May DVD Releases: Judi Dench and Doc Martin
British TV’s best loved non-Gallifreyan doctor is back in a bumper sized boxset from Acorn Media. Doc Martin: Special Collection – Series 1 – 5 + The Movies includes the entire saga so far. It is the ideal gift for Doc Martin fans who have grown frustrated at the show’s infrequent airings on select PBS stations.
Doc Martin began life as a bit part character in the film Saving Grace. At the time, his last name was Bamford and he kept the same name for two spin-off BSkyB produced made for TV movies. Bamford was a younger, slimmer, happier, more relaxed version of the Doc Martin most of us are now familiar with. The character alterations occurred when BSkyB’s drama unit went the way of the Dodo and ITV chiefs decided to develop their own version of the show. It was decided that the Doc should be cantankerous rather than chatty and aloof rather than friendly. Clearly, the folks at ITV knew what they were doing as their version of Doc Martin has gone onto to become a worldwide sensation. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that the original TV movies were below par. Far from it, they are hilarious. The first involves a sinister jelly maker while the other revolves around the beast of Bodmin and some real estate shenanigans. It is very British with lots of small town eccentrics and a picturesque setting. Clunes isn’t as outrageously funny as he is in Men Behaving Badly but he is entirely different from the stuffy character we’ve grown to love in the regular series.
It is interesting to compare and contrast the before and after Doc Martin characters but it is equally fun to just sit back and enjoy the five season ITV show as a fantastic piece of television in its own right. I am a huge fan of Stephanie Cole who plays Martin’s saintly aunt while Cole’s Tenko costar Louise Jameson is a great addition to the fifth season of the show and her wacky character is about as far removed from the uptight Doc as you can get.
As you might expect, the title character’s awkward personal relationships are at the heart of most of the drama. He ruffles everyone’s feathers at one time or another but no one has a more tempestuous relationship with the Doc than his on-again off-again love interest Louisa (Caroline Katz). You need to watch the series in its entirety to get your head around their baffling romance.
Doc Martin: Special Collection – Series 1 – 5 + The Movies hits stores Stateside on 7 May. The 33 hours of wittily written action costs $124.99. Bonus features include an hour-long behind the scenes segment and cast biographies. Dollar for dollar it is a great price. (Continued below)
A FINE ROMANCE: COMPLETE COLLECTION
A Fine Romance was a BAFTA winning LWT sitcom that aired on PBS during the early 80s. It stars Dame Judi Dench (James Bond) alongside her real life husband Michael Williams (Educating Rita). Dench plays Laura – a studious middle-aged woman who is reluctantly thrust into an awkward relationship with a landscape gardener. The matchmaker is Laura’s younger and rather more self-assured sister Helen (Susan Penhaligon). Like any good British sitcom, it features ordinary people who are placed in strange and sometimes silly situations. Dench and Williams both cut their teeth in the Royal Shakespeare Company and they both have an uncanny stage presence that translates well to TV. It is all too easy for straight actors to get carried away with comedy scenes (e.g. Tom Baker) but Dench and Williams are straighter than a Roman road despite all the hilarious mishaps that are happening around them.
Dench went on to make some pretty good shows with Geoffrey Palmer and A Fine Romance is similar in style to As Time Goes By. However, you can’t help but feel that the producers of that show decided to build on the kind of character that Dench created in this relationship based sitcom. While Palmer had a pretty good onscreen chemistry with Dench, her rapport with Williams was backed by a 30 year long marriage so despite Palmer’s best efforts he is no match for Williams as a TV love interest.
A Fine Romance: Complete Collection hits stores on 7 May. The boxset contains all 26 episodes of the much loved show. The total running time is 660 minutes and the cost is $59.99. It is better than Waiting for God and equally as good as other classics such as Keeping Up Appearances and French Fields. All in all it is a very good DVD set. (Continued below)
BROADWAY MUSICALS: A JEWISH LEGACY
And now for something completely different. It’s not British and it’s neither a drama nor a comedy but it is a pretty interesting DVD release. Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy is being released on DVD on 7 May by Acorn Media’s educational arm – Athena. The actual documentary is just over 80 minutes long but the 2 disc boxset includes no less than three hours of bonus features. As the title implies, the documentary is an exploration of the role various Jewish artistes had on the modern musical. Some of the show’s subjects are well known such as Irving Berlin and Leonard Bernstein while others such as Lorenz Hart aren’t well remembered beyond the boundaries of Broadway. We learn about the influences that drove these creative geniuses and we get to see numerous segments of their handiwork being brought to life by everyone from Dick Van Dyke to Kristin Chenoweth. The set costs $39.99 and it is bound to be a big hit with the Glee crowd.