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Doogie Howser M.D. aird from September 1989 until July 1993 on ABC.
Life can be complicated for a 16 year old, what with dating, demanding parents, and being a doctor. A doctor? That was just what most people said when they met fresh faced Doogie Howser, a boy genius who had zipped through high school in 9 weeks, graduated from Princeton at age 10 and from medical school at 14 and who was now a second year Resident at Eastman Medical Center in Los Angeles. Though he was an accomplished physician, Doogie (Neil Patrick Harris) had a lot to learn in the growing up department, and learn he did in this gentle if implausible comedy which mixed both drama and comedy in a half-hour format and with no laugh track.
Doogie lived at home with his parents. His father David (James B. Sikking) who was also a doctor and his mother Katherine ( Belinda Montgomery), kept him on an even keel, as did his colleagues at the hospital including Chief Of Services, Dr. Canfield (Lawrence Pressman),and fellow resident McGuire (Mitchell Anderson). Doogie's not so bright buddy, squeally voiced Vinnie ( Max Casella), kept him in touch with the teen world, climbing in his bedroom window to share the latest news. Later when Vinnie miraculously entered college, Doogie and Vinnie shared an odd couple apartment. This arrangement didn't last long. Janine (Lucy Boryer), was Vinnie's girlfriend, while Wanda (Lisa Dean Ryan) was the object of Doogie's desires, though their relationship sometimes got complicated. Wanda was mortified when she had an appendex attack while on a date, and Doogie had to examine her (" Did you put your hand on her cunundrum? blurred an envious Vinnie later ). Rounding out the cast was nurse Curly Spaulding ( Kathryn Lang), and Raymond Alexander ( Markus Redmond) , a black hospital orderly. ( the character had appeared in an episode during the first season as the robber of a convience store).
As the years past Doogie experienced some growing pains. He lost his virginity with Wanda in 1991 before she left to go to college in Chicago. He eventually moved out of his parents house and into his own apartment. By the last season both Doogie and Vinnie were playing the field with Doogie particularly attracted to nurse Faber ( Robin Lively). Vinnie meanwhile began pursuing a career as a filmmaker.
At the end of each episode Doogie entered his experiences in his electronic diary on his computer. For the record, there are no 16 year old doctors in the United States and according to most medical authorites probably never will be. On television, however there's no telling what might come next.
Steven Bochco was the executive producer of this series.
An Article on The LA Tomes
Bochco on His Own : Veteran Producer's New Firm Bows With 'Doogie Howser'
September 14, 1989|DIANE HAITHMAN | Times Staff Writer
Forget "Hill Street Blues," "L.A. Law" and "Hooperman." Steven Bochco is worried about producing his first TV show.
Never mind his illustrious, Emmy-studded past. The veteran writer-producer's newest creation, ABC's "Doogie Howser, M.D."--a quirky half-hour about a child prodigy who zipped over the academic hurdles to become a physician at age 16--is the first new show of the 10-series deal Bochco struck with ABC in November, 1987.
And it feels like the very first time.
"The stakes are higher, I guess, on the first one--you want it to be a credible effort, because there are a lot of people who will be watching," Bochco said at his airy new production headquarters--informally dubbed the "Bochco Building"--on the 20th Century Fox lot. The show debuts Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. and then will be seen Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m.
In an era when multiple-series deals with networks have fallen out of vogue, Bochco believes the success or failure of his first few series could affect the future of such deals for other producers.
"I would hope that, in the course of the next few years, ABC is going to look as though they were very smart," Bochco said. "If we don't do well, I guess I don't look so smart."
In 1987, Bochco turned down an offer from CBS to become president of its TV entertainment division and chose instead to accept ABC's offer of a six-year, seven-series deal with three more non-exclusive commitments over a flexible period of several years. At the time, Bochco's attorney said ABC paid Bochco in the ballpark of $10 million.
A few months later, Bochco announced that he would produce the 10 ABC series at Fox--for whom he already was making "L.A. Law"--and that Fox would get worldwide distribution rights to the shows.
