The Heart Guy (Doctor Doctor) s4 ep 3; s4 ep 4


The mother-who-turns-up is a common plot device, and it’s a long way from being my favourite one. Fair’s fair, though: The Heart Guy, in producing Harriet’s mother Dinah, at least gives it a bit of a twist. Obviously she’s a pest, although there’s a game-recognise-game moment when it looks as if she and Meryl might bond. Only a moment, though: Meryl will in due course try to chase her away.

Although Dinah is, ostensibly, in town to see her granddaughter – I suspect an international child abduction is coming in an episode or two, but who can say? – it also means that she’s there for the local election, in which Meryl is trying to win a council seat in order that she can push through her plans to assist the cemetery. It being Meryl, she’s hardly going to be content with a modest, understated, may-the-best-person win sort of campaign. Her main opponent is the widower of the previous incumbent, and in order to split the anti-Meryl vote she prevails on Ajax to run as well, while Hayley remains her campaign head. But when Ajax overhears Meryl referring to him as a “dummy candidate” he realises that he’s being treated as a means to an end, and suddenly turns into a plain-speaking populist running against the elites. “Make Whyhope great again!” he bellows at a hustings. The Tim Tam Trump, if you will. Betty, still smarting from the way in which Meryl removed Darren from her life, allies herself with Ajax. (Belinda Bromilow is, incidentally, really good in these episodes: quite often she’s required to play slightly broad, so her performance – almost catatonic with grief to start with, shifting to quietly vengeful – is quite something.)

Inevitably, by the end of episode 4 Meryl will have triumphed, although you do wonder whether something has been awakened in farmboy Ajax. But there’s a lot of emotional business to be transacted before that. Matt sacks the young chef that Charlie slept with, meaning that the two of them need to work together to cater to the hustings. Then Charlie insists that she has writers’ block, and can only write at the desk in the house she used to share with Matt, where of course April now resides. Of course she has, and of course she must. This means that Charlie has to wait until April has left for the day, then sneak in. It obviously won’t end well, and doesn’t. Thing is, Charlie’s still very visibly in love with Matt, and April – although undoubtedly cute – is… kinda annoying? So, Matt, what gives? “You broke my heart”, he regretfully explains to Charlie; which, in my book, is good enough.

But what of the ship we’re all here for? Well, Hugh is doing a reasonably good job of feigning indifference to the ongoing Penny/Jarrod liaison. In fact, he even provides medical services to Jarrod twice in one episode: first when Jarrod requests a fertility test to ensure that his boys can still do the necessary; then, still in the same department, when Jarrod sustains a trauma to Beavis and Butthead. But none of this shifts the needle; he even sleeps with Tara after she has a panic attack during a complicated childbirth.

Then, though, Penny and Jarrod agree to speed up their wedding. And suddenly Ken and Betty – both also shipping Henny, as far as I can see – put Hugh on the spot. What, Hugh, are you going to do? Well, first of all he kisses Penny. WHO TOTALLY KISSES HIM BACK. Then he decides that he needs to make a declaration, so he rushes round to Penny’s house to tell her not to marry Jarrod. But… it’s too late! Penny and Jarrod got married in secret. Oh dear. The upshot of all of this, of course, is that only Jarrod and April are satisfied, more or less, with the current state of play: Hugh, Matt, Penny, and Charlie all, one way or another, have some thinking to do. I still want that to involve a Hugh/Charlie hookup, incidentally, and I don’t know that I’ll be truly happy until that eventuates. That apart, though, two entirely satisfactory episodes.

The Heart Guy (Doctor Doctor) s4 ep 1; s4 ep 2


I’m still not quite sure of the basis on which episodes 1 and 2 of The Heart Guy (Doctor Doctor) were shown in the UK before Australia. But why should I care? Particularly as the first episode – grading, admittedly, on a Heart Guy curve – was actually, properly good: a lesson in what you can do with an established cast, a couple of new characters, plenty of plot, and a little imagination.

