Monday, February 16, 2015

A Modern Classic: Doogie Howser, MD (1989)

At the end of the 80's, ABC was experimenting with producing comedy-dramas, now known as "dramedies", without laugh tracks. Veteran producer Steven Bochco helmed two of them, Hooperman (with John Ritter) & Doogie Howser, MD.

Douglas "Doogie" Howser (Neil Patrick Harris) is the youngest licensed physician in the country. He aced his SAT's at 6 (!!!), graduated high school at 9 (!!!), and college at 13. Not humanly possible in this day and age, but then....!  Doogie follows in the footsteps of his father, David (James B. Sikking, ex-Hill Street Blues), and joins him at Eastman Hospital.

At the same time, Doogie also must deal with the usual issues that go with being a teenager. His best buddy, Vinnie (Max Casella) dispenses advice, and fixes Doogie up with a classmate, Wanda (Lisa Dean Ryan).

Doogie Howser, MD lasted 4 seasons, but things didn't really end well for Doogie & Wanda, as they split up when she went to college. Ryan would resurface in MTV's short-lived sci-fi drama, Dead at 21. Casella co-starred in the orignal feature film version of "Newsies" for Disney, and we all know what Neil Patrick Harris has done in recent years, including the recently concluded How I Met Your Mother.

Following is a sample first season episode:

Mature themes aside, ABC could've used this series to provide some backup for their Saturday morning lineup, especially when NBC went to an all-live-action lineup in 1992, Doogie's final season.

Rating: B.


magicdog said...

Actually, some real life homeschoolers (whose parents insist they are not geniuses) have become latter day "Doogies" in recent years. The Harding Family (who wrote a book, "The Brainy Bunch") homeschooled all their children, their oldest is the youngest physician in US Naval history (age 22), an architect, and an engineer. They have an 11 year old who is already in college and looking into becoming a lawyer!

As for the show itself, it was likeable fluff at the time, but it doesn't hold up very well. It's amazing how far Neil Patrick Harris has come since then!

I remember the show's concept having been mocked from time to time. There was a show in which there was a "Reverend Doogie" who was a 13 year old officiant, and NPH himself guest starred on an episode of "Roseanne" during a dream sequence. Roseanne dreams Doogie was her plastic surgeon and gave her huge breasts! The joke being Roseanne was in the hospital for a breast reduction surgery.

hobbyfan said...

Doesn't hold up? After what you said about the family of homeschoolers?

If I were programming a cable channel (i.e. Me-TV), I'd have Doogie on as part of a medical block with M*A*S*H, Quincy, & St. Elsewhere.

magicdog said...

Doogie wasn't homeschooled!

However, I like your idea of adding him to the Me-TV medical block.

hobbyfan said...

I was referring to the homeschoolers you referenced in your earlier comment.