Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Buongiorno! I'm Gino..."

Bert Large is a character I wish I'd created. To quote Barry (High Fidelity): "[He's] so good. [He] shoulda been mine."

Of course, I doubt I have the skill or talent to create such a fantastic character and then to bring him to life all on my own the way Ian McNeice does.

 Bert Large (Ian McNeice) as a ventriloquist for the Port Wenn Talent show.

If you don't know who Bert Large is, that means you haven't been watching Doc Martin and why haven't you? You're missing out. It's pure genius. Although, for some reason, I don't think a show of this caliber could survive on its own in the U.S. during prime-time against shows like CSI and Bones. I think it requires the genius of the British to come up with a show of this nature and then maintain an audience for it in the long run.

Maybe I'm underestimating American audiences, or maybe it's the American production companies. I don't know who, but SOMEONE is to blame for the lack of this quality of work in the U.S. Luckily, the British make it and ship it over, and it finds the niche audience like myself. I'm just glad there are others like me, otherwise the Brits wouldn't even bother to ship it over.

In any case, thank goodness someone out there cares about quality, otherwise I'd starve. The only other place to find such a colorful cast of characters is in a Dickens novel. Dickens is great, but it's fun to have someone else do the work for me when I can't sit down and read a book.

Doc Martin isn't just about the doctor. It's about a village on the Cornish coast.

Point one. A village. On the Cornish coast. Who even uses the term village anymore? That's one of the great things about the show, that it's got this colloquial sense about it. However, that doesn't mean it's some dreary, slow-moving account of each individual in Port Wenn (the fictional name of the village). Nope. Each episode usually consists of several strands of storyline that are braided together and which eventually meet up and make sense at the end.

Point two. Braided storyline. I don't dissect every TV show I've ever watched, but this one is cleverly done up into a sleek braid that has a pleasant snap to it. Like a whip. The show has a whippish intellect. Now, apparently whippish is not a word, but for my purposes it means whip-like. Makes sense, I think. So, another great thing about Doc Martin. I watched all thirty or so episodes almost without stopping (I had a lot of down time while taking care of the baby) and never once did I think, "Oh man, if Jack Bauer saves the world again at the last minute...." or "Oh no, if they say 'intubate' or 'he's seizing!' one more time, I'm going to throttle their necks!" Because, unlike many dramas, Doc Martin doesn't seem to rely heavily on plot-crutches. Yes, braided storyline and yes there's usually some kind of medical mystery the doctor ends up solving, but it's never overly predictable in an irritating fashion.

New paragraph here, but I'm still on the subject of the last paragraph (this paragraph is for purely cosmetic reasons), and that is that EVEN though there is always a medical mystery to be solved, it never ends up feeling formulaic. My theory is that this is because the cast of characters is so strong.

Point three. Excellent array of characters. You have your gaggle of village girls who wander around the neighborhood, popping up here and there to make cat-calls at the men. And sometimes they call the doctor a tosser. I have no idea what that is. I suspect it's a derogatory term, but since I'm not British I can hardly find it offensive. And that's why I feel comfortable writing it here, on my blog. No need to explain it (if you're British and feel like enlightening me). Anyway, the gaggle of village girls always cracks me up. What a waste of time! I mean, the girls. They're wasting their time. But it's totally amusing. "Heeeeeyyyy Al! Hee hee hee." "Heeeeeyyyy Doc Martin...." Etc. 

You have the plumbers, Bert and Al Large, who sometimes seem like the worst possible thing that could happen to your sink. And there's the village pharmacist with her eternal crush on the doctor, "How about tea? And we could finally go over those MHRA journals together..." who's never seen without her neck brace, but somehow feels she must be attractive, nasty neck-brace and all. There's the doctor's sweet Aunt Joan–really his only family at all (you get to meet his parents in an episode and wow, they suck). And of course, the love-interest: the gorgeous and kind (though sharp-witted) Ms. Glasson.

The doctor and Louisa Glasson. Don't worry: it's a dream.

I'd try to describe all of these characters better, but I'm no Dickens after all. The point is the show is fast-paced enough not to feel like it was done in the 70s (I tried to watch the old Hawaii Five-O one time and fell asleep), while maintaining a kind of small-town luster that makes you want to disappear into a country village and soak up the local color. No kidding. Local color.

P.S. And don't even think of suggesting that it's like Little House on the Prairie. Unless you always LOVED that show. In that case, it's a modern Little House on the Prairie meets House. Loads of houses here.


Christy said...

I like your assessment! And I agree with it all. I can't wait until there are more episodes to watch.

Nicole Grotepas said...

I'm so glad you and Doug kept talking about it. And I'm really excited to see the next season as well. :)