Judge P.S. Colbert often wishes his last name was M.E.
"I don't mean to be disrespectful, Doctor, but by what definition are you calling this man alive?"—Quincy, M.E.
Yep, you gotta get up pretty early to fool television's original crime scene investigator. Here are the case files for Quincy, M.E. Season 6:
• "Last Rights"
Unfortunately, the sixth season opens with what surely counts as one of the most foolish episodes in this series' canon. "Last Rights" was clearly intended as the backdoor pilot for a series about yet another fiery, fight-the-system M.E.
Dr. Charles Volmer (William Daniels, 1776) works out of the Coroner's office in tiny Stoker County, where folks don't take too kindly to staunchly ethical do-gooders, sticking their beaks where they're unwelcome. So what if a dead teenager's autopsy results conflict with his father's story about an accidental drowning—shouldn't a family be allowed to grieve its loss privately, without facts and the law interfering?
Daniels is brilliant, as always. But the gods were smiling on the day network honchos decided to pass on this sub-par, over-the-top drivel, thus freeing up the amazingly versatile actor (whose curriculum vitae includes the definitive portrayal of President John Adams in 1776 as well as the voice of supercar K.I.T.T. in the original '80s classic Knight Rider) to take on the role that would ultimately define his career—that of chief surgeon Dr. Mark Craig on St. Elsewhere, resulting in five consecutive Emmy Award nominations, two of which he won.
Of course, such a diversion wouldn't throw someone as doggedly determined as our man Quincy (Jack Klugman, 12 Angry Men) off a scent, so his fans shouldn't be deterred by this wooden nickel of an opener. In fact, the first-rate second episode, "A Matter Of Principle" shines a rare spotlight on Quincy's stalwart lab assistant Sam Fujiyama (Robert Ito, Falcon Crest), just as my personal favorite, "Headhunter," affords the long suffering Police Lieutenant Monahan (Garry Walberg, Peyton Place) an opportunity to shine.
The remaining episodes are a mixed bag. There are some reheated plot lines (the suspicious death of a star school athlete, excursions to Mexico, and an Indian reservation, etc.), and couple of hokier stories that hearken back to the show's "mystery movie" roots.
Case in point: "Dear Mummy,"—pure featherweight nonsense involving an attempt to smuggle a cache of priceless diamonds by secreting them in an ancient sarcophagus—a perfect fit for The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. To be fair, the episode is rescued from the jaws of defeat by the welcome return of bumbling federal agents Niven (Ed Grover, Serpico) and Brice (John Karlen, Cagney And Lacey), a hilarious pair whose antics were one of the highlights in two stories the previous year.
But just when I'd resigned myself to a reviewing a merely makeweight season, I was (happily) blindsided by several issue-related installments (airplane safety, drug trafficking, Tourette's Syndrome, child molestation) that must surely qualify as some of the series' very best—Go figure.
Consistency is the key to this DVD transfer from Shout! Factory—for better and worse—featuring fairly nice picture quality and somewhat iffy audio support. Unfortunately, Shout! Factory has chosen again not to offer subtitles, helpful as they might have been.
While Quincy, M.E. was in production, star Jack Klugman was nearly as well known for squabbling with the show's producers and writers over script quality as he was for playing the title role. Judging from the Topsy-turvy quality of its eighteen episodes, I'd have to estimate that season six ended in stalemate for both sides.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
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