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Doogie Howser, M.D. - Season Four



DVD Release Date: April 18, 2006 (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment)
MSRP: $39.98
Number of discs: 4
Number of episodes: 22
Total runtime: 552 minutes
Special Features Runtime: 31:16
Audio Tracks: English 2.0
Subtitles: None
Closed Captioned
Special Features:
Interviews with Lawrence Pressman and Kathryn Layng.


When we're all little, we all dream of being astronauts, firemen- and the largest majority of us want to be doctors when we grow up. Well, child genius Douglas "Doogie" Howser managed to do young children the world over one better. He finished high school in 9 weeks, pulled off a perfect score on the SAT's at 6, graduated from Princeton at 10, and passed his medical board exam at 14, making it into full residency at Eastwood Medical Center in LA by the time of his 16th birthday. The fourth season of the comedy-drama hybrid Doogie Howser is now on DVD.

He began as a 16 year old doctor, but now “boy genius” Doogie Howser (Neil Patrick Harris) is a young man dealing with the adult dilemmas of self-doubt, sexual relationships, racial tensions, new roommates, gun control, child abuse, and beyond. Through it all, his best friend Vinnie Delpino (Max Casella), his parents (Belinda Montgomery, James Sikking), and his coworkers at Eastwood including Dr. Benjamin Canfield (Lawrence Pressman), Dr. Jack McGwire (Mitchell Anderson), Raymond Alexander (Markus Redmond) and Nurse Curly Spaulding (Kathryn Layng).

Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

Some shows are able to keep the train going well into season four--others, not so much. Doogie, in its last year, kind of hit a level of mediocrity. Characters, at least in live-action shows, age with the actors, and you can’t very well have a show about a child-genius doctor when the actor playing the doctor, and by extension, the character himself, is now college-age in real-life. At this point, the focus genuinely seemed to shift away from the concept of “Doogie Howser, child prodigy…and more towards your average issues in a hospital. And as the show has a specific doctor as its lead, it’s going to be from their vantage point, with the B-plot usually involving their away-from-job life. Doogie definitely fell into this formula this season and some of the episodes suffered because of it.

The first episode (“There’s a Riot Going On”) of the season is a classic (yet dated) episode, in which the 1992 L.A. Riots (for those of you unfamiliar with the LA Riots of that year, do a little research on Google/Wikipedia about it) leave trauma surgeon Doogie VERY overwhelmed. It’s told from the vantage point of Doogie, NOW, reminiscing about when the riots happened. Although the last episodes of season three aired after the riots started, production had, if I remember correctly, already wrapped at that point, hence the delay. The start of the episode itself doesn’t clue you in on what’s going on, until the very last bit before the opening titles, when the kitchen TV cuts to a 7 Eyewitness News special bulletin regarding a verdict in the Rodney King case. Anyone hearing those words with even a minimal grasp of 90s history knows it’s going to be downhill from there…

The 2nd episode really begins to hammer home the “Adult Doogie” issue, as Doogie’s mom can’t stop being, well, a mom ­ even after he dates her boss and brings her to the house for skinny-dipping. The next episode continues the serious theme of the show, when the Howser’s are robbed, and Doogie considers getting a gun for protection. In the next episode, Doogie Doesn’t Love Here Anymore…Doogie moves out. The majority of the rest of the episodes are fairly self-contained around the random problem of the day. By this point, the comedy elements that the show started with were more or less replaced by full-blown drama with only occasional comedic elements. In the episode It’s a Tough Job…But Why Does My Father Have to Do it”, the head of family medicine suddenly drops dead on the job, leading Doogie’s dad to be asked to replace him. Meanwhile, Vinnie’s now-divorced dad is dating a masseuse, and Vinnie can’t adjust. One thing you’ll notice immediately is that the episodes in season four are NOT in production order, and as such, he’s moving in season four, back home in episode five, and it’s in general just disjoined. The last episode isn’t even the last episode, yet…well, more on that in a second. The series finale of the episode can best be summarized as this: Doogie sees his gift of genius as more of a curse than a blessing as he seeks inspiration outside the world of medicine. Despite being out of order, the finale is actually a proper goodbye. Doogie leaves the hospital, wanting to not wind up like other child geniuses he was on the Jenny Jones show with. The very last computer screen he types into is FINALLY an upgraded system, after four years of the old late 80s DOS standard.

List of Guest Stars:
Max Gail (Barney Miller): Doogie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
Chelsea Noble (Growing Pains): You’ve Come a Long Way Babysitter
David Ruprecht (Supermarket Sweep): You’ve Come a Long Way Babysitter
Jenny Jones: What Makes Doogie Run

I apologize if I missed any, however, I’m going on an incomplete guide. If I discover any I missed, this review will be appended.


Packaging is consistent with the rest of the releases in the series. The front cover art has Doogie, solo, standing in full doctor attire and stethoscope around his neck, in front of a purple-tinted x-ray of the spine and pelvis area. The back cover has the same x-ray spread across the entire rear of the box, with a picture of Vinnie and Doogie next to the first paragraph of text, and a picture of Doogie at a firing range shooting a gun by the 2nd paragraph/features list. (Hint #13 you know it’s time for a show to end: A show about a child prodigy doctor has the now-adult doctor shooting a gun in a non-hunting setting)

The two inner slim cases are of a similar construction as the first three sets. Each slim case holds two discs. The color theme for this set, if you didn’t figure it out by the x-ray tinting, is purple, and so for this set, the discs use various shades of purple as the coloring for the same-as-the-first-three-seasons disc art style (large disc number on the right side, the show logo with season text written vertically on the left side). The cover art for slim case 1 is the same picture of Vinnie and Doogie from the upper back cover, while the 2nd slim case features the same shot of Doogie and the gun. Behind the Discs (The inner art, I call it) are various pictures from the seasons, with a white boarder around each one, in front of the same purple X-Ray.

