'Doc Martin' returns for 5th season on WQED


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Public TV favorite "Doc Martin" returns at 9 p.m. Saturday for its fifth season on WQED-TV. It's a rare, scripted drama success story for public TV stations outside of PBS's "Masterpiece." "Doc Martin" is sold to stations individually and is not a PBS program.

A British import, "Doc Martin" follows Dr. Martin Ellingham (Martin Clunes), a tactless doctor in the small British village of Portwenn. He's surrounded by colorful characters, including the father-son duo of Bert (Ian McNeice, Syfy's "Dune") and Al Large (Joe Absolom, "Hatfields & McCoys").

Mr. McNeice described "Doc Martin" as having a slow build in England, where the series first aired in 2004, but has taken off more quickly in America where episodes debuted in 2007. (WQED picked up "Doc Martin" in 2012.) Now he says "Doc Martin" is the No. 3 show for British commercial network ITV behind the British "X Factor" and "Downton Abbey."

"Just being in an airport or hotel, people come up to me and Joe and say how much they enjoy the show, so it really has hit a nerve," he said. "It's a wonderful thing to behold."

He thinks "Doc Martin" connects with American viewers because it has some similarities to the 1990s-era American hit "Northern Exposure."

"The quirkiness about a doctor in a wild and out-of-the-way place, coping with all these extraordinary people has a similarity with this show," he said.

"Doc Martin" films its episodes in Cornwall's Port Isaac.

"We are completely surrounded by 200 to 400 people a day who come to see where it's made and sit down and watch us work," Mr. McNeice said. "They can't believe we're there and they are thrilled.

"There's a man who takes people around on tours, and I've said to him, why don't we end it with me and I'll sign a few photos and make some money. I think we'll start with that."

WQED is expected to air season six of "Doc Martin" beginning Feb. 22, but viewers who want to see it sooner can find it on DVD from Acorn ($29.99, acornonline.com) and the entire series is available for streaming at www.Acorn.TV, which has a 30-day free trial.

After season six, the show's future is up in the air. Initially British news reports suggested "Doc Martin" would wrap up with its sixth season but that seems less likely now.

"When we read the script, it tied everything up," Mr. Absolom said. "But they took out chunks of what we filmed and rearranged it and left it extremely open and extremely unended."

That change to the sixth season finale coupled with the show's popularity leads Mr. Absolom to anticipate more "Doc Martin."

"I think it's more than likely they'll continue because it's been very popular and they like things that are popular because we've got to sell soap in the middle of it," he said. "If it can sell soap and washing powder and soft drinks, they'll make more of them. It's a numbers game essentially. The upshot is people are starting to watch all around the world."

'Hawaii Five-0'

CBS's "Hawaii Five-0" (9 tonight, KDKA-TV) airs an episode that begins with a flashback to the Dec. 7, 1941, bombing of Pearl Harbor and continues with the investigation of a crime committed in an Oahu internment camp during World War II.

'Whales Wars' back

Animal Planet's "Whale Wars" returns tonight at 9 with a two-hour special, "Whale Wars: A Commander Rises," about the Sea Shepherd's 2012 mission that includes the removal of Capt. Paul Watson as leader of the Sea Shepherds that seek to protect the ocean's animals.

Bio out, FYI in

This week A&E Networks announced it will dump its Bio channel and replace it next summer with FYI (standing for "for your inspiration"), which is described as "a contemporary lifestyle network reflecting how people actually live their lives today." Translation: This new lifestyle network will target younger, more affluent viewers.

Cancellations/reductions

AMC has canceled crime drama "Low Winter Sun" after a single season.

Showtime announced the upcoming seventh season of "Californication," debuting in April, will be the show's last.

ABC cut the order for "Scandal" this season from 22 to 18 episodes, presumably due to star Kerry Washington's pregnancy (the show is one of ABC's few ratings winners).

Fox has reduced its episode order for the critically abhorred "Dads" to 19 from 22.

Channel surfing

BBC America will air the "Doctor Who" Christmas special, "The Time of the Doctor," at 9 p.m. Christmas Day. ... AMC will air a full-series "Breaking Bad" marathon beginning at noon Dec. 27-30. A "Walking Dead" marathon airs beginning at 9 a.m. Dec. 31. ... The movie based on UPN's "Veronica Mars" will be released March 14. ... A new "Terminator" TV series is in development. ... NBC's "Sound of Music Live" was a big hit, giving the network its most-watched Thursday (excluding sports) since 2004. A rebroadcast will air at 8 p.m. Saturday. ... Comedy Central has renewed "Tosh.0" for three additional seasons through 2016. ... Showtime's "Episodes" returns for its third season on Jan. 12 and a fourth season was ordered this week. ... VH1 will air reruns of canceled cult comedy "Happy Endings" in a weekly, two-hour block starting Jan. 8 (a marathon of episodes airs at 8 p.m. Dec. 21). ... Verizon's FiOS TV has added 16 new channels to its mobile app, including Showtime, Starz, TVGN and Bloomberg Television. ... On Tuesday Comcast added ReelzChannel to Mt. Lebanon and other former Adelphia systems as Channel 240.

Tuned In online

Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about "Sound of Music Live," "Low Winter Sun" and a WPXI anchor. This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on "The Sing-Off," "Anchorman 2," "The Millers" and "Psych." Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.

This week's podcast includes conversation about "Mob City" and "Sound of Music Live!"

Subscribe or listen at http://old.post-gazette.com/podcast.


TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news.

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