If ABC doesn't like a Bochco series, he can sell it elsewhere, and Bochco can also take a series to another network first--but such a decision would result in substantial penalties for whichever party breaks the agreement.
"I like that aspect of the deal, because it keeps everybody on their toes," Bochco said. "Quite honestly, I don't see that happening. We were in easy accord on this first one. We're both a little nervous about the second one, just because it's an odd, different sort of hour."
Bochco, grinning widely, refuses any further details about his second ABC series, except to say: "Well, I don't know how odd it is, but it's complicated, and I'm not sure it's feasible, and nobody's ever done anything quite like it, so we both had anxieties about it for different reasons."
Anxiety doesn't seem to be leaving Bochco much the worse for wear these days, however. Although the "Bochco Building" is still so brand-new it has entrances and exits that don't lead anywhere, it seems more like a resort hotel than an office complex: "I wanted it to feel like a home, not like every building on every studio lot I've ever worked on, a warren of little hallways," Bochco said with a shudder.
And even with new-show jitters, Bochco seems as happy as a housecat here. Even though it's a new project, "Doogie Howser" remains all in the family, sort of: Scott Goldstein, producer of "L.A. Law" from 1986 to 1989, has moved over to produce "Doogie" this season; David Kelley, taking over from Bochco as "L.A. Law" executive producer, co-created "Doogie" and will serve as a creative consultant, as will Rick Wallace, now co-executive producer of "L.A. Law." Actor James B. Sikking, who portrays Doogie's father, is a "Hill Street Blues" veteran.
Bochco said his idea to develop a series about a child prodigy existed long before the deal with ABC. Bochco's father was a child prodigy who went on to become a concert violinist. An animated version of a 50-year-old photograph of Bochco's father playing the violin is part of the Steven Bochco Productions logo, which will appear at the end of each "Doogie Howser" episode.
"When I was growing up, he was just my dad," Bochco said. "He was 43 when I was born, so by the time I was a young child, my dad was 50 years old. Prodigy didn't mean anything to me. All I knew was I had a dad who was a violinist--that's what he did professionally.
"But he was also a guy who was a gifted portrait painter, self-taught, a wonderful architect, self-taught, a wonderful designer and master-builder, a voracious reader. That is my enduring memory of my dad, with a book in his hands. He audited medical school when he was a 20-year-old kid, because he had a bunch of friends who were medical students."
Bochco's interest was solidified by a magazine article on such children. "I thought, what if a kid's prodigious ability, through a certain set of circumstances, were focused almost obsessively on medicine?"
So Bochco created Doogie Howser, portrayed by 16-year-old Neil Patrick Harris, a child who becomes obsessed with medicine during a life-threatening illness. Douglas (Doogie) Howser scored perfect 800s on his SATs after completing high school in nine weeks. At 14, he received his medical degree and is now a second-year resident.
Bochco hopes the audience will be able to accept the reality of a 16-year-old doctor, who can dispense narcotic drugs but can't buy beer in a grocery store. He also wants the series to reflect the confusion of a child thrust into an adult world. In the first episode, the staff of the hospital plays a cruel birthday joke on Doogie, in which a female staffer corners him and seemingly attempts to seduce him as a set-up for a surprise party. They realize too late that the joke isn't as funny for a 16-year-old as for a 25-year-old.
"Although later episodes might be lighter, my choice was to do something that aches, so you could see what is fundamental to the concept--the compelling complexity and difficulty of being a boy in an adult world," Bochco explained.
In episode two, Doogie is out on a date when his 16-year-old girlfriend develops appendicitis. He takes her to the hospital, only to find that no other physician is available to give her a pelvic exam.
Bochco said he would prefer the show to be on at 8:30 or 9 p.m. rather than 9:30 to attract a younger audience--but he added that some of the subject matter might be problematic for younger audiences. "(The pelvic exam) is not something I'd want to do on an 8 o'clock show--but again, it's a concept that cuts to the very heart of the show, because it's humiliating," he said.
