Clunes' cardy wearing a bit thin

JANE CLIFTON
Last updated 05:00 18/12/2013
clunes

FEELING TIRED: Louisa (Caroline Catz) and Doc Martin (Martin Clunes) – the entertainingly rude seaside doctor is probably two seasons past his best.

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Rotten though it is to say anything mean about a man who has been aptly described as a comfy jumper incarnate, Doc Martin, Sunday, UKTV, is beginning to be just sad.

Martin Clunes' entertainingly rude seaside doctor is probably two seasons past its best, and while the creators deserve credit for not making the hero nice himself up, they're now pushing the proverbial uphill with his resolute lack of connectedness.

Whether he's somewhere on the Asperger's spectrum, or, given his neglected childhood, suffers attachment disorder has never been made clear. He is a slab of granite that occasionally cracks a slight grimace that makes him look like a narked owl. Doc Martin lacks all empathy for others' feelings, and, unlike that other famous emotionless TV character Mr Spock, has no curiosity about what it must be like to feel empathy. This has till recently sent the comedy romping along because it generates such bravura acts of heedless rudeness. But the awkward courtship of indifference to the lovely Louisa has brought it at times to a dangerous teetering-point very near to tragedy.

It's hard to keep laughing at a situation where the poor, blameless woman is so comprehensively made miserable. Now they've had a baby, the bittersweet aspect of the comedy has been nearly unbearable.

Martin treats the infant James as though he is a patient. His care is thorough but mechanical. When finally last week Louisa left with James to live with her slightly loopy mother (everyone in Portwenn, the absurdly pretty village where this is set, is slightly loopy), it was a tremendous relief.

Naturally, before this season final was over, things were yet again patched up, with the doctor finally expressing something that might have passed for emotion if you watched closely. The fact that he was only play-acting being in love with one of the loopier townsfolk so as to talk her down from a perilous situation did not faze the hapless Louisa, who took it as a sign that he could emote if he tried. He then told Louisa he loved her and all was forgiven. "Tell me again," she cooed. Back came the offended owl grimace. "I think I've already said it twice."

It's still highly watchable, which is just as well because there's another series to come, and possibly another after that. The producers simply don't know how to say "wenn".

ONE TO WATCH

Underbelly, TV3, 9.35pm.

The final of the series chronicling the handsome and horrible Squizzy, Melbourne tough of the early 1900s, who must face his enemies in prison.

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- The Dominion Post

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