I was just joking about AR and Al. I don't envision AR in any romantic relationship, if she ever was.
And I wasn't seriously proposing Bert and Ruth either. In fact, in the unlikely event that they romanticise either the Al/Ruth or Bert/Ruth relationships, I'll be most disappointed. The relationship 'as is' between Al and Ruth is something, I think, we have all enjoyed watching, and to learn of cougarish motivations in Ruth now, would really corrupt it, at least for me. Relationships built on friendship and mentorship get short shrift in television dramas these days, but those different sorts of relationships are well depicted in Doc Martin and provide pleasantly contrasting textures alonside the romantic plot between M&L.
My mention of Ruth getting a share in the Large Restaurant comes from the agreement she and Al reach for the repayment of the sum that he misappropriated at the end of Cats and Sharks. Al proposes 10% of the restaurant's profits, and the proceeds from the sale of his scooter, which would pay her back in one go -- almost. She counters by refusing the proceeds from the sale of his scooter as he'll need it to come to work at her farm. I take that to mean that for the first few episodes of S6 at least, she'll be drawing some sort of repayment from the restaurant's profits. It's not envisioned as a long term arrangement, but seeing that that restaurant is always in financial crisis, it may open the door to Ruth being involved with the Larges around the restaurant, as well as with Al around the farm. I would welcome some way (apart from a marriage) of the Large family being tied with the Ellingham family. Biffpup mentioned earlier that someone in the forum had proposed Chris as Al's biological father, and therefore Martin and Al as half brothers. I don't know that I really want to go for that either, but maybe if Ruth were somehow to obtain a permanent share in the Large restaurant, it would accomplish that tie without descending into troubling romantic liasons.
I've been coming across Ian McNeice in some of my recent movie viewing. He was in "The Englishman who went up a hill and came down a mountain" opposite Hugh Grant and Tara Fitzgerald. He had a small role in "Valmont," the movie that sparked the off-screen romance between Colin Firth and Meg Tilley. Last night I watched "84 Charing Cross Road," (a movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft which I watched repeatedly about 15 years ago, I liked it that much, but haven't watched in a while -- certainly not since becoming aware of Ian McNeice as Bert Large) and there he was playing Mr. Humphreys. The variation between these three roles is not as striking as the total transformation we see in Eileen Atkins between, for instance, Doc Martin and Cold Comfort Farm, or in Martin Clunes between Doc Martin and some of his other roles, but Ian McNeice is, IMO, a very good actor, which I have to separate in my mind from the fact I don't particularly like Bert Large, his character.
I agree that complex characters are much more interesting than characters that strike only one note, (as bookfan2 has put it re: Elaine). While Bert's character has been given some shading over the years, I still find that he turns up in pretty predictable ways in most episodes. Rarely has he been given an interesting story-line of his own (S2E3 being perhaps the closest to that. We have also seen him transform from plumber to restauranteur and from overprotective father to tentative tom cat (re: Sheila the napkin lady and Marigold the roadkill maven)). Sometimes characters are fully developed people with their own stories and sometimes they are primarily foils for Martin to play off. That is the contrast I think we see between Pauline and Elaine. Bert, it seems to me, is mostly a character for characters we care about more, like Al, like the Doc and Louisa, to play off...which makes me wonder if S6 may be the time to make him central to some multi-episode subplot (like his battle with a chronic illness) and then to kill him off.
I remember when J.K. Rowling killed off Albus Dumbledore at the end of book 6 I thought, how can there possibly be a wizarding world without him? Reaching back further into my childhood reading, I remember when L.M. Montgomery killed off Matthew toward the end of Anne of Green Gables, I thought, how can "the Anne books" (of which there are at least 5 subsequent) have gone on without him? The way I justified both those deaths to myself as a reader (and I am still happier about Matthew's than about Dumbledore's), was along the lines of "unless a seed fall into the ground and die it cannot bear much fruit." Sometimes characters can be worth more to us dead than they are alive. For instance Matthew's death transformed the relationship between Anne and Marilla, allowing Marilla to channel all the softer attributes that were once found in him. I wonder what grist might be obtained for the mill in terms of Al's character -- in terms of scenes between Al and his avunculars (Martin and Ruth) -- if Bert's character were to be sacrificed at this point?