Let’s Tango!

I still plan to write a post on Buddhism, and I have one other idea in mind too, but I thought we could have some fun looking at how the Tango relates to the show. I do not consider myself anything more than a person who enjoys listening to music. I love musicals and I love to dance too. I can’t say that I’ve ever danced the Tango. Salsa, yes, but no Tango so far. (I tried Body Jam for the first time yesterday and I struggled with getting the steps right. I can do Zumba though.)

I decided I could use some education about it. You guessed it — I read an article in the NYTimes that got me thinking. The article is really about being uprooted and that’s why I found it quite interesting. It begins by noting that the Tango is related to men who came to Argentina as immigrants looking for work. “They’re people who have gone through the meat-grinder of uprooting and survived it; they’ve come as close to death as one can without dying. It seems that the memory of a personal catastrophe, followed by a miraculous survival, has somehow remained inscribed in the dance’s movements. Part of what makes the Tango so erotically charged is that death is always so close at hand. To this day the Tango has carried with it this uncanny mix of vulnerability and strength.” (I couldn’t let that go by without noticing that is exactly what I mentioned when describing ME as an antihero.)

I remembered that in a comment to my post on what makes DM so appealing Carol wrote about the importance of the music. I had totally overlooked the way music might play a role in our overall appreciation of the show. She stated: “I have seen an interview with the composer and he says something about a type of Tango rhythm that they used that seems to be the rhythm of Martin and Louisa’s relationship (I forget exactly how he said it) but the “back and forth” movement is so important.” I decided I should watch the interview with composer Colin Towns to see what he said. In the interview I found, Towns recalls that it was the editor, Nick (McPhee), who came up with the idea of using the Tango. Towns thought it was a great idea because Cornwall would usually be associated with folk music. Also, “you have a really dignified man” in a village in Cornwall and “the Tango is powerful and reflects how this man would relate to Cornwall.” Oddly enough, on the KQEK website, Towns is quoted as saying: “The acoustic guitar fits very well for what I need, and the Tango (which was Martin’s idea) carries a dignity, slightly overpowering aloofness that matches Martin’s character of an established surgeon sent from the city to deal with a local community – a quirky doctor who is caring but difficult, out of step sometimes, doesn’t suffer fools, a bull in a china shop, but ultimately very human. The Tango is not Cornish but works great with the story. So yes, small community, small band – for this it works.”

Regardless of whose idea it was, I want to say that probably the most important reason the Tango was chosen for the show is because it is so alien to Cornwall and doesn’t fit the setting. Not only is this another subtle way to get a laugh, but also it reflects the incongruity of Martin Ellingham becoming a GP in Portwenn. It’s also amusing because he is anything but graceful and would never be found dancing the Tango. That goes along with the notion of ME being dignified that Towns expresses. On the other hand, the way the Tango is constructed is like the push-pull of Martin and Louisa’s relationship with the power struggle at its core. In most examples of dancing the Tango the man is the leader and the woman mirrors his steps. In DM the courtship dance between Martin and Louisa is rarely led by Martin, but the step by step movement of the Tango has potential as a counterpart to their relationship. First of all, Martin’s posture works perfectly because the proper Tango posture is your head held high, your spine straight, your core strong and chest lifted, and confidence oozing from your body language. (OK, the confidence part is a little questionable.) The steps for both parties: slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. But for the leader it’s:

Forward with your left
Forward with your right
Forward with left
To the right with your right
Feet together, moving left to meet right.

Forward slow, slow, quick, then quick to the side, then together. I think we can make that work for them as a couple.

We actually have one scene in which Martin and Louisa dance (at their wedding reception) and Martin takes the lead with Louisa having trouble following. Nothing too strange about that, huh?

