Are Doctor Foster’s Gemma and Simon the most loathsome couple on television? A divorced woman having a messy breakdown on prime time TV – shouldn’t we feel a bit grubby about finding it so entertaining?
Doctor Foster lives a bizarre existence – a medic who rarely attends her busy practice, whose default reaction in any crisis is to open the fridge door and glug directly from a wine bottle… why bother with a glass, where you can simply top yourself up? A health professional who drinks and drives erratically while on the phone, who strips off for sex with the ex she despises on the dining room table while their son is upstairs.
As addictive entertainment, Doctor Foster brilliantly succeeds – no wonder that 10 million people watched the violent finale to series one. In this week’s episode, slimy Simon and twitchy Gemma were negotiating a temporary truce over supper and the washing up one minute, then animal lust took and they grappled their way into the dining room for acrobatic noisy sex, overheard by their troubled 15-year-old son Tom. The poor kid is already threatened with expulsion from school for beating up his best friend Max – who found out he’d drunkenly tried to force himself on their pal Isobel.
Reviewers claim that Gemma and Simon are “bonkers”, larger-than-life “dramatic characters” – but a lot more of this behaviour goes on than we admit. On the front page of my local paper this week, a businesswoman has been found guilty of harrassment, assault, disclosing a sexual photograph and breaching a restraining order – sound familiar? On discovering that her partner of 11 years had cheated with prostitutes, she embarked on a campaign of revenge that makes Doc Foster seem tame.
She distributed pictures of her former partner – naked and “aroused” – to his employees, posting some in his office window. She bombarded him with 1500 abusive texts in two months and dozens of emails and was found guilty of pelting him with a bag of dog poo in the street.
Asked in court if she intended harm, the woman replied: “If I wanted to hurt him I would have cut off his balls and used them as earrings.” If you want to know where dramatists get the best ideas, read the local press.