On the evening of January 10th at The London West Hollywood Hotel, KCET and PBS SoCal (along with Link TV) teamed up to preview another round of two of their most popular British TV series: PBS SoCal’s “Victoria,” a Masterpiece drama, which premiered its third season on January 13th at 9 pm; and KCET’s “Doc Martin,” which will take its penultimate bow with its eighth and second-to-last season beginning on January 24th at 8 pm. Both shows will have eight episodes each.
Since October 1st 2018, following an eight-year separation period, the KCETLink Media Group and PBS SoCal have again been merged under one umbrella, appropriately called the Public Media Group of Southern California, to bring the best in non-profit community and educational programming. Helmed by President and CEO, Andrew Russell, who is flanked by 32 board-of-trustee members, the Public Media Group of Southern California is primed and ready to not only fulfill, but exceed, programming expectations.
The occasion at The London felt celebratory and exciting for attendees who couldn’t be happier to be part of Southern California’s new entertainment empire. Clips highlighting the new season of Daisy Goodwin’s “Victoria” were played, and needless to say, Jenna Coleman’s emerging-adult Queen Victoria is as engaging as ever, as is the disarmingly stoic Prince Albert, played by Tom Hughes. Without question, royal quagmires, love-struck political quarrels, and other elements of intrigue will be ever-present throughout the third season.
While “Victoria” was given ample recognition and respect at the event, the night, however, belonged to Ian McNeice, a starring and recurring performer of “Doc Martin,” who confirmed rumors that the ninth season is to be the last of a show that has organically appealed to its fanbase since being on the air every other year starting in 2004.
McNeice has charismatically depicted the role of local businessman, Bert Large, in the dramedy created by Dominic Minghella. The narrative focuses on the main character, the socially awkward but personable Dr. Martin Ellingham (played to perfection by Martin Clunes), who peculiarly leaves his posh London practice as a surgeon to take residence again in his childhood hometown — the demure seaport village of Portwenn (Port Isaac). As a doctor who has his own unorthodox approach to healthcare, and, not to mention, is enamored with local school headmistress Louisa Glasson (Caroline Catz), we are apt to see more delightfully uncomfortable and uproarious situations in which the doctor, Large, and others might find themselves in season eight.
Nattily dressed and with microphone in tow, McNeice, who is also a veteran performer in film and on stage, endearingly recounted how proud he has been for not only working on location in Port Isaac, and alongside cast members who have brought the best out of him, but how his fulfilling “Doc Martin” role first came to be.
“When I really want a part, I’ll memorize all my lines and be ready to go. But in this case, I winged it,” McNeice laughed. “If I had known it was a series, I would’ve been [more prepared], but I miraculously got the job and the rest, as they say, is history.”
McNeice reflected on a few other memories that he undoubtedly cherishes, including one that saw he and his fictional son Al Large, played by Joe Absolom, rehearse their lines in the morning at one of the restaurants used in the show.
“I then see a mom, dad, and their three children,” McNeice recalled with a grin. They then look up at us and ask to book a reservation at 7:30 pm that night; I obliged them.”
Yet, all journeys, no matter how promising and enthralling, must come to their triumphant end. McNeice shared that, ultimately, Clunes and others would like to go out on a high note as well as explore other adventures. However, their legacy as a TV family, which is bound by a real tightknit kinship, is not one that will soon be forgotten.
As McNeice eloquently put it: “We’re a family that’s been getting back together again [for all these seasons] with the same crew and the same cast. We’ve really become great friends with each other and with the locals in the village.”
Certainly, nobody could ever take that away from McNeice and his co-stars of “Doc Martin,” who aim to go out on top in seasons eight and nine.