The NYTimes article is more about how exile can be beneficial in that “exile gives you a chance to break free. All that heavy luggage of old ‘truths,’ which seemed so only because they were so familiar, is to be left behind…The redeeming thing about exile is that when your ‘old world’ has vanished you are suddenly given the chance to experience another.” What the writer, Costica Bradatan, argues is that “uprooting is a devastating blow because you have to separate yourself overnight from something that, for as long as you can remember, has been an important part of your identity.” Bradatan acknowledges that “to live is to sink roots. Life is possible only to the extent that you find a place hospitable enough to receive you and allow you to settle down. What follows is a sort of symbiosis: Just as you grow into the world, the world grows into you. Not only do you occupy a certain place, but that place, in turn, occupies you. Its culture shapes the way you see the world, its language informs the way you think, its customs structure you as a social being. Who you ultimately are is determined to an important degree by the vast web of entanglements of ‘home.'” However, “uprooting gives you the chance to create not only the world anew, but also your own self. Deprived of your old world, your old self is left existentially naked. It is not only worlds that can collapse and be rebuilt, but also selves. Selves can be re-made from scratch, reassembled and refurbished. For they, too, are stories to be told in different ways. Often with uprooting there also comes a change of languages, which makes the refashioning all the more fascinating. You can fashion yourself in very much the same way a writer fashions her characters.”

In the end, Bradatan believes that the Tango “is sadness itself that is danced.” For him that is its strength. So the Tango is erotically charged, and associated with catastrophe and survival. And now I’ve gotten way too serious, but you have to admit all of the connections we can make with the Tango also relate to other discussions we’ve had before. Martin’s uprooting has shaken his sense of identity but also given him an opportunity to remake himself. He left behind what he was familiar with, both the good and the bad, and now has established a new home in a different world where he can attempt to create a new self and write a new story. He doesn’t need to change so much as reclaim who he is. Out of the somewhat catastrophic events that brought him to Portwenn he can renew himself. Let’s Tango!

Originally posted 2014-08-19 21:21:41.

38 thoughts on “Let’s Tango!

  1. Carol

    Another awesome post Karen! Thanks for doing this and for looking up what Towns actually said. You have skillfully untangled the web of the show and its music. Wonderful.

    I don’t think I have ever seen a TV show where the music seems to be its own character the way it is in Doc Martin. It’s as if each interaction between characters has such a special meaning that they all have their own dance. (I think of Stewart and his banjo music.) The only other place I have seen music take on “its own role” like this is in a few of the Harry Potter films. I think Alexandre Desplat did a fantastic job of this in the last two films of the franchise, and in interviews on the DVDs he seems to intimate that he, too, sees the music as almost a character all its own.

    So kudos again to BP and the folks they choose to work with to produce such a great show and kudos to you for helping us tease out all of the fun and meaning.

  2. Santa Traugott

    What a delightful post, Karen.

    The music of Colin Towns underlines again the craftsmanship, even artistry, with which every aspect of this show is planned and fits together. It’s so much more than the text. I think, that’s why, aside from the romance , the series has such a fascination for me, and I have such admiration and respect for the artistic sensibilities behind it. Whether or not we agree that Phillipa Braithwaite is the guiding light of the series, I do have to admire the work of her production company, Buffalo Productions, in identifying these talents, keeping them on board, and creating a climate in which they can work together to craft this production.

    I love the thought of Martin Ellingham as an immigrant, ripped from his native habitat, carrying with him all the angst and anger of his loss, but perhaps also carrying with him some little shred of hope that he can make a new habitat for himself in this new country, to which he is so alien. Again, the psychological, or human sensibilities of the series are so acute — never sentimental, but almost always, sympathetic.

  3. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I’m so glad you and Carol liked the post! It’s no secret that I get a kick out of finding new insights that can be applied to the show. I really doubt that all of these observations were part of the development of the show, but the fact that “they” were able to gather together so many accomplished cast and crew certainly played a huge part in creating a show that lends itself to so much in depth analysis and discussion. Sometimes I feel a bit nutso for continuing to be absorbed in writing this blog. To be honest, the reason I do it is because I enjoy writing analytical essays and it’s been fantastic to find a show I can watch over and over and also gives me so much to think about. And now I also have a community of readers who give me feedback and add very perceptive comments. You are all the best!!