Just as "Doogie Howser" straddles the line between being a show for adults and a show aimed at kids Doogie's age, it also falls into that suspicious category invented last year: the "dramedy," or a half-hour, one-camera film show that may contain as much tragedy as comedy. Bochco's last "dramedy," ABC's "Hooperman," never became a ratings success and was canceled last season.
"I know ABC is understandably concerned about that--and I guess everybody else is," Bochco acknowledged. "But unlike 'Hooperman,' which I think we made some mistakes with, this feels more comfortable to me in a half-hour. I think this concept tells its stories comfortably in a half-hour; I'm not sure 'Hooperman' ever did."
AN Article on the 1989 Fall TV Shows from The New York Times
TV VIEW; TIMID PROGRAMMING, TEPID TELEVISION
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: October 15, 1989
If television reflects reality, however hazily, we the people would seem to be mired in growing confusion. While news and ''reality'' shows adopt questionable dramatization devices, entertainment formats drift ever further into inane diversions. Meanwhile, daytime shows like ''Geraldo'' are insisting that the land is being overrun by child molesters and Satanists. And, for the most part, the new season of weekly prime-time series only adds to the blur.
There are indeed continuing pressures on ABC, NBC, CBS and the still evolving Fox Broadcasting. All are under relatively new corporate ownerships that have initiated personnel cutbacks and tighter budgets. The inevitable result is to go with the obvious, that which doesn't require much thought or emotional investment. With visual impact becoming an obsession, content floats more and more on surfaces. A ''look'' is more important than integrity, a flashy concept more salable than struggling intelligence. The new season has its pockets of promise and even innovation, no doubt about it. But they are mostly in the form of character tinkerings or slightly adjusted concepts. There's Jack Scalia's more thoughtful tough-guy hero, for instance, on CBS's ''Wolf,'' or the Down's syndrome teen-ager in ABC's family drama ''Life Goes On.'' These and other details, rooted in more or less the real world, are the good part of the picture.
But as more than 20 new weekly series unfold well beyond their pilot premieres, the overall programming landscape looks increasingly bleak. There's certainly not a single entry of the caliber of ''Hill Street Blues'' or last year's ''The Wonder Years,'' or even ''Roseanne,'' the kinds of shows that take television in new directions. It's as if the commercial networks concluded that kinder, gentler means fuzzier, dumber. Viewers may well remember the cosmetics commercial in which the face of a beautiful woman fills the screen, seductively murmuring: ''I've had it with reality. I want illusion.'' That message threatens to become prime-time's logo. There are, to be sure, other watchable shows on the schedule: the energetic but so far uneven sendup of show-business agents on CBS's ''Famous Teddy Z''; and even ABC's ''Young Riders'' with its frisky attempt to revive the western format, albeit with pretty cowboys who seem to be dressed in Ralph Lauren concepts of the American past. But too many of the other series are downright irritating.
This is the season, for instance, of decidedly odd couples (in entertainment, Jackie Mason and Lynn Redgrave on ABC's ''Chicken Soup,'' Sam Donaldson and in infotainment, Diane Sawyer on ABC's ''Prime Time Live'') and odd pairings (a Catholic nun and a batch of ''misfit'' orphans on NBC's ''Sister Kate,'' Connie Chung and a drama repertory on ''Saturday Night With Connie Chung''). Then there are the always perky youngsters, more than ever obsessed with sex, cosmetics and fashion: the teen-age models on ABC's ''Living Dolls'' or the 16-year-old ''Doogie Howser, M.D.'' on NBC or, on the same network, ''Baywatch,'' with its Los Angeles lifeguards and an endless landscape of unblemished flesh. It should be a good year for dermatologists. Finally - shades of ''I Dream of Jeannie'' fantasy capers - consider Winnie the Witch on ABC's ''Free Spirit'' and the psychic cartoonist on CBS's ''People Next Door.'' Consider, and then carefully avoid.
