Appellate Judge Mac McEntire was a child genius, but instead of medicine, his area of expertise was making sculptures out of tinfoil.
Our reviews of Doogie Howser, M.D.: Season One (published April 6th, 2005), Doogie Howser, M.D.: Season Three (published February 8th, 2006), and Doogie Howser, M.D.: Season Four (published May 31st, 2006) are also available.
Doogie: "Actually, I have a job. I'm a doctor."
TV producer Steven Bochco has created some great programs over the years, notably gritty cop dramas like Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue, as well as intense legal dramas such as LA Law and Murder One. But he also introduced viewers to a couple of genuine oddities, like the short-lived Cop Rock, in which drug dealers broke out into sing and dance numbers upon being arrested. Far more successful was Doogie Howser, MD, based on the unlikely premise of a child genius turned teenage doctor. After a whirlwind first season of combined medical drama and teen comedy, the series became a hit and lasted for four seasons. Anchor Bay just prescribed all 25 episodes of the second season on DVD for you.
Facts of the Case
At age 17, Dr. Douglas "Doogie" Howser (Neil Patrick Harris, Undercover Brother) is now a third-year resident at a California hospital. On the one hand, he lives a normal teenage life, hanging out with his sleazy best friend Vinnie (Max Casella, Ed Wood), his girlfriend Wanda (Lisa Dean Ryan, Dead at 21), and his parents David (James B. Sikking, Hill Street Blues) and Katherine (Belinda Montgomery, Days of Our Lives). On the other, it's all business at the hospital as Doogie saves lives with the help of Nurse Curly Spaulding (Kathryn Lang, The Marrying Man), his demanding boss Dr. Canfield (Laurence Pressman, American Pie), and Dr. Jack Maguire (Mitchell Anderson, Jaws: The Revenge), who gets even less screen time this season than he did in the last.
There are a few new faces in the regular cast this time around. Janine (Lucy Boryer, Sleepwalkers) is Vinnie's incredibly patient girlfriend. Raymond (Markus Redmond, Fight Club), is a reformed gang-banger who gets a job as an orderly, thanks to Doogie's help. Dr. Ron Welch (Rif Hutton, Single White Female 2: The Psycho) is another friend of Doogie's at the hospital, who competes with Maguire in the "smallest amount of screen time" Olympics.
Quickly, doctor, the patient needs an episode list:
• "Guess Who's Coming to Doogie's"
• "Ask Dr. Doogie"
• "C'est La Vinnie"
• "Car Wars"
• "Doogie Sings the Blues"
• "Academia Nuts"
• "Revenge of the Teenage Dead"
• "Nautilus For Naught"
• "Don't Let the Turkeys Get Down"
• "Oh Very Young"
• "TV or Not TV"
• "A Woman Too Far"
• "Presumed Guilty"
• "To Live and Die in Brentwood"
• "Air Doogie"
• "A Life in Progress"
• "My Two Dads"
• "Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition"
• "Fatal Distraction"
• "The Doctor, The Wife, Her Son, and The Job"
• "Planet of the Dateless"
• "Doogie's Wager"
• "A Kiss Ain't Just a Kiss"
• "Dances with Wanda"
During the first season, the writers, actors and directors all pushed themselves to make the ludicrous idea of a teen doctor believable. They really stretched themselves to find ways to combine the typical high school high jinks with the usual hospital life-saving drama. By the time this season rolled around, though, it seems everyone had settled in, and gotten used to the concept. This attitude opened the door for less creative scripts. Scenes at the hospital come across as more ordinary, as though they could be taken from any regular hospital show. We see Doogie standing up for patients and learning valuable life lessons from them. These stories, however, could be told with any doctor character, not just a hormonal teenage one. As far as comedy is concerned, the writers fell back on standard sitcom plots. A bunch of comedy clichés get hauled out in front of audiences here. Trapped in an elevator with a pregnant woman? Check. Wrecking the car and going to great lengths to make sure dad doesn't find out? Check. Mistaken identity leads to romantic jealousy? Check. It's all the same old thing we've seen a dozen times over.
Fortunately, the actors do the best with what they've been given. Harris is earnest as always as the title character, whether he's called on to be humorous or heartbroken. Casella downplays his constant horniness this season, showing a bit more of Vinnie's human side. Sikking and Montgomery aren't given much to do this season, and their characters are written as even more dull and conservative than before. The writers take a far too simplistic approach with the other characters. Wanda and Janine's only roles here are to be "the girlfriends," with too little character development for most of the season. The real surprise, acting-wise, is Pressman as Dr. Canfield, who drops the villainous boss shtick and instead lightens up and brings out the character's fun side.
If the show has lost its edge, then, is there anything here worth recommending? For Doogie's fan base, those who remember it from back when, it's great to have the entire season on disc. The fans who discovered the show recently will be curious to see where the characters' lives go, and what changes and adventures they've gone through during this year.
For an '80s nostalgia-item series, the picture quality on this four-disc set is a significant improvement over the first season set, with none of that one's occasional edge enhancement. The audio has also been improved. Although the show is mostly dialogue, with a cringe-inducing electronic keyboard score, the classical music scene in "A Life In Progress" sounds excellent, showing that the audio is better than it seems. The only extras are two amusing but brief interviews with Harris and Casella, and a written trivia quiz on the inside of the packaging.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
This show is less realistic than someone interpreting two dog-barks as "Timmy's trapped in the well."
Doogie Howser, MD is still cheesy fun, but it's lost something this season. A lot of what made the show unique is gone, replaced with the ordinary.
Although it's still a likable show, Doogie Howser, MD's second season isn't as much fun as the first. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Interviews with Neil Patrick Harris and Max Casella
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