Each disc features a background color, text color, and shadow color. They’re included in the disc-by-disc breakdown below

Colors expressed in terms of Light/Medium/etc purples, because unless it’s expressed as an RGB or CMYK value, I’m BAD with colors.

Slim case 1
Disc 1:
Episodes 1-6. BG: White. Text: Light Purple. Shadow: Medium Purple
Disc 2:
Episodes 7-12: BG: Light Purple. Text: White. Shadow: Medium Purple

Slim case 2
Disc 3:
Episodes 13-18: BG: Light Purple. Text: Purple. Shadow: White
Disc 4:
Episodes 19-22: BG: Purple. Text: White. Shadow: Light Purple.

Menu Design and Navigation:

Well, I’ve seen it, and now I believe it. A company managed to use identical menus for EVERY season of a show released to DVD. All 4 seasons contain identical menus. Once more, with FEELING (stop me if you’ve heard THIS part before):

Menus are well done, but the graphical parts of the menus are still holdovers from the season 1 - and season 2 ­ AND season 3 ­ sets. I say the graphical part because, as with season three, season four used a slightly faster paced and more upbeat version of the classic Mike Post theme and that IS different from the first half of the series. But as in all three previous releases, all visuals in the menu are the same: various anatomy diagrams and newspaper articles about Doogie circle around the screen, while the main theme plays. At the same time, the computer screen in the background is typing something, though it's impossible to read what it says with the pictures swirling around. The Play All, Special Features, and Episodes buttons are in east to read text on top of a black translucent background over the bottom left corner of the background, while the season and disc numbers are in a similar box in the top-right half of the screen. The episode selection menu is the same DOS-era word processor styled list used in previous seasons' sets. The special features menu features this same DOS word processor-style list.

You know, I’ve spent three reviews now (Two, Three, and now Four) complaining about how the menus are season one rehashes, but it should be noted: I would MUCH prefer that a company re-use GOOD, and CREATIVE menu systems such as this than spend an hour in a graphics program creating one still visual, and have THAT be the main menu--repetitive and professional over different but amateurish any day of the week. Considering the amount I’ve complained about repeating menus, I thought I’d say something nice about them for once, to be different. This IS after all probably the last time I’ll ever be reviewing anything to do with this series, so I thought I’d get that in while I could.

Video and Audio Quality:

Video is good, but not great. There is occasionally a bit of grain and/or some artifacting, particularly on the second and third discs. Audio is pretty much the exact same as the first three sets--clear, well-balanced, no hiss. One chapter stop per episode, after the opening credits, like some of Anchor Bay’s other sitcoms (3rd Rock, Three’s Company). Oh well, better than nothing. Episodes are not edited ­ the 22:22 episode is just an episode that ran short. Runtimes below:

Disc 1:
There’s a Riot Going On: 22:50
Look Ma, No Pants: 23:10
Doogie Got a Gun: 23:04
Doogie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: 23:08
The Patient in Spite of Himself: 23:21
To Err is Human, To Give Up Isn’t a Bad Idea: 23:00

Disc 2:
Doogie Can You Hear Me: 23:20
Nothing Compares 2 U: 22:51
Do the Right Thing…If You Can Figure Out What It Is: 23:14
The Big Sleep…Not: 23:18
Will the Real Dr. Howser Please Stand Up: 22:57
The Mother of All Fishing Trips: 23:32

Disc 3:
Roommate with a View: 22:22
Spell it “M-A-N”: 23:14
It’s a Tough Job…But Why Does My Father Have to Do it?: 22:53
The Adventures of Sherlock Howser: 23:17
Love Means Constantly Having to Say You’re Sorry: 23:11
You’ve Come a Long Way, Babysitter: 23:21

Disc 4:
Love Makes the World Go ‘Round…or is it Money?: 22:59
Dorky Housecall, M.D.: 22:52
Eleven Angry People…And Vinnie: 23:03
What Makes Doogie Run: 23:04

Special Features:

Special features on the set are sparse, but hey, we're used to it by now. Two interviews (plus some Anchor Bay DVD Previews) are on this set. This time, two interviews to close out the series. Lawrence Pressman and Kathryn Layne are interviewed. The Pressman interview runs 13:04. He talks about his friendship with Steven Bochco, how he wound up on the show, and the other thoughts you’d expect in these interviews. He originally read for the senior Dr. Howser, but they felt that James Sikking was just better, and that he was better for the role he ultimately got. The Kathryn Layng interview is more or less the same ­ just less mentions of Steven Bochco ­ but runs 18:12. Kathryn still looks pretty much the same 13-14 years later. Total runtime for features is 31:16.

Final Comments:

[The Public Review of Doogie Howser Season 4]

May 6, 2006 ­ After just over a year, the fun has come to a close. This show has put out four fairly consistently entertaining seasons, and I can definitely say it was a good ride. With this review over with, it’s time to move on. There will always be more sets to review, and hopefully, they’ll be entertaining as well. I can’t say that this was the best season of the show, but I’ve definitely seen much worse television. If you haven’t purchased seasons 1-3 yet, I’d definitely rather that people go and buy them first, as this is not the best season for people to start with. That said, for anyone out there who might have been on the bubble about this last season, go ahead and pick it up. Hopefully we’ll all go away happier at the end of the day. For those of you who haven’t invested in the show yet, I personally think that it’s worth the money. All in all, when asked for a recommendation for the season, and for the show, I can only respond by saying: Recommended.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 2/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 05/06/06

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