  4. Santa Traugott

    two comments or rather questions:

    1) Perhaps there’s a lot in this series that we observe, that is not necessarily deliberate, or a conscious part of the design, but is still nevertheless there, that we recognize — in the same way that any artistic production, be it text, painting, music — has elements that we recognize, that contribute to our delight in it, regardless of whether or not it was exactly “intentional?” I think I would argue that it stems from artistic impulses that may be intuitive, but somehow work and are “right” and result in something that is richer and more layered than perhaps even the artist/artisan/creator knows or intended. I am straying quite far from my area of expertise or indeed anything that I have previously thought much about. I think the whole topic of what’s intentional in art, what’s there because, for lack of a better word, it’s part of the zeitgeist, or cultural context, what’s there b/c it comes from the artist’s intuition/subconscious –is one that undoubtedly has had tons written and said about it. I’d like to learn more about it, I think. Where would I look for guidance?

    2) You’ve probably seen on FB comments from the Clunes about how surprised they are that Americans have taken up the series in such a big way, and are such acute observers of what they are doing or attempting, in a way that they don’t seem to think their English audience is. Is it that there are just more of us writing and commenting, or just what is behind this phenomenon? They regularly get between 8 and 9 million viewers in England when it’s shown; I doubt if DM has that many viewers in US, for all our devotion, so it can’t be sheer numbers.

  5. Maria

    I don’t know if you all saw this, but there is a great 3-part interview with PB here:

    All of it is interesting, but especially the part where she talks about how much they love and are impressed by the American fans because they are so analytical (I think we’re safe in saying that would include the participants in this blog ), much more so than the British audience, who takes the show more at face value. She says that about 80% of the things they/we pick up on were deliberately placed and they are thrilled when they are noticed. The other 20% are not deliberate and they love those as well. She cites the onion example – how the onions in the car (I think it was) represent peeling away the layers of the characters. I can’t remember if that appeared here or elsewhere. They had not intended that and enjoy these additional perspectives.

    She also said that some people have difficulty differentiating MC from ME – they were on vacation somewhere and a woman actually said to PB that she was shocked that he is married because he is “so awful”.

  6. waxwings

    Just want to second and agree with Carol and Santa’s replies to Karen’s new blog post on this excellent subject of the Tango. It was pure delight to read each entry, starting with Karen’s most exciting description of this dance that I’ve ever read, ESPECIALLY in the context of the DM show! It was brilliant. Bravo!

  7. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Santa, I don’t think there is any particular source that would answer how artists arrive at what they create. There are many theories and theorists in all the areas of artistic creation, but those would mostly discuss various movements and/or identify how they think we should conceptualize the works of art. I think most writers, etc. get their inspiration from exchanging ideas with each other, reading other writers, and just their own experiences. It seems to me that writers get to know other writers, read a lot themselves, and sometimes respond to whatever they notice going on around them. Then they experiment and keep trying different things until they’re satisfied with what they’ve produced. I have read that Philip Roth and Stephen King and all sorts of authors often have trouble knowing where they get their ideas from. It’s a mystery to them too. Stephen King has been inspired by dreams or family experiences. It’s the act of putting their ideas down on paper in some sort of elegant way that is the most difficult. They pass their manuscripts by their wives, their editors, maybe other writers. Thomas Mann used to read some of his work to his family.

    I have the sense that many productions develop that way as well. For example, in the case of Doc Martin we know that Martin Clunes acted in several films based on a doctor arriving in Port Isaac. When he had the chance to enhance that character and make it work for TV, Dominic Minghella was asked to write a treatment for a show. Once that got started, the first production company was unable to continue and BP was founded. Now they could take the show in somewhat new directions and they collaborated with Ben Bolt, Mark Crowdy and others from the films and first series. In other words it was a constantly dynamic situation to which they brought writers, actors, composers, editors, and who knows who. I have no personal knowledge of what they did for this show, but in many cases they literally bring people together and sit in a room and throw ideas around. It’s great to have that opportunity because it would be a rare individual who could think of everything on their own. Even scientists and inventors often have a lot of trial and error and ask each other about their ideas.

    I know many writers wonder about how they get their inspiration. I’ve been reading poems by Billy Collins for our book club meeting this week and many of his poems are about the writing process. He is often amazed by how much of his work comes from his imagination and visualization.

