Monday, June 28, 2010

The Doctor in My House

Courtesy of my favorite Christmas gift—a Netflix subscription renewal—I’ve been enjoying a steady stream of Doc Martin episodes of late. This British-made comedy-drama series absolutely distinguishes itself in its genre. In fact, on the nights that I pop in a DVD to watch an episode, I cannot help but marvel at the show’s remarkable quality and qualities. I don’t want any of the forty-five-minute episodes to end. Now, I wish I could say that for any of what passes as American television nowadays. Doc Martin is not only superbly written and acted, but also filmed on location in a stark, picturesque English fishing village.

If there is one downside for me in watching Doc Martin—as well as other first-rate British shows—it's that the mere act underscores how truly fatuous Hollywood has become. There is just no way—no way—Tinseltown could produce a program like Doc Martin. It’s beyond the place’s ken. It tries an awful lot, and way too hard sometimes, to construct shows that effectively blend light comedy with poignant drama, but rarely, if ever, pulls it off. And, really, it’s sad that here in the world’s creative epicenter, creating first-class programming that marries such key ingredients as subtle writing, good acting, and riveting atmosphere is well nigh impossible.

A reviewer on the IMDb site hit the nail on the head when he summed things up this way:

Someone should teach the Americans how to make this sort of show: funny, whimsical and without a glimmer of preaching, with weird and damaged characters that hug you from the screen, and pathos aplenty. It requires a light hand unfortunately, something that neither Hollywood nor primetime TV in the US is renowned for.

Indeed, it’s the light touch at play that works. Hollywood’s heavy hand is so transparent nowadays. Calling all Hollywood big shots: Why not give Doc Martin creator Dominic Minghella a call for a light helping hand? Naturally, I’m not holding my breath in anticipation of better things to come. I suppose that's why we have Netflix and PBS—to spare us from a never-ending story of way, way too much Made-in-America small screen rubbish.

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