Grooming interludes

Every now and then Martin and Louisa show some interest in what they’re wearing and in looking in the mirror. In addition, there are a few scenes of them doing a few grooming activities, e.g. preparing for bed or getting the baby ready. It’s only natural to check out how you look, but sometimes when it happens on the show, it’s quite funny.

Here are some of them:
Before her interview for headmistress in S2E2, L checks her hair and face in the hallway mirror before leaving home. She practices her answers to potential questions and puts some gel in her hair while talking into the mirror. It’s sort of a way to get psyched up for the interview and gain confidence. Later, while being interviewed, she is stumped by a question she thinks she should have prepared for. Pressed for an answer, she says one of her top qualities for being appointed headmistress is that she’s a good listener. After the interview, she accuses Martin of being a terrible listener. It’s a great way for them to stand off against each other and amusing because Louisa is the one who has handled the situation best. It’s one of the many times when she puts ME in his place.

Before meeting L at the pub in S2E5, M checks his face and teeth and adjusts his tie while looking in a hand mirror (funny because he makes his teeth and smile appear comically grotesque). It makes us aware that he cares about how he looks, even if he’s pretty awkward about it.

Even though on Doc Martin Revealed Philippa says she objected when a writer included a scene with Martin taking off his jacket, in S3E2 Martin takes his jacket off to wash his hands at Louisa’s house when she’s got a stomach problem. Of course, he puts it back on after washing his hands so no one sees him without it, and Louisa’s bra gets caught in his jacket collar. There’s a brief embarrassing moment for L when she has to grab the bra. L’s bathroom is filled with her lingerie which would be discomfiting for any woman (or man for that matter). (M has previously been seen without his jacket while washing his car and in the very first episode when the plumbing has sprouted a leak and he holds a pillow over it to stop the water.)

When Mrs. Wilson begins to flirt with M in S3E4, Louisa definitely takes notice. She combats the possibility that Mrs. Wilson might become appealing to M by going to see him in his office after hours. Prior to knocking on his door, however, she stops to check herself in the mirror and makes her own comical faces, sticking out her tongue. She is wearing her hair down which should probably be deemed a more casual and sensual style since she mostly uses it when she is meeting M for dinner or a drink. (Her hair is also down when she’s in bed, which shouldn’t necessarily be taken as sensual. It’s pretty hard to sleep with hair in any kind of up do.)

Louisa dresses nicely for their date to the concert in S3E5. She takes particular care with her shoes and the camera shows her putting them on daintily. However, when she steps outside to the car, Martin wonders if she is wearing the best shoes for the occasion. (He notices shoes often: Edith’s, Louisa’s at the Wenns) He never changes his shoes with the exception of wearing slippers in one scene. I guess we’re just supposed to think that his concern for detail, and perhaps health, extends to women’s feet? Maybe the clothes make the man, the shoes make the woman?

While preparing for the first wedding, Martin checks his wardrobe and picks up the suit he had cleaned. Of course, it turns out the dry cleaner has given him the wrong item. Instead of his suit, he has a woman’s dress. It’s just another mix-up in a day filled with them, and comes up again when the cleaner brings the suit by later and thinks Martin and Louisa are back from their wedding ceremony. Not only is he wrong about that, but he wants to ask Martin a medical question. (We should add that to the repeated scenes since after they actually get married in S6, Chippy Miller asks Martin a medical question at the reception and later another villager shows up at the surgery to be treated the morning after, contributing to all the commotion in the house.)
Louisa also starts to dress for the wedding and looks in the mirror at herself while putting on her veil. When she stands looking at herself in the mirror fully fitted out in her wedding regalia, we can see she’s giving the situation some thought. Her stance in front of the mirror at her home is offset by the cut to Martin looking at himself in his suit in the mirror at his home. They both appear very serious, but it’s not absolutely clear that they have come to the same conclusion that marrying at this point does not feel right.

Series 4 has few moments when Louisa worries about her appearance. She’s pregnant and generally feels she’s enormous, although I think her pregnancy wardrobe is very nice. There is also the scene at the beach where Martin follows the headmaster into the water and is still dripping wet when Edith drives by. But, it’s really the hotel room occasion that brings grooming into play. Both Edith’s corset and Martin’s sense of propriety make for a comical interaction between them. He ends up changing in the bathroom and then departing for home.

Series 5 shows both Martin and Louisa in their night clothes a lot. It’s great to see Louisa wearing sloppy pjs with Uggs at times. There aren’t many new mothers who can take much time with their appearance. She still manages to look pretty good when she gets ready to leave the house. For me the best grooming scene is when Martin is in the bathroom getting ready for bed. He and Louisa are discussing the apartment in London while he uses a comb to squeeze the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube. It’s a great trick and conveys Martin’s frugality as well as his obsessiveness. The fact that he’s telling L that there’s a great science museum near the apartment is silliness because the baby is only a couple of months old.

