Some Monday Love: “Doc Martin Theme,” Brit TV and “Doc Martin,” and Being Multiregion
Towns is 63, and began his career as a composer and songwriter when he was a 13-year-old pianist playing at weddings and birthday parties in London’s East End. Eventually, he became a session musician in the business. During his tenure as a keyboardist in the jazz-rock Ian Gillan Band, and its successor, Gillan, in the Seventies and early Eighties, Towns was drawn to composing. By the time Ian Gillan decided to become lead singer of Black Sabbath, Towns had launched his own separate career. He has expanded this interest into producing soundtracks for films, commercials and for television series. He is not as well-known here in the States, but he is on demand in Britain and in other parts of Europe. He has scored for Doc Martin, Brother Cadfael, and Cold Blood. His film soundtracks have included Albert Schweitzer, Double Zero, Mon Ange and Essex Boys. He has released several jazz albums under his own label, Provcateur. Last fall, Towns was performing with his band, Mask Orchestra, at the famed Ronnie Scott’s Club.
This is Towns’ website. He is the focus of an unofficial, more newsy website here, as well as the obligatory, but tiny, Facebook page. Towns was said to have been especially chosen by Martin Clunes to score the series.
Well, y’all already know my predilection for Brit TV. I love some of their history and period costume dramas and mysteries and comedies, especially that new Masterpiece Theatre costume soap, Downton Abbey. Yeah, Brit TV can be rather white bread and what they call upmarket. I have some issues with them on the white bread, particularly with the controversy last March involving Midsomer Murders, and one of its creators, Brian True-May. Now I kinda like Midsomer Murders too, but in an interview, True-May said that blacks and other people of color didn’t belong in the mystery drama because presenting them would affect the smooth homogeneity of the show. Here’s the money quote: “It wouldn’t be an English village with them…we’re the last bastion of Englishness and I want to keep it that way.”Vodpod videos no longer available.
Um, so if you highlight some people of color living the countryside in the show, with their own set of eccentric country habits and manners that they have adopted or created their own like the whites, it wouldn’t be “English” anymore? From what I understand, being English in the country is more a state of mind and an inclination, than a color.
It doesn’t mean that you have to show a whole lot of blacks or Asians chock-a-block living in the countryside. Just enough to make it believable that they are there, too. And they are. They’re not rich, just probably middle- to lower-middle class. Maybe they farm, too. And fish. And hunt. And bird. Perhaps they are retired and on fixed incomes. And they’ve been given space in a pub that will accept them. But a few reasonable depictions looked like a horde to True-May, as if the whole
neighborhood show would go down with it.
This guy is scared to death, but he’s not alone in his fear.
In the ensuing uproar, True-May was suspended by his production company, and later stepped down.
Then, on the heels of that admission, in June, some black British actors declared that they were going to try for work in Hollywood because they certainly weren’t getting any respect in their own country. The British broadcasters that help develop series and films on TV said rubbish to that view, according to Shadow and Act.
It’s always greener on the other side of the fence. And things are not as they appear. Inclusiveness is a problem even in Hollywood. African American actors could probably school their British counterparts that it’s hard all over. However, there is that number about someone with a British accent making people fall all over them.
But damn, these Brits—-of color or not—-can still act their asses off. They still know how to do it, by whatever method or training. They scare American actors into giving some of their best performances. And the actors of color admit that to appear on certain TV shows is the height of professionalism and achievement. To be thus showcased is to be recognized by the nation. British documentaries can be so historically accurate that I really do believe American Experience and Independent Lens had to be created (and Ken Burns pumped up) to keep up with them.
Now, actor, comedian, and director Martin Clunes seems to be on a roll here on Wisconsin Public Television and Milwaukee Public Television. Since Doc Martin‘s fourth series ended, viewers have been treated to Clunes’ earlier work in William and Mary. This is a fantastic series starring Clunes as an English widower, father of two daughters, and an undertaker who pursues a Scottish single mom of two biracial sons and a midwife, played by Julie Graham. They meet on an online dating service and fall in love by baby steps and by leaps and bounds. It’s almost effortless. And believable. Clunes made this series back to back with Doc Martin, and the juxtaposition between the driven undertaker and the straight-laced doctor can’t be more stark.
Now, Doc Martin, Series 4 is being rerun here around 8 p.m., in anticipation of the first run of Series 5 to come in March. Almost immediately thereafter, starting next Saturday, January 21, Clunes’ remake of Reggie Perrin, a series about a middle-class paper pusher who has everything—-and knows he has nothing–will be broadcast at 9:50 p.m. (Sorry, I am not so enamored of Hustle, which stars one of the few black Brit actors working, Adrian Lester, as well as Robert Vaughn of The Man from U.N.C.L.E fame. Maybe later.)
My mom, I have found, also follows Doc Martin from the Atlanta, GA area. We’ve pretty much agreed that Clunes isn’t all that good looking, with his big ears, hint of man boobs, bags under his eyes, and large lips, but it is what he realizes with his characters that make him endearing, attractive, and funny as hell. Yes, and I do think that he’s a lot better looking with longer hair, and not looking so tense. Plus, Clunes is a dog lover like my mom, so he gets even more slack.
Clunes is a cousin to the late Jeremy Brett of Sherlock Holmes fame through his mother, Daphne. Brett tutored and encouraged Clunes in his early years. His father, Alec Clunes, was a classical actor who died of lung cancer when his son was eight years old.
I have Series 1-3 of Doc Martin, plus the Christmas show. I have the British version, because I’ve learned how to reprogram certain “American” DVD players to play British DVDs, which are Region 2. We—-Americans—-are Region 1, and supposedly never the twain shall meet—meaning you can’t play their DVDs on our players. Unless, you learn how to reprogram your unit to become multiregion, or buy a multiregion DVD player outright.
Why do I do this? I like being ambidextrous. Sometimes, on eBay in the UK, the recordings are cheaper, and lightly used cheaper still, once you negotiate changing pounds to dollars and compare prices. Many times, you hear about something or see something on The Discovery Channel or NatGeo that you cannot find yet on the American market. They are essentially the same, but occasionally there is something different offered other than the packaging. Nine times out of ten, you can find the DVD either on eBay or eBay.co.uk or at online stores that feature British titles, or at the BBC or Channel 4 or ITV online stores.
Plus, once the copyright ends on a film, other companies in other nations can pick it up and manufacture it. It is not necessarily out-of-print, just not under an American label. This happened with Captain Lightfoot, a frothy Rock Hudson vehicle with Barbara Rush set in Ireland, and based on the life of an Irish activist who later died an exile in the United States. Last I saw, a Spanish, and then an Australian company was selling the film on eBay. I have Captain Lightfoot, and while it is from an Australian company, I can play it on my converted DVD unit. Their packaging wasn’t as off-putting as the Spanish language or subtitled offering, either.