    When I say the many points we’ve been discussing probably never occurred to the group creating each series, I would think that there wasn’t time or desire to think things through to the degree we do. In the example of the Tango, I would venture a guess that they knew it was a strange choice in relation to Cornwall, which made them like it. They then thought about how the character of ME came across and how the Tango was a good choice for that reason too. But whether they went into the history of the Tango and even how it is danced is pretty unlikely. It’s up to the editor to determine where to use the music and I’m sure the composer has some input too. I would guess that sometimes how it all turns out is just as nice a surprise to them as it is to us.

    I have tried to write some fiction and when it works, you get a charge and often surprise yourself with what you came up with. I don’t know if I can do more than give you my own perspective. If there is a psychological view of how artists create, I haven’t seen it.

    Your other question about Americans as viewers is also pretty hard to answer. When I look at all the horrible TV shows on American TV that appear to be popular and get renewed year after year, I find it impossible to consider American TV audiences more discriminating and analytical than anyone else. On the other hand, Doc Martin generally appears on PBS stations and that selects out a certain population in the US in itself, generally more educated. iTV seems to have a broader audience in England. Doc Martin is not exactly a commercial product and doesn’t get as much publicity here, although I have discovered more people who know about it than I ever expected. It also appeals to an older audience here from what I can tell. Are older and more educated viewers in America more likely to engage in analyzing? Probably? Is there something in our schooling that might lead us to look at shows in more depth? We’re usually asked to critically assess novels in English classes. Could that be an explanation? I don’t really know, but I’m glad we Americans appear to be close analyzers to PB. A part of me also wonders if she was talking to an American interviewer and wanted to say something complimentary about the American viewers. I know that’s cynical of me, but it’s something to consider.

    I probably haven’t said anything that you don’t already know. Maybe other readers will offer better responses.

  8. Chai

    Your article and everyone’s answers are very esoteric, and, I’m sure, right on target. For myself, I simply bought the album from Amazon and have enjoyed listening to the Doc Martin soundtrack again and again. Each cut perfectly complements the episode in which it underscores and supports the story line. “Martin and Louisa” depicts in notes, rhythm, tempo and melody the push and pull of their relationship. Fiery, temperamental and tender. Even slightly melancholy. Colin Towns is a genius. He perfectly captured the drama, humor and nuances of the program. I couldn’t imagine any other music style that enhances the show as his compositions do.
    In trying to identify the different instruments I hear piano, drums, accordion, zither, banjo, guitar, cymbals, rhythm beads (sorry, don’t know the right term), violin and electronic keyboard.
    If you haven’t heard the soundtrack I would encourage you to purchase it. It’s very reasonably priced and highly evocative and enjoyable.
    Thank you so much for bringing up this topic. I think the music is a vital aspect of this brilliant program.

  9. Joan

    Hi Karen and everyone else. I’m the one who suggested that Buddhism must be an important layer to Doc Martin stories since the statue is ever present, moves from place to place, and sometimes many smaller Buddha’s show up. I didn’t mean to make it an assignment . I just wanted to make that point and let you know I wouldn’t be doing any research on the subject to support my view of the importance to the story. Doc Martin is just a guilty pleasure that I allow myself and I don’t want to turn it into a school research paper.

    That being said I have a bit of information that came to me that may be interesting. I generally wake up at 6 am and listen to public radio while slowly drinking a cup of coffee. (Another guilty pleasure). I was doing this a week or two ago and drifted off into a shallow sleep state. I became aroused when I heard a call in guest to a show I was listening to say he was getting into zen Buddhism and wanted to know about the word alon which he found meant all one and that a couple of centuries later it had turned into alone and then lonely and loneliness was derived from alone. The shows hosts were language experts who said that the change happened because when it meant all one spelling was not standardized and as it became standardized the word became alone and stayed that way. This was over a couple of centuries I think. I thought this might be something that explained Doc Martin because there are so many scenes when he is alone or walking away from others all alone and seen as lonely by others. The girls at his front door in Series 1. Roger Fenn who called him a miserable bugger in Episode 2 of Series 1 and at other parts. Also really everyone in show is alone. Louisa who has no family to speak of according to Joan, Roger Fenn whose daughter has a TV of her own. Ruth whose lived in London on her own. And so on. It seems to me Martin sees the village as “all one” and not as individuals. He said that the village was like living with lemmings since they all caught the same food poisoning were all vomiting and spread athletes foot like a bush fire.

