Procrastinate Better

Despite His Ugly Mug, “Doc Martin” Is Irresistible

From time to time, a Slate staffer or critic offers up a favorite cultural pick for Procrastinate Better readers. Today’s endorsement is from Slate foreign editor June Thomas.

Why are so many British actors ugly? No, that isn’t fair, there are some gorgeous luvvies on the other side of the Atlantic. But doesn’t it sometimes seem that the main difference between British television and its U.S. counterpart is the relative pulchritude of the participants? On the international scale of hotness, American actors are rarely less than an 8, whereas at least half the actors in British TV shows oscillate between 4 and 7.

Martin Clunes is a 2; and there’s hardly anyone in Doc Martin , the TV show in which he plays the eponymous character, who rates more than a 3. (Caroline Katz, who plays Louisa, the doctor’s on-again, off-again love interest is a notable exception.) Not only is he ghastly to look at; Clunes’ Dr. Martin Ellingham is also a miserable, uptight git with no social skills whatsoever. Over the course of four seasons, he has never so much as loosened his tie, much less cracked a smile.

Ellingham was a top surgeon in London when he developed a crippling fear of blood; since he could no longer operate, he retreated to a tiny Cornish village and became the GP. In other words, your basic fish-out-of-water, gifted-doctor medical drama. Despite the unpromising setup, Doc Martin is sweet, stirring, and completely addictive. Perhaps it’s the gorgeous scenery, perhaps it’s the magnificent acting, or could it be the ugly mugs that make it so irresistible?

The four seasons of Doc Martin are available on DVD or for streaming via Netflix.