While hardly new to prime time, titillation now threatens to become the only game in television town. As the networks' audience share in the last decade has plummeted from 92 to 67 percent, the thrust toward cheaper, more accessible product has intensified. With competition from cable and videocassettes continuing, and with advertisers looking anew at market configurations, the networks are not likely in the foreseeable future to become more adventurous, imaginative or, heaven help us, provocative. It's hardly a coincidence that CBS, which once prided itself on being the Tiffany of networks, is this season involved in an extensive campaign of mutual promotion with K-Mart.
This spreading timidity is occurring, of course, at a time when the country is facing a harrowing list of crises: drugs, AIDS, the homeless, failing savings institutions, housing scandals, Wall Street ripoffs and political corruption, just to mention the more prominent. Forget about the rest of the world. But viewers would be hard-pressed to find much evidence of these problems in weekly series.
On the contrary. While the horror of children born with AIDS grows worse, adding to the rolls of parentless children in major urban areas, ''Sister Kate'' offers an episode in which one of the adorable orphans refuses to be adopted because she doesn't want to leave her friend behind in the residential home. Evidently the young ones, like those hordes of homeless and the unemployed who supposedly don't want to work anyway, are best left where they are - periodically exploited by television but carefully kept in their place. Viewers needn't feel threatened, or even terribly concerned.
Programming strategies this year reek of uncertainty. In that sense, they may be reflecting national realities more than is immediately apparent. Witness Washington's Panama scenario. There are indeed a few nods in the direction of what might be considered traditionally ''mature'' programming. CBS, in particular, seems to be focusing on older audiences - in television that means over 30. So ''Island Son'' stars Richard Chamberlain, the mini-series monarch, as a contemporary version of Dr. Kildare, a role that made the actor a star in the early 1960's. But in today's far more turbulent world of medicine, this good and noble doctor comes across as an anachronism.
''Peaceable Kingdom'' has Lindsay Wagner as a mother and the new director of the Los Angeles County Zoo. Significant mention is made at one point of the songs ''Don't Worry, Be Happy'' and ''The Impossible Dream.'' Says mom to her human brood: ''We're never going to have a normal life. Normal is boring.'' So, unfortunately, is ''Peaceable Kingdom.'' In ''Major Dad,'' Gerald McRaney works industriously as a Marine disciplinarian who, for no very convincing reason, marries a ''liberal'' widow with three daughters. The major might easily be mistaken for Ollie North, without the distraction of the Iran-contra scandal.
Elsewhere on the schedule, television continues to woo younger audiences, especially women, the favorite targets of advertisers. On hand is the usual quota of brooding but ever more vulnerable hunks. In addition to Mr. Scalia in ''Wolf,'' there is Richard Tyson, complete with shoulder-length hair, motorcycle and single earring, in NBC's ''Hardball.'' Returning to the old-cop, young-cop formula, ''Hardball'' has Mr. Tyson finding a surrogate father in John Ashton as a veteran detective refusing to be put out to retirement pasture. It is a vintage year for father-son motifs.
As for the always skittish teen-age market, ABC's ''Living Dolls'' may well be setting a new record for exploitation. Michael Learned, once the homebody mother of ''The Waltons,'' is now the chic head of a modeling agency and housemother to several 16-year-old cover girls. When not fussing with their makeup, the fetching lasses are preoccupied with clothes and partying, well on their way to being perfect little consumers. Their own families seem to have disappeared, except for that of one tough street kid from Brooklyn, whose neglectful mother doesn't even want to bother with her birthday. This prompts the poor youngster to use, without permission, a friend's house for a big, messy party. At first the owner, who returns unexpectedly, is furious, but all is forgiven when he learns that the girl only wanted to give herself a birthday party. Awww, coos the sympathetic studio audience.
Authority, parental or otherwise, is clearly a delicate issue on shows geared to young audiences. Most scripts carefully avoid any hint of being old-fashioned, which is nearly always dismissed as boring in an era pursuing the new and trendy. A rare exception was found in a recent episode of ''Doogie Howser, M.D.'' Doogie used, without permission, his parents' home for a big, messy party - yes, plot ideas are rather limited these days - and wound up getting in trouble with the police. Doogie's parents were, and remained, enormously disappointed in him.
