Like its police counterpart, medical procedurals have a long history in television. Who can forget Dr. Kildare? Actually, I can, because I don’t remember the show. But my mom does! I do vaguely remember Marcus Welby, MD (1969-1976) played by Robert Young. Marcus Welby MD came at a time when everything on television was happy – from perfect families, Father Knows Best (1954-1960, also starring Robert Young), Leave it to Beaver (1957-1963) to Happy Days.
Dr. Welby was a kind family practitioner who made house calls, was on a first name basis with his patients, and had a kind bed side manner (are you listening Dr. House?) and talked with patients, not to them. It was thin on medical procedure and thick on feel-good. The first of the new, true, medical procedurals was St. Elsewhere (October 1982- May 1988). Part of the draw was the true-life stress and pressure the interns were under. Long shifts, sick patients who occasionally died, and physician mentors set in their ways. St. Elegius is an underrated, decaying, Boston hospital that is perceived to be a dumping ground, ‘a place you wouldn’t want to send your mother-in-law’!
The staff of St. Elsewhere dealt with many issues of the time, including breast cancer, AIDS, and addiction. Serious issues of life, death, the medical profession, and the effects on the care givers were well portrayed. This was also one of the first shows to bring the dark humour, found in many emergency services, to the screen. The series received critical acclaim during its six seasons, earning 13 Emmy Awards for its writing, acting, and directing. St. Elsewhere frequently ranks in the top 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. Following the pattern of Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere had an ensemble cast that included Denzel Washington, Howie Mandell, Mark Harmon, and Helen Hunt!
Join me next week (October 2) when I talk more about medical procedurals, next week I’ll be looking at the TV shows, ER and MASH.
If you are writing police or medical procedurals, here’s where you can check your facts:
First Aid 4 Writers
Weekly tips by Dwayne Clayden on Police, Medical, EMS and Disaster procedures and scenes. Also, the “Live” show, 4th Thursday of the month.
Find both at DwayneClayden.com.