The action in ‘Hugh Am I?’ has jumped forward a year or so, to Hugh’s daughter Eliza’s first birthday, and fortunately Hugh’s stupid ex-wife appears to be very much out of the picture. The newbies are mine manager Jarrod (Dustin Clare), who is also Penny’s boyfriend – my Hugh/Penny ship is still on the rocks – and doctor Tara (Kate Jenkinson), who is on probation for, it seems, roughly the same reasons as Hugh was: drink, drugs, general fun. And Charlie – no longer in a state of up-the-duff radiance – is back; she and Matt aren’t actually divorced yet, but he’s very much with April.

The main story is a business deal to benefit the clinic by… well, if I’m being honest I didn’t really follow what it was about, but at the end Hugh turns up to a big important meeting still hungover from partying with Tara and that pharmaceutical rep who turns up every now and again, and compensating for that with a quick sniff of cocaine on his way out of the door. The upshot – and again, I didn’t quite follow this – is that he’s rich, but the deal isn’t as good. Penny intimates that she’ll never forgive Hugh, and to be honest it’s becoming more and more difficult to keep the ship afloat.

Penny, meantime, was the reluctant recipient of a public proposal of marriage from Jarrod – honestly, I’d make those things illegal – which she felt obliged to accept, being as most of Whyhope was there to see it. She then breaks it off, but when Hugh lets her down changes her mind again and gets engaged.

If the first episode was an exercise in throwing all the pieces up in the air, the second, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, allowed them to land. The whatever-it-is deal allows Hugh to pay off the debt on the family farm, but also leads to his getting sacked by Penny. He heads to Sydney looking for work, but everyone has heard about him turning up high at an important meeting. So back to Whyhope, where he practises farming while stoned. Then local hypochondriac Bruno suddenly needs heart surgery, and Hugh’s your guy for that: Penny brings him in, he talks Tara through the procedure, and gets himself rehired. Simple as that. She’s still engaged to Jarrod, mind you, and she can stop that any time she likes; I’d thought Jarrod was just going to be a speedbump, clinically excised during the first episode. Maybe not.

Charlie – now a successful author – wants to get back with Matt, but he declines. It’s quite a choice he has, I’ll give you that: Charlie or April? If I can’t get Hugh and Penny as a couple, mind you, I wouldn’t mind seeing the chaos that a quick Hugh/Charlie hookup would bring in its wake (I’ve long held the view that they might be the show’s OTC, in a weird sort of way), and at one point it looks as if I might get my wish, but she instead has a swift bunk-up with the new chef at Matt’s bar.

And I haven’t even got into Meryl and her ruthless realpolitiking yet, if that’s what you call it when you hand over a lunchbox full of cash money with the intention of getting your way. When the recipient dies Meryl tries to get her bribe back, but it’s ended up in the hands of corrupt cop Darren, who’s used it to buy a gift for Betty. Oh dear, oh dear. Telling Darren that he needs to pony up, and thus breaking Betty’s heart, isn’t the sort of thing that’s going to get in Meryl’s way.

The second episode isn’t quite as good as the first, for my money. But, taken together, both are ridiculously enjoyable. And, or did I imagine this, just a little raunchier and swearier than before?

Public Service Announcement 64 of 2019: The Heart Guy (Doctor Doctor)

When I first saw reports that season 4 of The Heart Guy (Doctor Doctor) was about to start in the UK, I’ll admit I was dismissive of them: I’m a big enough fan of this medical drama to be keeping tabs on where it’s at in its native Australia, and I was aware that it wasn’t going to be shown there before 2020. Hey-ho, I thought; someone’s got confused about a season 3 repeat, or something, and we probably won’t see any new episodes for at least a year.

Well, I was wrong about all of that. All of it. It turns out that we in Britain are getting a world premiere of season 4 right here and now, and Australian audiences will still have to wait until next year. The reason given by its native broadcaster, Nine, for this is less than convincing to me – something to do with funding and its alleged popularity in the UK – but as I’ve said before I don’t need to be an expert on the business of TV to be a viewer, and anyway I don’t care.

