The Daily Telegraph
We’ll miss grumpy Doc Martin when he’s gone
TV thrillers are all well and good, but sometimes you need a break from jeopardy and intrigue and Aidan Turner’s beard. I realised this as the opening titles of Doc Martin (ITV) induced a feeling of deep contentment.
It is comforting, gently funny and always entertaining. How could you not enjoy a show in which an incredibly grumpy doctor with no bedside manner deals with minor domestic crises and medical emergencies, while trying to avoid the eccentric locals in his idyllic Cornish village? Even the Wikipedia episode synopses are a treat: “Louisa’s relationship with Martin takes a turn and she leaves with the baby. However, Martin makes it up to her by operating on her mother when she gets an umbilical hernia.”
This is the last series, I’m afraid. The show has been on our screens for 18 years. Martin Clunes explained recently that the well of ideas was running dry: “You’ve got a main protagonist who doesn’t like anybody and nobody likes him, and then go from there.” But they still came up with a decent one for this first episode, which began with the doc legally unable to do his job because he no longer had a licence to practise.
He resigned at the end of the last series and was now adjusting to life without a job. This consisted of holding his baby son as if he had never encountered a baby in his life, fixing clocks and rearranging the cutlery drawer. Naturally, he did these things while still wearing his suit and tie.
Guest star of the week was Fay Ripley as a single mother whose exhaustion Martin instantly diagnosed as something called myasthenia gravis. She refused to be treated by him, declaring that she had already been tested for food allergies. “She doesn’t need to see a naturopath or a wizard!” Martin spluttered.
It all culminated in a car chase and Ripley’s vehicle teetering over the edge of a cliff, Italian Job-style. Martin ventured onto the back seat to administer treatment. When watching this show, just embrace the silliness.
By the end of the episode he had successfully asked for his licence back (there was a welcome appearance here by Rupert Vansittart, the character actor who delivered one of comedy’s great cameos as a boorish guest in Four Weddings and a Funeral). “Tell ’em it was a learning experience. Completely meaningless but works every time,” advised PC Penhale, thereby demonstrating that the show may have been with us for two decades, but its scriptwriters keep a keen eye on the absurdities of modern life.
Mike Tyson has complained that Mike, an eight-part biopic on Disney+, is unauthorised. “They stole my life story and didn’t pay me,” he said. Tyson may have a legitimate grievance about the money side of things. But when it comes to the content, he needn’t worry. This is half-way to hagiography, a sympathetic take portraying Iron Mike as a lost little boy who just wants to be loved.
It is efficiently made and superficially entertaining, as the drama whips along in half-hour bites. Episode one deals with his troubled childhood, while subsequent ones outline his relationship with trainer Cus D’amato (a solid Harvey Keitel), marriage to Robin Givens, management by Don King, and so on. Fans hoping to see some decent boxing scenes will be disappointed: they last only seconds.
Zaiden James and BJ Minor do good work as the young and teenage Tyson respectively but the series belongs to Trevante Rhodes as the boxer in his prime, followed by his fall. Rhodes has no great physical resemblance to the star but brings a prowling muscularity to the role and has mastered Tyson’s lisping diction.
Undoubtedly, Tyson had it tough. He endured a miserable childhood, lost his mother, and was heartbroken by the death of D’amato. Managers exploited him (Russell Hornsby captures only a fraction of King’s monstrousness).
But does all of that excuse his behaviour? And why do we see so little of it on screen? Show creator Steven Rogers (who also wrote the excellent I, Tonya) backs himself into a corner by using Tyson’s one-man stage show as a framing device. It means that Tyson narrates every scene, and of course depicts himself as the tragic hero.
This is finally turned on its head in episode five, which deals with his rape trial. It is told entirely from the point of view of the victim, Desiree Washington (Li Eubanks). We do not see the rape, but hear her crying: “Leave me alone,” while Tyson repeatedly tells her: “Don’t fight me.” After Washington’s graphic court testimony, Tyson looks us in the eye and smirks: “You don’t love me no more?” It is a challenge to the audience, but one that should have come sooner.
Doc Martin ★★★★ Mike ★★★