This “reply” to my story on “Doc Martin: Seven Grumpy Seasons” is so interesting and insightful that I decided to run it as a separate article. Thanks to Marta Daniels for submitting it.
When I first read your post in mid-November and saw the interview with Eric Luskin, VP for American Public Television Syndication, talking about APT’s new Special on the “Doc Martin” show for American viewers— “Seven Grumpy Seasons of Doc Martin”—I did not fully appreciate the power of this wonderful new documentary. That is, until I saw it a month later when it was shown on my public television station here in Connecticut (CPTV). Then I got to watch it twice and would watch it again if I could. In fact, I recommend that PBS/ATV or Acorn TV offer it as a “Doc Martin” feature program (minus the requests for money—the show’s actors do that already) and make it available for sale online. I think it would be a great seller.
This APT special is one of the best, most relaxed and most revealing of all the “behind-the-scenes” programs on “Doc Martin” made for American viewers that I’ve ever watched. It was fast-paced, informative and much more revealing about the work of the crew and actors than anything else I’ve seen American public television do. But most of all, it was really, really funny. The choice of “best” clips from all seven DM seasons to splice in between the interviews with the actors, directors and producers, was brilliant. I can’t remember when I have laughed as hard or as long as I did watching this “Doc Martin” Special—or even the show itself. The Special was at least an hour long, and not one minute of it was without humor.
Another really important “new” aspect of “Seven Grumpy Seasons” was the way we got to learn more about the real persons behind the actors in the show. Bert Large (Ian MacNeice) was fabulous mocking himself interviewing Aunt Ruth (Dame Eileen Atkins) and Al Large (Joe Absolom), his on-screen son, and even “pretend-interviewing” the real tourists about their favorite character in the show (MC of course!).
I loved listening to Martin’s description of Louisa (Carolyn Catz) and what it was like working with her, and working so well together that their fits of laughter often caused filming to come to a screeching halt. Or Clunes’ statement about the grumpy DM character being “the perfect vehicle for comedy” and how much their American audiences really “get it.” In contrast to their UK fans who write in for a signed photograph, and then “sell it on eBay.”
It was absolutely charming to hear receptionist Morwenna (Jessica Ransom) and the new nanny, Janice (Robyn Addison), both true friends in real life, describe the specialness of the show and what an honor it was for them to be a part of it. Or to hear Morwenna describe Martin Clunes as a “National Treasure” whose true personality is opposite the grumpy, sometimes unkind Doc he portrays. And nowhere is this more evident than the Doc’s relationship to Buddy, the terrier dog (who gets a starring role in this Special) and who, in the show, the Doc appears to loathe, but in real life, actually adores. The poignant, private, early morning scene in the Special on the Cornwall beach where Martin Clunes (in his best DM suit and shoes) is playing and dancing with the dog in the water had to be a highlight of this documentary. (At least a favorite moment for me).
Then there is the town of Port Isaac—a character all its own. I loved hearing Danny (Tristan Sturrock) compare the quirky Land’s End region of Cornwall to a “Christmas stocking,” where “all the nuts roll to the bottom.” Or hear the show’s directors and producers describe the Doc Martin TV series as “an emotional journey” (taken willingly or not) by “complex characters” that we follow and have grown to know and love.
Perhaps the most important revelation (or confirmation) for me in the “Seven Grumpy Seasons” is how well it conveys the genuine respect and camraderie that exists among the actors, producers, directors and writers (and even the fans who clog up Port Isaac in filming months). All who are interviewed here credit the leadership at the top — Philippa Braithwaite and Martin Clunes — for these remarkable qualities. Their generosity, respectfulness, excellence and hands-on approach to the making of the show have coalesced to create a community of inclusiveness whose brilliance and creativity shine through to viewers everywhere. It simply comes through in everything they do. I call it the secular version of the “beloved community,” which is possible only when the spirit of cooperation and generosity, undergirded by respect, unfolds. It occurs to me that their way should be a model for other endeavors, not just for films, but for any complex and demanding effort that requires a community that works at its best.
Maybe another post is in order when more of us have had a chance to see the “Seven Grumpys.” It is just gob-smacking good and in-your-face wonderful. I hope it gets a wide audience. Thank you APT film crew, writers, directors, producers, and its two narrators, Erik Luskin and David Rubensohn, for a job well done. Bravo.
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