Then there are the hunks designed for teen-agers, the kind of leather-jacket-with-earring James Dean types who make daddy glance anxiously at his daughter. Fox Broadcasting has proven especially adept in this market. In ''21 Jump Street,'' about young and unattached undercover cops infiltrating schools and colleges, Johnny Depp emerged as top boyish heartthrob. Then last season Richard Grieco, out of a somewhat chunkier mold, generated so much mail that he has now been given his own series, ''Booker,'' and promoted from rebel cop to unorthodox investigator, though still partial to leather.
How do you like your nation's capital? CBS's ''Top of the Hill'' offers Washington as seen through the idealistic exploits of a youngish surfer turned Congressman (William Katt) who could be mistaken at a distance for Representative Joseph Kennedy. He gives his constituents personal service. Someone missing in the drug thickets of Central America? An adopted woman looking to find her real family for a crucial bone-marrow transplant? No problem. Over on NBC, however, ''Mancuso, F.B.I.,'' with the always estimable Robert Loggia in the lead role, approaches Washington as a cesspool. ''Clout and phone calls and coverups,'' snarls seedy Mancuso, ''that's how this stinking town gets by.'' Consuming dry Manhattans and peanuts in his favorite gin mill, he looks up at the TV set and sneers, ''The First Amendment - television's answer to the Spanish Inquisition.'' Of course, Mancuso is equally idealistic, just in a grittier way.
Also set in Washington, but for no very pressing purpose, is CBS's ''Snoops,'' which seems eager to accomplish for Tim Reid and Daphne Maxwell Reid, also married off screen, what ''Hart to Hart,'' itself a variation on the old Nick and Nora Charles ''Thin Man'' movies, did for Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers. He teaches criminology. She is a protocol aide for the State Department. Together, with the use of a chauffeured limousine and spiffy wardrobes, they solve assorted criminal cases that, alas, tend to be rather obvious. The only other new series with black actors in the lead roles is the ABC sitcom ''Family Matters.'' And, effectively segregated, this family doesn't venture very far from the standard broad strokes of sitcom. Shouts bossy grandma: ''We gotta eat now or I'm not going to be regular all week.''
If the times might seem especially propitious for comedy, some of the more prominent efforts are struggling noticeably. Few spectacles have been more excruciatingly embarrassing than watching Mr. Mason and Miss Redgrave in the ill-conceived ''Chicken Soup'' pretending to be romantically interested in each other. ''The Famous Teddy Z,'' starring Jon Cryer as a new show business agent who's learning on the job, got off to a hilarious start, then collapsed in a dreary second episode. The next installment, however, recovered nicely as Teddy tended to the career needs of Bobby, a chimpanzee. It seemed Bobby's sitcom was beginning to get to him after six years of production. ''He feels the scripts are all the same,'' the chimp's manager explained. There certainly is potential here.
For the most part, it is still too early to determine which of these new series will survive. The ratings picture is currently being skewed by the championship baseball series. And some established shows, such as ''L.A. Law,'' won't be returning until November. But with the networks grasping at worn formats and questionable gimmicks, it's likely that fewer and fewer viewers will care. There are too many alternatives available, some of them perhaps a bit more attuned to the world around us.
An Article from USA TODAY
Published on November 28, 1990
Just what ABC ordered
Harris and Bochco , the hot 'Doogie' Duo
Teen star celebrates in two worlds
By Tom Green
Los Angeles-Neil Patrick Harris' mother has just slipped him a college application to NYU.
" I want to go " says television's Doogie Howser, M.D., the child prodigy whose weekly tightrope walks through the worlds of medicine and adolescence are a growing ratings tonic for second-place ABC.
" I think that college is very important," says 17-year old Harris, a high school senior and A student, though no genius like Doogie. " It is rewarding not only educationally, but also socially."
The truth is Harris has decided to delay college at least until Doogie Howser ends-and that's at least three years away. But he talks about the importance of higher education from a perspective that is decidedly grown-up.
