Calling Doctor Grumpy

The home video release pattern of British shows in Canada and the U.S. is an odd one when it concerns Doc Martin, arguably ITV’s most successful comedy series in recent years.

In Canada, the Image DVD set of Season 1 debuted around the same time the show started airing on Vision TV (roughly during the summer of 2007), and then came a long, LONG wait for Season 2 to arrive on DVD (like, two years), whereas in the fall of 2007 one could purchase both seasons in Britain.

That big gap may be attributed to Image testing the waters and gauging North American audience interest in the series, as well as stations like Vision airing of Season 2 on TV (since it’s only fair a broadcaster has some window of exclusivity before everyone can buy the DVD and watch it at home without any bleepin’ commercials).

But added into the mix is a change in North American home video distributors for Seasons 2 and 3, which certainly isn’t the case in Britain where Momentum Pictures handles the entire series run.

Acorn Media snapped up the season rights in Region 1 land, but they were smarter than Image by playing catch-up and releasing Season 3 in February. To get that far may have cost the label more for the home video rights, which perhaps explains why Acorn’s Doc Martin sets are more expensive than the U.K. Region 2 releases, but Acorn was wise to include the Christmas special that preceded Season 3 in their Season 2 set – something not done in England.

This probably sounds like retentive release minutia mush, but it’s significant for viewers who demand some regular release pattern so the wait isn’t so grueling. Take Martin Clunes’ other series, William & Mary, which is available as a boxed set with all 3 seasons in the U.K., but thus far Image has only released Seasons 1 and 2 in a single set way back in 2007, leaving Region 1 viewers hanging, since there’s been no word on when the final season will appear over here.

(Actually, I know how it ends, because I bought the British box during the fall of 2008, and will feature reviews in about a month.)

Clunes shot William & Mary in between the Doc Martin seasons, and it’s a typical example of how the lower episode runs of British series makes it possible for actors to do other things before production for the next season starts up again. That limited tally mostly guarantees a series has no filler episodes, and character arcs can be plotted with greater care.

As it stands, Seasons 1 and 2 of Doc Martin are perfect. Utterly, utterly perfect in scope, stories, characters, and Clunes’ brilliant creation of a grumpy but brilliant doctor having to deal with folks he finds thoroughly dim.

Season 3 has some fumbling, and that might be due to the unusually long wait between seasons in Britain that perhaps affected the writers’ focus. Season 1 debuted in 2004, Season 2 in 2005, and then came a wait that was hastily filled with a feature-length Christmas special in 2006 (Doc Martin: On the Edge), after which Season 3 debuted in 2007, and Season 4 followed in 2009. There are some other flaws within Season 3 that are addressed in the review, as well as the finale that was just so bloody cruel to fans.

In any event, I’ve uploaded reviews of Seasons One, Two (plus the Christmas Special), and Three, and I’ll have Season 4 up when it’s released March 1st in Britain. Tied to Season 4 will also be reviews of a pair of documentary shows hosted by Clunes, Martin Clunes: A man and His Dogs (2008), and Martin Clunes: Islands of Britain (2009).

Those curious about the character’s lineage can also read prior reviews of the film Saving Grace (2000) where Doc Martin first appeared, as well as the two spinoff TV movies, Doc Martin, and Doc Martin and the Legend of the Cloutie (both from 2003).

Lastly, if you’re curious about the show’s music, there’s also a prior interview with series composer Colin Towns, and a review of the soundtrack album which is worth snapping up.

And when enough time has passed since I last saw Clunes’ version of the good doctor, I’ll take a poke at Doktor Martin, the German version of the series (!) which replicates the stories of the first two seasons with an all-German cast and a northern German location.

(If you’re curious about how Doc Martin plays in Deutsch, the trailers for the DVD releases of Staffel Einz und Zwei are up on YouTube. For Clunes fans, it’s all so bloody surreal.)

Coming next: Panic in Year Zero (1962) – the film, as well as the new soundtrack album released by La-La Land Records.



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