    The other reason this discussion caught my attention is that when my daughter was in 9th grade her friend gave her a black kitten. Her friend was into goth. My daughter named him Alone because a middle eastern boy was named that and she thought it was an cool name. My friends felt sort for the cat for having such a sad name. I suspect the boy’s name was really Alone because who’d name their kid Alone but Katy swore that his name was Alone.

    I started to research all this but decided to keep my promise to myself of keeping Doc Martin fun. I do enjoy your posts Karen and comments from others. I don’t feel so bad about watching so much TV because ya’ll raise the show to a higher level.

  10. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks for your input Joan. I don’t see the post on Buddhism as an assignment. It’ll be interesting to learn more about it and give my impressions. I hope to come up with some good thoughts. I just have to find enough time to do the research and write about it.

  11. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I saw this amazing TED talk and thought I should post it as another way to approach the question of the creative process. Not only does she mention how much her prosthetics have benefited from all sorts of collaboration with various designers, creators, and the development of new materials, but also she notes how she has been helped in terms of her sense of self. Some of her friends are actually envious of her prostheses and what they can do for her. (I’d like to be taller too, although I kind of like my legs the way they are.) She was the impetus, then others took off with their own ideas, and Voila`! Brilliant results. Watch it just to see what an incredible person Aimee Mullins is.

  12. Linda

    It is funny that people don’t realize that ME is a fictitional character but I think it happens because viewers are so invested in the characters and the story. Actually, there is a lot about MC that is unknown too. Apparently, he is an accomplished musician and singer! It made me laugh to think of ME singing! That would be very funny! All in all, I think Martin Clunes is an amazing actor who does comedy equally well with drama and documentary work. I have not seen one thing he has done in the past 15 years that I was not thoroughly impressed with. Some of his early stuff is a bit corny but as ME would say, “Everyone has to start somewhere.” Additionally, MC is just a really nice guy who is humble in spite of his successes. He seems to appreciate his fans and is grateful for his successes. He seems not to have any desire to get into the Hollywood/New York scene, preferring his country life. Good for him! I think that says a lot about his character.

    I think American and Canadian viewers probably do see a lot more in British TV shows and are much more likely to pick up the subtleties and nuances. North American viewers have a LOT of choice on TV and most of it is pure drivel. Those of us who have more refined taste in what we watch, choose PBS shows and documentaries over silly reality shows that seem to dominate the TV landscape. I imagine TV viewers fall into several categories. It is nice to know that the writers and producers pay attention to blogs, especially this one, because it is by far the most comprehensive.

  13. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Gee, Linda, it’s nice to think that someone from the show might be reading this blog. I’ve always hoped that would be true but cannot say for sure it is. I also want to say that even though I certainly agree there are too many shows on TV that I wouldn’t take the time to watch, I always find myself defending American TV. There are still enough shows that are worth watching AND some of the British TV shows that make it here are not so great either.

    I also have to say that it is fairly common for viewers to forget that the character an actor is playing is not the same as the actor him/her self. Some people dislike an actor simply because of a role, e.g. disliking Winona Ryder for her role in Black Swan or Javier Bardem for his role in No Country For Old Men. It’s hard for many people to separate the actor from the character. That can be a sign that the actor is doing a great job, but it’s an occupational hazard.

    I think MC’s work has been pretty lackluster until DM. He has sung in several other roles, e.g. William and Mary, but I couldn’t tell that his voice was of a high caliber through that role. Mostly what I’ve seen of his musical talents has been when he goofs around with singing and dancing and playing an instrument. I am impressed that so many actors are also good at other forms of performing. Look at Hugh Jackman, or Neil Patrick Harris. I think MC is doing well with his choices now, but I would have liked to have seen him do more with his talents.

  14. Linda

    I am NOT a connisseur of TV, (American or otherwise), for certain. Maybe I am biased about Martin Clunes because I enjoy watching him so much. We see a lot of British shows in Canada and those that I have seen are generally quite good, in my view. I would have to say that because I don’t watch a lot of TV, I may not be the best judge of quality of ANY show. I do know what I like.

