You can get your escapism in two flavours on Monday evening now – garlic and bouquet garni in Little England, which looks at the Brits in the Dordogne and Cornish crab in Doc Martin, where the setting provides the Cornish element and Martin Clunes delivers the crabbiness. Both of them feed the dream of getting away from it all, unless, I suppose, you happen to live in the Dordogne or a small Cornish fishing village.
In that case, though, you won't be watching television anyway, but enriching your life through some form of picaresque comedy, or making a living supplying expats with the little treats they've discovered they didn't want to get away from after all. In Little England, Dave and Helen from Sheffield had found a tidy little niche trundling their mobile chippy round the local villages, feeding cabillaud frites to nostalgic Brits and broadminded French men. And Ray, a Somerset butcher, had fulfilled his life-long dream of becoming a farmer by buying a 70-acre spread in France profonde, where your money will spread considerably further. Ray was also profiting from the fact that the tastebuds are often the last part of an expat to sever all ties to home by supplying British-style bacon and sausages. He was a very contented man but I'm glad to say that he wasn't going to let complacency ruin his idyll: "You're only as good as your last sausage," he said warily. He was also branching out into pies, an enterprise that had marginally expanded his limited French. His wife was teaching him to say, "Qui a mangé toutes les tartes?"
Happiness isn't the central attraction of Doc Martin, which has a hero so socially dysfunctional that you can't help but think about the autism spectrum. In fact, if you came to the drama unprepared you would surely be mystified as to why Louisa, who has just had Doc Martin's baby, isn't breathing a sigh of relief at his intention to leave the village for a better job in London. He's not even nice to her when they're in private, when it couldn't possibly ruin his reputation for characterful curmudgeonliness. With the villagers, it's a bit clearer why they wouldn't want him to go, because unlike his new replacement he didn't actually put them in danger by his incompetence. But then as soon as you clock the alliteration cloud hovering over the new doctor (she's called Diana Dibbs and appears to be diabetic, depressive and dermatologically challenged), it's pretty clear that she isn't going to last more than an episode or two, before Doc Martin reluctantly accepts his destiny. And – as escapism goes – it's almost bearable, the sweetness of the essential fantasy about village life cut by the lead character's tart refusal to obey the social niceties. In this episode, Louisa found the exact state of her post-natal perineum being discussed in a crowded grocery and the teaser suggests that next week Doc Martin will take advantage of the eulogy at his aunt's funeral to deliver a testy lecture about the villagers' poor diets. We haven't yet got to have a really good look at the baby, incidentally, but I can provisionally report that it appears to have been spared his father's ears.
According to Fiona Bruce, Buckingham Palace is "the building that visitors most want to see when they come to Britain". Pity that it's also one of the dullest, really, certainly in architectural terms but also – if The Queen's Palaces was any guide – in terms of its history, which began with Henry VIII draining the land to use it as a hunting estate and ended, roughly speaking, with the first royal appearance on the balcony, when Queen Victoria reviewed the troops leaving for the Crimea. Ardent royalists may be a little disappointed by the fact that the current Queen makes no appearance at all, leaving the task of guiding Fiona Bruce around the house to the army of experts and housekeepers who look after the bling. But then again, Bruce is quite regal enough in her manner to satisfy anyone's need for condescending majesty, drifting across the screen like the reigning princess of middlebrow television. If you're in the market for her gazing in wonder at bits of chinoiserie or showing you every face on George III's astronomical clock then you'll be in heaven, because they certainly don't rush you. I perked up momentarily when it was explained that George IV needed 30 servants just to keep the candles lit during his banquets – a literally illuminating historical detail – but other than that it was tough going. No wonder Edward VII called it "the sepulchre".Reuse content