Much as I love this show, mind you, I had two problems with the third season. The first was that I simply didn’t believe in the way that independent, single parent career woman Dr Penny Cartwright (the refulgent Hayley McElhinney) fell to pieces because of her foundering romance with reformed-bad-boy Dr Hugh Knight (Rodger Corser). But that might just be because Hugh isn’t my type; I’d probably fall to pieces if the possibility of a relationship with Dr Cartwright were snatched away from me. Secondly, I’m afraid that I was quite unable to get to grips with the detectably pregnant Nicole da Silva playing a character who was quite insistent that she didn’t ever want to have kids. Da Silva is an excellent actor, but she couldn’t square that circle. Or maybe that one, too, is on me.

Anyway. Bottom line is that the Whyhope crew is BACK with a double-bill at 10pm NEXT SATURDAY, on Drama, and I am both surprised and delighted. I might even review a few episodes this time, given that we’re not months behind everyone else. And, for the avoidance of doubt, I am still RIDE-OR-DIE for the Penny/Hugh ship.

Public Service Announcement 18 of 2019: The Heart Guy (Doctor Doctor), Tutti Frutti

Well. I am VERY excited by the return tonight of Australian medical drama The Heart Guy – Doctor Doctor in its home country – for its third season. (It’s been renewed for a fourth, incidentally.) Its virtues are old-fashioned: decent plotting; a bit of redemption for the trying-not-to-be-a-bad-boy lead character; a notably strong cast, in particular Rodger Corser, Hayley McElhinney, and Nicole da Silva; and a proper ship that we can all get behind. While continuing to emphasise that this show will not change your life, I like it quite a lot, and the s3 trailer above suggests that we’re going to get at least some of what we want (Drama, 8pm).

I should probably have mentioned before now that BBC Scotland is repeating Tutti Frutti, which for many of us of a certain age is one of the defining comedy-dramas of its time. Brilliantly written, and with a cast to die for – Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Wilson, Maurice Roëves, and Katy Murphy – it hasn’t been shown on TV for the best part of 30 years, probably due to some licensing problem or other. I equivocated for a while about rewatching it, but ultimately decided that I was quite happy to live with my memories of the show, rather than risk spoiling them. I did, however, catch a couple of minutes the other night, from which it was instantly apparent that the person writing the subtitles is successfully eliminating all of the poetry, beauty, and humour from the dialogue. Well done, whoever you are (Saturday nights, 9pm).

The Heart Guy (Doctor Doctor) s2


I LOVE The Heart Guy (Doctor Doctor in its native Australia), and I have now watched every episode of both seasons, although if you’re on UK broadcast schedule there are still a few to go.

So if anyone wants a spoilery discussion of the first two seasons I am HERE FOR YOU, including but by no means limited to questions such as:

· Are Hayley and Ajax too young to be getting married? Yes, although the proposal was sweet, as was the wedding: in particular their dance routine to ‘Green Light’

· Does Charlie’s novel sound any good? Nope.

· Ken and Mia (#Kia, I suppose) or Ken and Betty (#Ketty)? I don’t quite see why Ken and anyone, but he clearly has something.

· Would we want Hugh’s amoral mother as the Mayor of our town? You know what? I think we might. The trains would run on time, even if she were skimming something from the ticket prices.

· Did we like Hugh’s wife? No we did NOT. #stupidestrangedwife

· Were we SCREAMING at the TV when Hugh was about to come round from the anaesthetic, and Penny stepped away for a moment, and his #stupidestrangedwife totally slipped into the room JUST as he was waking up? We all know the answer to that.

· The biggie: are we shipping Hugh and Penny? YES. YES we are. We are shipping them HARD.

· Despite that – and here’s a controversial one – is it possible that, even though it’s not going to happen, Hugh and Charlie are MFEO? I think we need to give that consideration.

· Do we want to see the season 3 trailer? Oh, I think so:

· And was that… KISSING?! Looked like it to me.

· Should CJ be watching this? Yes she should. Please tell her.