Series 6 finds Martin preparing for their wedding again. This time M selects his suit and tie and finishes tying his tie while looking at himself in the mirror. Much like the first attempt at marrying, he still has a serious expression on his face, but this time we sense more determination in him. Of course the joke comes when he shows up at the church and Morwenna doesn’t think he’s changed since the start of the day. It is kind of hard to tell with him since he wears pretty much the same outfit every day, give or take a different color tie. We don’t see Louisa dressing this time. We simply see her when she appears at the door to the church. We do get a laugh when she tells Martin she was late because of trouble with her hair.

The other occasions in S6 that have to do with grooming include Martin and Louisa getting ready in the morning in E6. Martin can’t find his tie after L puts the baby on top of it on the bed, they deal with tight quarters in their bedroom, and L puts some cream on the baby’s face. L remarks that most of M’s ties are blue, but he disagrees. I have trouble figuring out where Louisa hangs her clothes. Closet space seems as limited in the house as all the other spaces are. Nevertheless, Louisa always looks nicely groomed. There’s also the quite caring scene at the hospital when Martin puts Louisa’s hair in a ponytail. He’s possibly trying to do his best to make up for the disastrous previous day. The final episode has Louisa in the bathroom collecting her wash supplies for her trip. There’s nothing funny at all about this scene. Actually it’s rather devastating seeing her in there with the door closed.

There are a few other villagers who are shown looking at themselves in the mirror, notably Mrs. T. She seems fairly ridiculous while sitting at her dressing table with her black neck brace on as she applies make-up. Carrie Wilson checks herself too. Caroline has a brief moment in the bathroom. If you take the subject to its utmost degree, we could include Mr. Flint and his woman’s wig and dress. We also see Margaret looking at herself in the mirror. In her case the mirror is reflective of her narcissism. In general, however, the grooming scenes are no more than humorous interludes.

Originally posted 2014-02-25 19:05:11.

25 thoughts on “Grooming interludes

  1. Carol

    As usual, great post. How do you think up this stuff? I love the scene when Martin is getting ready and then Tricia Soames comes in to prevent him going to meet Louisa at the pub. When he is checking his teeth, it always makes me laugh because he REALLY needs an orthodontist – doncha think? But the grooming thing that always interests me is his receptionists. All three of them seem to take outfits to a crazy level. Two things that absolutely kill me are Elaine’s dreadlocks and Pauline’s espadrilles. Boy can she run in those espadrilles! Up and down that steep hill – amazing!! 🙂

  2. Post author

    Even your response makes me laugh! MC seems to have too many teeth, but he makes the best of it. Your comments about the receptionists are great. I think I saw somewhere that Morwenna has to always wear something with an animal design. It must take these actors a long time to get dressed for each episode. They have so much to put on!!

  3. KR

    Yes, another fantastic post!

    The teeth, the hair…what I’ve noticed and just LOVE about Martin and other British actors is that they don’t seem so hung up on being “100% perfect” all the time, as compared to many American actors. Martin has the teeth and hair of a real person — not always perfect in the show, or in “real life” — but, as Aunty Joan says, “No one seems to mind.”

    BTW, maybe Martin notices women’s shoes because he doesn’t really want to look them in the eye — so he looks down. Of course, that’s not always the case, but maybe he does that when feeling uncomfortable about a one-to-one situation.

    One other thing about taking care of one’s self. Martin should really make sure his esophagus is OK…. with all that barfing he does, it could become cancerous. OK, I know, it’s just a show! I’ve got to get a life…..

  4. Post author

    I see a distinct difference in their teeth. In the US every actor seems to have perfectly straight, very white teeth. In UK, not so much. I have been a little curious about whether MC has done some work on his teeth. In S6 they seem whiter. But there’s nothing wrong with trying to brighten things up as we get older. You’re right about the frequent barfing! Maybe that’s what’s staining his teeth! Ugh, that was bad!

  5. Linda

    I love the scene in the hospital where he did her hair for her. It is possibly the sweetest thing I have ever seen a man do for his wife. He did a good job too.

  6. Post author

    That scene was so unusual that I am somewhat surprised it was included. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. I just think it’s out of character, even though Martin is thoughtful at times, e.g cleaning up broken glass for Louisa, putting away dishes, making dinner. But helping with her hair requires him to do one thing we don’t see often, touch her (unless it’s for medical reasons). The other time I really like is when he gently touches her cheek when she’s upset about her mother, but then he says “I bought a fish,” which alters the moment. He has taken her arm while they walk home from the school performance, but that’s more to usher her away from Penhale. Otherwise, Louisa is much more likely to reach for his hand or hold his arm. She can’t put up her hair herself with a broken collarbone. But what happens after they leave the hospital? She has to take it down to sleep and put it up to leave for Spain. Does he help her again and again? It’s not that important, but the scene stands out and that’s why I wonder if it’s supposed to signify that he’s doing his best to smooth over his insensitivity from the day before.