    I hope MC stays true to HIS values and roots because getting into big films, Hollywood style, may be lucritive and helpful to those who wish to be big stars, but I don’t think that is him. He is doing alright and he still has a life and some privacy. He seems to value his family and want some normalcy for them – especially Emily. I am impressed with that.

  15. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Obviously what we like is subjective. At least we agree that all of us on this blog like Doc Martin.

    When I say MC could have done more with his talents, I’m not suggesting that he should have become a Hollywood movie star, although he appeared in Shakespeare In Love and probably had more opportunities. I’m merely saying that most of his work has been in light TV shows and he has the chops for more serious and complex stuff. I’m sure he had a lot of fun and did well enough financially. But he didn’t really stretch himself much in terms of dramatic roles. We find him quite talented while watching DM and I think it’s a shame to have never heard much about him before. When we see comedians like Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Bill Murray, John Lithgow, Steve Martin, Chris O’Dowd, Steve Coogan, and Patrick Stewart (as well as others) handling an array of movie and TV roles, it surprises me that Martin Clunes isn’t among those actors.

    Family values may be a factor, but he’s been busy and working quite a bit throughout the years. I see no reason he couldn’t have chosen more substantial roles if they were offered.

  16. Joan

    The car onions was in Series 1 Episode 2 when Louisa was going to see Roger Fenn in the hospital. They were in the corner of the dashboard. Other onions appeared when Doc Martin was dipping his hands into blood in the shed next to his house. The onions were sitting on the table next to the blood. A third time I can remember is when Bert tried to stop Doc Martin in the village to ask about Becky Wieds stomach illness and Doc Martins said he had no time because he had to buy an onion. This seems like a lot of onions put in for no reason.

  17. Santa Traugott

    I think if you check the credits you will find a cameraman named Roger Onions. I think these onions are a shout-out to him — unless that’s a fake name, of course!

  18. Santa Traugott

    I agree, Karen, with your second phrasing. He really hasn’t stretched himself too much. Although there is Goodbye Mr. Chips and A is for Acid. In A is for Acid, he was really playing “against type.” I wasn’t particularly impressed in his two TV movies of the last couple of years.

    Perhaps part of the reason that he hasn’t gotten better parts is that “Men Behaving Badly” still hangs over him.

    Perhaps he has never wanted to take himself too seriously, and stretching himself “for his art” isn’t really where he is.

    I think that his acting in Doc Martin stands out. I wonder if it is down to the creative control he and his wife exercise, that they can make sure the scripts are “right” for his talents, etc. I know that I was blown away by his acting in the S2 episode with his mother…. I still don’t quite understand how he conveyed so much with words and barely moving a muscle of his face. Maybe other directors or other production companies wouldn’t have let his work be so subtle. And I don’t think you see it in other stuff he’s been in.

    I guess I’m just agreeing that his work in DM is his best. Same is true, I think, for Caroline Catz.

  19. Maria

    That does seem like a lot of onions – hard to believe it wasn’t deliberate, but that’s what they said…. 🙂

    It’s a good question – has MC not been offered more substantial parts, has he not pursued them, or both? We don’t know how he sees himself and his abilities or the level of confidence he has in what we know to be substantial talent. In an interview with the NYT about DM, he’s quoted as saying, ““Because we were starting from the ground up, I was wondering what would be a good use of my limited skill set…”. I’m sure this was said with his usual self-deprecating humor, but self-deprecation often contains an element of truth in terms of self-image. He also said somewhere basically that he is an entertainer. People need to be entertained, and that is what he does. “I think people need entertaining and they like being entertained. That’s all I do. I don’t do anything important, I just work in entertainment.” (I don’t know how old this quote is). So – is that all he does because it’s all he thinks he can do? Or because he thinks other people thinks that’s all he can do? Because it really is all he wants to do? Who knows? Also, as you said, Linda, unlike some actors, he has varied other interests, and his life outside TV is equally important to him. I don’t fault him for not seriously pursuing music in addition to acting; I think enjoys music and other artistic pursuits like drawing as casual hobbies.