Acting adult is just what Harris does. As the star of producer Steven Bochco's quirky Doogie Howser ( tonight, 9 EST/PST), which in its second season has become a solid top-20 hit, the teen-ager has had to make himself comfortable in a world of high-powered adults.
Series creator Bochco says he knew Harris was his doctor the first time they met. He says the similarities between Doogie, who works as a resident in a hospital and Neil, who works as the star of a TV series are striking.
" He has an uneasy leg in two different worlds," says Bochco. " One leg is in the highly skilled world in which he is inordinately successful and the other is firmly planted in being a 17-year old kid."
Harris says his job obligates him to maintain an " adult stature." Playing Doogie, " You can't lose your cool."
" It's a big burden," says Max Casella, 23, who plays Doogie's best buddy, Vinnie. " He's responsible for about 40 jobs. How else is he going to behave?"
Actually Harris downplays the challange. He says he's always been mature for his age.
" When I'm with my friends, I deal with their parents just like I deal with them. I don't put on that front that a lot of kids put on: Hello, Mrs. Johnson, It's a pleasure to meet you." I just go, " Hey, how're you doing?"
" I'm very open...little kids are attracted to me because I'm like a magnet. I like magic and juggling . I'm like the babysitter you always wanted to have."
Harris grew up in Ruidoso, N.M., a tourist town three hours south of Alberquerque . He got interested in acting in school signing up for a week-long drama camp at New Mexico State University. There at age 14 he met playwright Mark Medoff ( Children of a Lesser God), who was working on a film script for Clara's Heart.
Medoff sent a videotape of Harris to Warner Brothers, and he was cast opposite Whoopi Goldberg in the 1988 release. The film was a flop, but Harris got good notices.
" I'm not surprised that Neil can make a living as an entertainer," says his mother, Sheila , a lawyer. " But I am surprised it happened so soon."
The experience was overwhelming for the family which also includes Harris' father, Ray, also a lawyer, and brother Brian, 20, a college journalism student.
Before Clara's Heart, a talent search had come to town, and Harris competed as a singer. But it turned out to be a scam, " some guy who goes from town to town and takes your money and runs."
Burned by that, the family was skeptical about Clara's Heart. Though it turned out to be a good experience, they remain careful about the entertainment business, even after Harris did roles in TV movies ( Cold Sassy Tree with Faye Dunaway) and then won the part of Doogie Howser in 1989.
The family had just moved to Alberquerque . Seperated when Harris' mother went to law school, they decided to move to Los Angeles rather than break up the family again. But they return to Alberquerque when he's not working and Harris will graduate from high school there in June.
Bochco says he warned Harris' parents that Doogie was going to make their son a star and " you're not going to be prepared for it." They were not and neither was Harris, who is having a hard time settling into his celebrity.
He does press interviews reluctantly and is fearful that fan magazines will try to make him a teen idol. He guards his personal life , squirming when talk turns to whom he is dating-" I date like everyone else on the weekends."
Says Bochco, " We were talking about doing some merchendising, and he called me . He had some concerns about it. Its tough enough being recognized He didn't want to walk into a store and see a Doogie section with his face on lunch boxes. I said let's not do it."
Harris got roughed up by the tabloids recently when one reported that he wanted to get a mohawk haircut and that friendship with co-star Casella was leading him down what Harris jokingly describes as " the path to hell."
The two actors who are not really pals off the set because one is 17 and the other 23 ( " That's a big age gap," says Casella), say they have no idea where that came from.
More often, there have been odd reports that Harris, because he plays a doctor, has actually saved a life somehow. That's never happened either.
" One night after the Jerry Lewis telethon, I was driving and saw a car accident. An older man hit a lady. No one stopped. They could care less. So I stopped."
The woman was not hurt, but the man, whose car did a 360-degree spin, was " very shaky," says Harris. " I calmed him down. Nobody was really hurt. They were all laughing because I was like a doctor on the scene."
More than heroics, Harris says he needs time to be a kid, though few have seen him act like a kid in public. Bochco says he's never seen it. His mother says Neil's older brother was the renagade of the two. " Likes to please people ," she says.
