There's a lot of great television slated to happen this summer, but a lot of it's pretty intense -- even Mad Men can be harrowing viewing. If you'd like to opt for something a little more relaxing, I'd like to direct you to my television zen garden: a little British series called Doc Martin.
The series, which airs on UK channel ITV, might be described as the rural British version of FOX's House. The main character, Dr. Martin Ellingham (Martin Clunes), is a curmudgeonly G.P. who moves to the small fishing village of Portwenn after a suddenly-developed fear of blood forces him to abandon his surgical practice. The series focuses on Martin's interactions with the many eccentric (but usually goodhearted) residents of Portwenn.
Quite a bit of Doc Martin's appeal comes from the setting, which is an idyllic small British village on the coast. It's picturesque, to say the least -- the kind of place people dream of retiring to. It certainly lends itself to the show's lighthearted, almost storybook tone, which follows the Doctor as he inevitably comes to view Portwenn as his home, and its people as his family (the characters, for the most part, are all quirky, but pretty lovable in their own ways).
Sure, there's some contrived character drama here and there -- Martin's antisocial tendencies can typically sour the moods of even the friendliest people in the village (but only temporarily). There's very little tension even in the show's more dramatic plots -- everything is, of course, going to be okay, and there's a comfort in knowing that with the series. It's pure, idyllic escapism, and it works perfectly. Doc Martin is the comfort food of British television, and you'll find yourself addicted to the characters, the setting, everything.
Doc Martin offers something not easily found on American television. It's an almost unrelentingly happy series, and its humor never wavers from being good-natured. It's fluff, yes, but it's some of the best fluff I've ever seen on television.
Doc Martin's first five series are now available on DVD. I strongly recommend checking them out.