  20. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I agree about Caroline Catz, although she has been in some demanding roles in other shows. Now she’s in DCI Banks and doing a film (Chiklit). At least she’s mixing it up. But in DM she has been able to demonstrate both her comedic talent as well as her dramatic skills. In S6 she was really tested. Some viewers have wondered if the writers were having trouble being consistent, but whatever happened, they certainly gave her a lot to take on and she handled it amazingly well. I am so impressed with her range.

  21. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I believe S2 was still produced by Portman and written by Dominic Minghella and his sister. I don’t know how much creative control MC or PB had at the time. His ability to marshal his acting skills to handle scenes like that so well is exactly why I wonder what made him stick to such silly vehicles for most of his career. S6 was so focused on being serious that I had to question whether he finally decided he wanted to demonstrate his dramatic competence. Soon he’ll be doing Arthur and George and we’ll see how that goes. I get that he liked having fun when he was younger. Maybe now he’s realizing he could have done more with his career.

    I just watched some of the Emmys and noticed Ricky Gervais, Louis C.K., Bryan Cranston, and so many others who have used their versatility. Simon Pegg has done a variety of roles too. There really is space for both comedy and drama in the repertoire of good actors.

  22. Mary F.

    I remember reading an interview in which Martin Clunes said he liked to work with his hands when he is not acting, especially carpentry. He built some type of bench or trunk for the end of his bed and was very happy with the way it came out. He said something to the effect that working with his hands made him feel he was doing something of real value, even more than the satisfaction of having acted well. His father enjoyed building stone fences when he wasn’t acting, so I suppose it was for a similar reason.
    I think one of the great things about him is that he appears to have so little ego…his fellow actors often say he is a joy to work with, never taking himself too seriously. He has also quipped how he has “13 horses to feed!” when someone asked him about his desire for the show to continue. And yet his acting shows such grace, sensitivity and skill with regard to ME. He is a delight to watch; slipping into a character so unlike himself, as easily as donning a raincoat. Some of this is due, naturally, to he and Philippa working together, but some of it must be genetic and also his life experience. When you look at the whole picture he seems to be quite content that acting only plays second fiddle to his real life interests.

  23. Santa Traugott

    I don’t know who Portman is? Mark Crowdy has been with the series since its inception as exec producer, and I am pretty sure that Martin and Phillipa pitched the show to ITV and their production company (Buffalo Productions, which is basically Martin and Phillipa) has had the same degree of creative control (that is, lots) throughout. Remember, Martin has often said that it was his decision that DM be made “grumpier” in S2. That isn’t to say they have sole input into the creative aspects of the show, but I feel pretty sure that theirs is the “last word” in any disagreement. Here is a handy list of credits: http://www.comedy.co.uk/guide/tv/doc_martin/details/
    On the same site, BTW, there is an interview with Martin C. in which he lays out S6, going into a good deal of detail about the “motivations” for DM’s behavior therein.

  24. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Portman is the original distribution company not the original production company. My mistake. As it says on Wikipedia:”The original deal was to produce two such television films per year for three years, but Sky Pictures folded after the first two episodes were made, so Clunes’s company tried to sell the franchise to ITV. ITV felt the Martin Bamford character should be portrayed as a “townie”, out of his depth and uncomfortable in the country. They also wanted something edgier, so Clunes suggested the doctor be very grumpy and socially inept. The new doctor’s surname was to be Ellingham, an anagram of the last name of the new writer, Dominic Minghella, who was brought in to rework the doctor’s background and create a new cast of supporting characters.”

    This description makes it clear that at first they had to get things approved by iTV and that Minghella was asked to establish the personality of Martin Ellingham as well as the ensemble. I have no reason to disagree with you that MC and PB had a lot of influence once the series got off to a good start. I think, however, that every production is a result of many ideas coming together by way of directors, writers, etc. Just watching the Emmys, or any awards show, makes us aware that no actor or writer or director believes they could do any show without a lot of other people there to help. My understanding is that actors often become quite concerned with their characters and how they should be portrayed, and their feelings are important to the process. Naturally, the character has now become someone with whom they are intimately connected and their reputation is on the line. I’ve even heard that some actors can be very difficult to work with and refuse to do certain scenes the way they’ve been written. I’ve heard this about Kiefer Sutherland, for example.