Recent night outs for Harris have been to go bowling and to go to a dinner at a Hollywood restaurant where a murder is acted out. He is more anxious to see Home Alone than Dances With Wolves. Besides magic and juggling, his big interest is collecting Disney phernalia.
He drives a 1986 Ford Escort, which his parents bought for him. But he'll probably buy a new car for graduation. His dream: a mustang convertable. Though Doogie is making Harris wealthy, he lives on an allowance and each season gets a major present for himself. Last year it was a car stereo. Everything else goes to a trust fund.
" I'm starting to get out on my own more," he says, " because I need to." I can't stay with my parents forever. At the same time, I don't want them to feel useless. They need to go back and do their thing."
The issue of when he will get a place of his own is not resolved. He may split when he turns 18 in June or may decide to stay with his parents for another year.
Doogie's alter ego is growing up. He says he's serious about college. He plans to be a theater arts major with a film minor. " I don't think I;ll lose that urge," he says.
Harris says he has been very mature right from the start when it comes to the sexual frankness that is a signature of all Bochco series. The first show when he had to kiss girlfriend Wanda Plenn ( Lisa Dean Ryan) was " pretty bad," but they're getting good at it by now. The two actors had crushes on each other when the series began, and are now good friends.
As for the rest of it-pelvic examinations included-he's never been embarrassed: " My visions are much worse than the show's could ever be."
An Article from The New York Times
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; On Teen-Age Virginity, Or Its Loss, on TV
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: September 25, 1991
Tonight at 9 on ABC, Doogie Howser, M.D., loses his virginity. Welcome to television's most popular teen club, Doogie. To do it or not to do it has long been the titillating question on prime-time entertainment. Today it's merely rhetorical. And the answer has become dangerously irresponsible.
It used to be that the potential partners, while perhaps not married, were at least comfortably beyond their teens -- Maddie and David in "Moonlighting," that sort of romp. Now though, demurely professing only to reflect more promiscuous realities, scriptwriters have any television youngster over 16 hopping into bed because, gosh, everybody's doing it. Other fairly typical examples could be found recently on ABC's "Roseanne" and Fox's "True Colors" and "Beverly Hills 90210."
The phenomenon isn't exactly new -- shows like "Facts of Life" and "Growing Pains" got there first, albeit far more tentatively. But now, like a marriage ceremony and a pregnant heroine, teen-age sex has become commonplace on network schedules. Curiously, this particular boom is taking place in the AIDS era, when young people are more than ever being lectured on the fail-safe virtues of sexual abstinence. That is certainly one route to go but, obviously, television finds the other more enticing and, just possibly, more ratings-effective.
The assorted virginity losses are indeed handled with a degree of sensitivity. Doogie's rite of passage this evening is well done. The prodigy doctor turns 18 and finds that "being a virgin is driving me crazy." Doogie is played by Neil Patrick Harris, who is unfailingly charming but looks several years younger than 18, a fact that makes the sex issue a bit more dicey.
There are complications, of course, but Doogie does, as mutually planned, grab his condoms and go to bed with his girlfriend, Wanda (Lisa Dean Ryan), who is leaving for college. Doogie, however, ends up more confused than ever, not feeling anywhere like the man he expected to become. It's his work with patients that makes him feel like a man. The episode flirts intriguingly with a crucial point about the pushing of sex and sexual images in our society to divert attention away from a troubling lack of genuine accomplishment. Life becomes a superficial exercise in attitude.
Television's variations on teen-age sex are often ingenious. Roseanne, for instance, was stunned when her daughter Becky (Lecy Goranson) asked for birth-control pills because of her relationship with a fellow Roseanne cannot stand. In fact, Becky finally confided, they already had sex but "don't worry, we used something." Little wonder Roseanne cried: "I want to know if other people go through this, or if I'm the only insane mom in the world!"