Public Service Announcement 22 of 2018: The Heart Guy (Doctor Doctor), Atlanta

The first season of The Heart Guy (Doctor Doctor in its native Australia) has just finished, and I am TREMENDOUSLY excited by the news that UK broadcaster Drama is taking us straight into season 2, because I LOVE THIS SHOW. Faced with a flimsy and, indeed, familiar premise – doctor is required to return to the small town he did his best to escape – the writers and actors have made the very most of it. 

In particular, although the show was trailed on the basis that lead character Dr Hugh Knight (Rodger Corser) was a roguish – yet lovable! – bad boy surgeon, the show has refused to give him a pass on the worst of his behaviour: his appalling treatment of nurse Aoife (Shalom Brune-Franklin) was rightly regarded with disdain by his hospital colleagues; the way in which he has blown up his brother’s marriage verges on the wantonly cruel; and his complicated relationship with his adopted brother Ajax (Matt Castley) has developed in unexpected ways, most of which don’t necessarily reflect very well on Hugh.

The show’s morality is also more complex than it might at first appear. In the crucial ninth episode, for example, widowed Penny (the excellent Hayley McElhinney) woke up in bed with a younger man who turned out to be still at school (but of age). Rather than treating this as an appalling scandal everyone concerned just got on with life, with Penny having to endure no more or less than the appropriate amount of giggling prurience from her colleagues. On the other hand, Hugh was ultimately persuaded to help to end the life of one of the show’s main characters, something from which I thought the show would move on quickly, but which in fact turned out to be pivotal in the season finale.

Let’s not kid, though: one of my main reasons for watching is that I am shipping Hugh and Penny hard. VERY HARD INDEED. And so should you (tonight, Drama, 8pm; season 1 still available on demand).

The big TV news of the weekend, though, is probably the return of Atlanta for its second season. The rise of niche auteur-driven TV shows has revealed that some people (such as Rachel Bloom and, yes, Louis C.K.) have an unfair amount of talent. It may be that Donald Glover, the creator/exec producer/star/writer/director of Atlanta, has more talent than all of them. Season 1 was one of the most uncategorisable yet amazing things I’ve seen in recent years, and the critical response to the second season would suggest that, if anything, it’s even better (tonight, FOX UK, 10pm).

The Heart Guy (Doctor Doctor) s1 ep 1

In this pilot episode of The Heart Guy (known in its native Australia as Doctor Doctor) brilliant but hard-living Sydney surgeon Hugh Knight is hauled before some sort of internal discipline tribunal (?) for an impropriety which will be detailed in flashback later on, although it really just looks as if the hospital hierarchy was looking for a reason to get rid of its gak-loving party boy for a while. Anyway, for his “year of atonement” (?), Hugh is sent to the small country town of Whyhope, which also – not coincidentally – is the town he grew up in and later moved away from, to work as a general medical practitioner. In fact, he’s allowed to do everything except surgery.

So there are two things going on here: firstly, there’s the familiar arrogant-doc-brought-down-to-size storyline; secondly, there’s the equally familiar escapee-from-rural-backwater-goes-home storyline. And in the context of both there is a large cast of characters with which we need to get familiar. In the hospital there’s sparky nurse Aoife (Shalom Brune-Franklin); youthful and thin-skinned administrator Ken (Charles Wu); and my favourite character for now, Penny (Hayley McElhinney), Hugh’s supervisor, who already has his measure. I don’t know if we’re expected to ship them or not, but if we are I’m totally on board.

And on the family side there’s his mother Meryl (Tina Bursill), a local councillor who isn’t above taking a bribe; taciturn father Jim (Steve Bisley); younger brother Matt (Ryan Johnson); and Matt’s wife/partner Charlie (Nicole da Silva), who is playing the essential role of the Childhood Sweetheart He Walked Out On. This ship I’d be… not quite as keen on.

I… liked this, I guess? It’s billed as a comedy although, for now, it’s of the type which raises the occasional smile rather than provoking hysterical laughter. But it’s charming, it looks good, and the acting – in particular from McElhinney and da Silva – is better than it needs to be. Apparently the whole season is now available for (ew) bingeing, but I think one a week will do me.