  7. Carol

    Have to go back to the teeth thing. I said he needs an orthodontist, but mainly it is for bite issues. I too like the fact that British actors don’t try to look perfect. There is something about that “perfectness” here in the US that is just too much. The Brits’ reality shows, I think, their confidence in who they are not just what they look like. Caroline Catz for instance, is one of the most beautiful women on TV and yet she is at her best when she is not so made up, just looks natural. And Martin Clunes, well, we don’t have to go there, do we? Despite our initial response to his looks, most of us end up thinking he is incredibly attractive, especially in real life when he wears his hair a bit longer – and I don’t normally care for longer hair or blond men, but the Doc – well he’s just F I N E!

  8. Post author

    I think they have a certain look and we have one too. Generalizing is tough…it all depends on the actor and his roles. You can’t really say that Philip Seymour Hoffman was so perfect, or John Goodman, or Steve Buscemi, etc. There are some knockout Brits, e.g. Jude Law, Sean Connery, Colin Firth. Or if you’re talking about the women who are rather imperfect – Melissa McCarthy, Edie Falco, Kathy Bates versus attractive Brits Kate Winslet, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kate Beckinsale. To some degree everyone looks more attractive once you get to know them and consider them nice people. There’s no trouble with MC’s hair color now – it’s grey!

  9. Waxwings2

    Great post. What first puzzled me about Martin’s rigid dress code was that it was enforced in nearly all circumstances, even to the point of absurdity. For example, he always dons a full apron over his full suit to prepare his fish suppers in his own kitchen. Clearly when he’s cooking, it’s after office hours, he is usually alone, he is flaying a wet fish, and you can only wonder who would keep a jacket on in those circumstances!?? Why? After seeing this repeatedly, I concluded that the writers/directors wanted to underscore Martin’s steadfast allegiance to his own formalness or sense of himself that he reinforces with his textile armor in nearly all circumstances.

    There are few exceptions. One is the scene when Martin appears in the kitchen in pajamas to confront the noisey Morwenna who has shown up much too early on her second day of work, and is disturbing the family at 6:30 in the a.m. Not even a bathrobe does he don for this scene, and doesn’t seem the least bit uncomfortable or self conscious. Thinking back on the surprise of it reminds me how the surprises–small and large–are at the heart of this series.

  10. Post author

    I agree the writers, keep him dressed that way for a purpose. To me it’s to be absurd (and therefore funny) and because he can’t relax. The suit is his uniform and he is always on call and always a doctor first. In series 5 we see him in pjs several times, even at his front door when Penhale shows up early one morning to talk about the baby’s name. The pjs still seem pretty rigid, buttoned all the way up like they are, but at least he gets out of that suit to go to bed!

    I like the “surprises” or switch ups and can’t decide if they are simply new ways to handle the character or if they are meant to have more meaning. Who knows? They’re fun to see and that’s all that matters sometimes!

  11. Santa Traugott

    There is also the possibility that these surprises are ways to keep Martin Clunes entertained. Remember, this is the man who said on some quiz show or other that he varied the way he put his shoes and socks on every day, in order to have variety and not get stuck in a rut.

  12. Post author

    Did not know that! Reminds me of a very funny bit that was on All In The Family when Archie and Mike argued about what is the best way to put on your socks and shoes: sock, sock, shoe, shoe or sock, shoe, sock, shoe. If you do it the latter way, at least you have one shoe on if there’s an emergency. Sorry, I have always remembered that bit. (Click on the link to watch the segment) Another funny thing is that once my husband wore different colored socks to work. He noticed while he was talking to a patient and apologized. I guess he thought the patient would wonder about his competence if he couldn’t get his socks right. When he told me about that, I said the patient probably hadn’t even noticed until he said something.

  13. LS

    This does not come in on the humorous side but my very favorite clothing/mirror scene is the morning after the engagement. Each time I watch that scene and I see Martin adjusting his tie, I just wait for the small click of a snap that seems to wake up Louisa. Then the magic of this scene comes into play. The dressing gown is very nice, too.