    I enjoyed reading the interview with MC, particularly because of the comments he makes about the end of S6. All those viewers who think Martin and Louisa may not stay together should read this interview. Obviously MC knows the plan is for them to reconcile again. Thanks for the reference.

  25. Santa Traugott

    “I think, however, that every production is a result of many ideas coming together by way of directors, writers, etc.” Certainly, we are in agreement here — any good production is a collaborative effort. It has to be — otherwise in danger of becoming just an ego trip for key players. But I am not sure this series resembles the way many American series are produced. But someone makes final decisions — and most major decisions, with plenty of collaboration — and that has to be BP, because it’s their livelihood, really.

    And I would underline another good point that you made — my guess is that Martin Clunes doesn’t do anything he really doesn’t want to do, great ideas by writers/diiretors, or not. By now, his meld with the character must be almost organic, as long-term writers of the series must write for him, anticipating his reactions. From the few comments he and Phillipa have made, his relations with the writers are sometimes rather “fraught.”

    Yes, I thought his review of why DM broke down in S6 was very sensible, and persuasive. Of course, it fits well with what many of us have come to believe in the first place!

  26. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Today for some reason (maybe because I was letting my mind wander) I remembered that I have read something about how sleep contributes to creativity. I went online to search for any discussions of this connection and found several good ones. Here’s one that might be of interest. It’s also nice that it combines a British essayist with American research.

    Hope that’s along the lines of what you’ve been looking for.

  27. Linda

    I totally agree! I think he just knows what he wants and is not vain enough to think that bigger projects are necessarily better for his career. No doubt if he did take on a big role in a movie, he would do well. But, I am betting he likes his life just the way it is. We may never see him at Cannes, TFF, or Sundance, but we know we’ll see a lot of crappy, full of themselves actors there so we won’t miss Martin Clunes.

  28. Maria

    Well said, Linda! I totally agree – I think MC is living exactly the life he wants.

    As far as the onion references go, according to PB, there is nothing to “get” :). She said in that podcast that about 20% of things viewers read meaning into were not intentional on the writers’/producers’ part, and specifically mentioned the onions as an example (maybe the original commentary on them was on this very blog!). Joan kindly remembered and recounted the various instances above. They do seem a bit too numerous to be coincidental, but …. who knows…

  29. Maria

    [gaaah, I first put this post in the totally wrong place, where it is a complete non sequitur 🙁 ]

    Well said, Linda! I totally agree – I think MC is living exactly the life he wants.

    As far as the onion references go, according to PB, there is nothing to “get” :). She said in that podcast that about 20% of things viewers read meaning into were not intentional on the writers’/producers’ part, and specifically mentioned the onions as an example (maybe the original commentary on them was on this very blog!). Joan kindly remembered and recounted the various instances above. They do seem a bit too numerous to be coincidental, but …. who knows…

  30. Linda

    Is it me? I just can’t think about anything but onions! I can taste and smell them. Oh, just realized my “virtual son-in’law” is cooking his breakfast – including onions!

  31. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Joan, I imagine you’ll see my post on Buddhism and I didn’t want you to think I hadn’t given your comments some thought. From what I’ve read, Zen Buddhism is different from other forms and I chose to stick to the basics. Your thoughts on the name Alone and the connection to its etymology are very interesting, and I agree that most of the characters in DM spend a lot of time alone. Much of life involves being alone and Buddhism certainly expects followers to find their own path. Also, once two people fall in love, they are not alone but can still be lonely. I think this idea is of importance in many ways.

  32. Amy

    Loved this post. I’ve never focused on the music though I’d know the theme music anywhere. Is that the tango music? Or is it the love theme? Obviously I don’t know the tango. Now I an focus on how they use music my next time through. 😊

  33. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    The theme song for Doc Martin uses the beat and tempo of a Tango. I’m glad you liked this post because it’s one of my favorites, if I’m allowed to say that! I think most of us forget about the music that accompanies most shows unless it’s really pronounced, but it makes more of a difference than we may realize.

  34. Amy

    So this is why I can keep watching the show—here’s a whole new layer to study: how they use the music. Each time I watch, I see (and hear) new layers of those onions.

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