Kevin Rhodes (cormac) wrote,
Kevin Rhodes

Contemplating Doogie

I was watching episodes of Doogie Howser, MD on Hulu last night, and was intrigued by the similarities between it and current medical comedy-dramas. So I started doing some math: each show was 30 minutes long, minus 8 minutes for commercials, 2 minutes for the opening and closing credit reels, and another minute or so of Doogie becoming the world's first Twitter user at the end of every episode (dude, you need to work on your typing speed). So really, you only have 19 minutes of actual plot for any given episode. And yet, they were discussing some pretty heavy issues; domestic issues like domestic abuse and addiction, social issues like racism, sexism and the LA riots, and deeply personal philosophical issues such as the definition of self and one's purpose in the world.

The only real difference between modern medical dramas and Doogie Howser is the time frame in which to deal with these issues. While the current shows grapple with the issues in-depth, carrying them through an arc that can span seasons, Doogie Howser solves the domestic, cultural or personal issue du jour by the end of the episode (19 minutes or less or your pizza is free). While I think it's great that they were examining such complex issues in a time where most shows were flatly ignoring them, the need to resolve the situation before the credits roll required that the issues were scarcely given more than a casual, often dismissive glance. As an example, an episode dealing with potential child abuse on one of Doogie's patients quickly flips into a "doctors overreact sometimes" resolution combined with a "father knows best" moral.

Discussion question: did bringing up serious issues on Doogie Howser, MD do anything to help or hinder the greater national dialogue on said issues?

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