well yes, but . .

PortWennDocMartinIt does get resolved, in a wrap-it-up-in-an-hour sort of way. See, there’s this boy who’s badly ill and Doc Martin is the only one who can save him and . . . you get the idea.

A whole lot of what takes place in this breath-takingly beautiful little town is not exactly believable either.

Forgetting for a minue that if Dr. Ellingham, AKA Doc Martin, had developed haemophobia, he could no more become a small town GP than he could remain a big-city surgeon, there’s Stewart, the ranger who lives up the hill with a six-foot tall squirrel named Anthony. Shades of Harvey! But this guy seems dangerous. The ranger, not the squirrel. He virtually keeps Doc Martin prisoner to get him to write a prescription for tranquilizers. For Anthony. Hey, you think it’s easy being a giant squirrel in a small town?

But actually, the town is very tolerant of this lunatic.

Too tolerant, really. When Stewart goes on a rampage destroying gardens all over town, the locals just cluck their tongues and say he’ll get over it. Always does. And Doc Martin finds out that his predecessor was giving him vitamins, not Valium or whatever. Placebos in the form of vitamins are big in the town of Portwenn. Or, as one disgruntled visitor (“There’s no place to go here and you can’t find a parking place”) suggests it should be called: Port Why.

Sour grapes! That guy was trying to get a recommendation for a promotion at the hospital from Doc Martin. Fat chance. With his usual diplomacy Doc tells him he’s an ass and doesn’t have a prayer of getting the job. To be fair, our beloved medic is even more testy than usual because things are going all that well with Louisa, who Doc is smitten with, of course. Don’t worry, that’ll work out too. This is fantasy, not real life, remember?

My fantasy is to visit the actual town where this show is shot, Port Isaac in Cornwall. It is beyond gorgeous. I suspect that it’s probably overrun with tourists, overpriced, and the pubs are not nearly as nice as they look on TV. The show was a big hit in England, running for five seasons, and is now in reruns on BBC, and that kind of notoriety does something to a town, even if it uses an alias.

So, alas. I’m probably not actually going there any time soon (although who knows), and will have to settle for watching the show on Netflix. Which is pretty quirky itself: when I turn it on, “The Lollipop Song” comes out of my computer from iTunes. I’m not making this up. And no one has been able to figure out why. And the only way to stop it is to quit iTunes and turn the volume off. 
Still, Netflix is pretty cool.


I’m waiting for them to get Northern Exposure streaming, which is supposed to happen very soon. Talk about characters! And there’s the moose. Meanwhile, I’ll get my daily recommended dose of eccentricity by watching Doc Martin whenever and why ever I want to.

One reason why is that watching either of these shows makes me feel that New York City, my hometown, is . . . normal. Pretty funny, innit?

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