  14. Mary

    It would be very sweet of the Doc to fix his wife’s hair if it wasn’t absolutely necessary….but its just about impossible to put your hair in a pony tail with one hand in a sling!
    Also, the toothpaste tube he was tightening up, was a great way to illustrate how obsessive he is about details. Like when he admires how Michael the Nanny sets up the pencils in a row on the kitchen table and then Louisa purposely messes them up as she walks by.
    It is also interesting how he remarks on the appropriateness of Louisa’s footwear when they go on their concert date. I think he is so uncomfortable with the idea of her going out with him (because he still can’t believe she wants to be with him) that right away he subconsciously starts messing things up…..and how!

  15. Mary

    Yes it would be nice to have more actors on American shows go the “natural’ route….in the last few years a few more pounds on some actors hasn’t hurt their popularity. But looks aren’t nearly as important to me as the overall quality….very little out there is even close to the quality of Doc Martin!
    And speaking of looks, I think what makes Martin Clunes attractive is how expressive his face is. He is as malleable as clay, in a boyish sweet way. I thought he was homely indeed the first time I saw him, what a odd looking guy!…but somehow those odd features all seem to hang together very well so that he now seems quite adorable, frowns and all.

  16. Mary

    I love that bedroom scene too! I almost fell off my chair when I first saw it….finally they spend a night together! I have a feeling that if there is a Series 7, and by all accounts it appears there will be, we will be seeing the Doc attempting to relax a bit more, so hopefully the clothes will loosen up as well!

    And, I agree, who the heck would attempt to scale fish wearing a suit?!! Talk about uptight! Good thing armored suits aren’t in fashion or he’d be in one.

  17. Post author

    Hello Mary! Thanks for all your comments. I very much agree that remarking about her shoes is another time when M manages to start the date with the wrong thing to say. She obviously wanted him to compliment her on her appearance but he instead tells her she might be wearing the wrong shoes. Since the camera had focused on her shoes while she was putting them on, it was particularly noticeable when M asked her if she had chosen the right shoes, and shoes become a regular part of a women’s wardrobe that he says something about. It’s another running joke of sorts.

  18. Amy Cohen

    Just one comment from S7: The scene of Martin wearing a suit to the beach was particularly absurd, but it would have been better of Louisa had worn something more beach appropriate—at least jeans—but she also wore a dress and definitely non-beach appropriate shoes!

  19. Post author

    I totally agree. She wonders why he’s wearing his usual suit and tie while she’s wearing an equally incongruous dress and heels. The only way I can make sense of this is that it is another sort of joke, and in S7 Louisa has become a mirror image of Martin. Her hair is slicked back and almost always looks rather severe, her clothes are conservative and buttoned up, and she is now the one who won’t talk and seems clueless. They have turned the tables in almost every way.

  20. Amy Cohen

    Interesting! So she’s still criticizing him while she’s become more like him. But they haven’t really turned the tables since he’s certainly not become too much like Louisa.

  21. Post author

    The examples of his changes that would approximate what used to be typical of Louisa would include:
    He moves out instead of her; he makes an effort to be conciliatory by seeking therapy, telling her the mess and noise don’t bother him, offering to take care of James; he compliments her (much like she has done when she tells him good job after he helps a patient); he backs off when she asks him to (e.g. with Peter Cronk and with euthanizing the dog). In previous series he needed a lot more convincing with Delph or Theo Wenn or even Peter himself. She hires the childminder this time when previously they have mostly been his suggestion, especially Michael.

    I am pretty sure that they wanted to have these two characters swap roles and behaviors to a great extent, particularly when we compare S6 to S7.

  22. Amy Cohen

    I hadn’t really focused on how both had changed in ways to reflect the other. Why would the writers do that? I understand making Martin softer—I loved how he brought flowers for their dinner date as a contrast to the time he brought flowers and Louisa reacted with joy only to have him say, “A patient gave them to us.” This time Louisa was more muted in her response. I saw the softening of his character as organic and healthy—the writers were recognizing his efforts to change to keep Louisa and make her happy. But the changes to Louisa seemed out of left field. Sure, she was upset and frustrated by the relationship, but she just never seemed like the kind of person who would be so cold and rigid until S7.

  23. Post author

    Why they would do that is to undercut the notion that ME is the culprit in their marital difficulties. Also, they’re having some fun in the sense of playing with our sympathies. Most of S6 was set up for us to feel sorry for Louisa; in S7 we will feel more sympathetic to Martin. (I’m saying this even though I know that there is no “all or nothing” about how we react to each series and these two characters.)

    The question of whether it worked is another matter. Among other strange outcomes is the difficulty we have thinking Louisa could have become such a hard-nosed, unempathetic person. But these are most likely minor hurdles in the minds of the writers. They figure we’ll go along with her new attitude because we’ll attribute it to her emotional turmoil. It is mostly those of us on this blog who seem to be struggling with all of this.

  24. Amy Cohen

    LOL! Probably true that most viewers watch the show and move on. It’s only those of us who obsess about these things who keep struggling.

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