"Beverly Hills 90210" has gone through its own curious flip-flop. Brenda (Shannen Doherty) spent most of last season fending off the heavy sexual advances of cool Dylan (Luke Perry). Listening to her daddy, she held out for virginity. But then a new girl in town seemed to be seducing Dylan, and a jealous Brenda hopped in his convertible for a drive to the all-purpose lovers' lane overlooking the lights of Los Angeles. "I'm sorry for everything I ever put you through," murmured the clearly more pliant Brenda. "Whatever it took to get you here," the relieved Dylan conceded, "it was worth it."
There is no question, of course, that sex among teen-agers is more prevalent these days and that virginity is at a premium by age 18. But there is a question of whether the social realities are being merely reflected or actually created by television, not only through programming but also the Calvin Klein-type commercials that merit an R rating of their own. Peer pressure, the oft-heard explanation for the behavior of young people, is not concocted out of thin air. Certain airwaves are undoubtedly a contributing factor.
More troubling than anything else is that exposure to these teen-age forays is hardly restricted to teen-agers. Earlier this year, a schoolteacher friend took a survey of a fourth-grade class in Brooklyn and found that the favorite television program was "True Colors." In many ways, this can be a provocative sitcom about an interracial marriage, but what are grade-school youngsters to make of a recent episode built entirely around the acute embarrassment of 19-year-old Terry (Claude Brooks) to admit that he's a virgin and to rectify the situation as quickly as possible?
The television participants may be older teen-agers but the sexual-activity message is being delivered week after week to far younger and more impressionable children. A Manhattan schoolteacher tells me of a "love letter" getting a 9-year-old third grader into trouble with its invitation for a classmate to "get into bed." More likely than not, the child is innocent about the full ramifications. Getting into bed may have no more significance at that age than snatching a kiss did a generation or so ago.
But the child is inevitably following through on the messages coming incessantly through the television into his own home. Not only is virginity decidedly unfashionable, but having babies is also a warm, wonderful experience akin to having your own live doll. Society may frown on children having more babies at earlier ages, especially in urban slums, but the children are only taking their cues from the multi-million-dollar image factories plucking recklessly at their daily lives.
Here is Steven Bochco's Obituary
NYPD Blue & Doogie Howser MD Co-Creator Steven Bochco Dies at 74
by Matt Morrison – on Apr 02, 2018 in TV News
Legendary writer and producer Steven Bochco - most famous for his work on NYPD Blue - has died at the age of 74, after struggling with leukemia for several years. Family spokesman Phillip Arnold said that Bochco "fought cancer with strength, courage, grace and his unsurpassed sense of humor," dying peacefully in his sleep with his family at his side.
A ten-time Prime Time Emmy Award winner, Bochco was renowned for bringing gritty realism, dark comedy and large ensemble casts to the small screen. Bochco was also famed for butting heads with studio executives and censors, pushing the envelope for what would be allowed on broadcast television. Bochco first found success with the police drama Hill Street Blues, which he developed for NBC with the understanding that he be allowed to do whatever he wanted with the pilot episode. Bochco expected that caveat to be a deal-breaker, but the network agreed and Hill Street Blues went on to win an astonishing 98 Emmys across 146 episodes. The series cemented Bocho's reputation as a masterful and combative producer.
"I began to hear words about myself: He’s arrogant, he’s this, he’s that," Bochco recalled in a 2002 interview with The Archive Of American Television. "My attitude was, call me what you will, but I know I have a great project here. I don’t know how many great projects there are going to be in my life, and I’m not going to screw this one up. I’d rather not do it. And they folded. They virtually folded on everything."
After creating the series L.A. Law for NBC, rival network CBS offered Bochco a job as President of the network's entertainment division in 1987. Bochco rejected it in favor of a development deal at ABC, which offered him $10 million to produce ten series over six years. This deal would include Doogie Howser MD - a dramaedy about a child prodigy who graduated from medical school at the age of 14 - and the series that many consider to be Bochco's greatest accomplishment, NYPD Blue. The police procedural would face numerous protests from conservative groups due to its frank depictions of violence and sex, while also earning multiple Emmy Awards over its 12 year run.
Steven Bochco is survived by his wife of 17 years, Dayna; children Jesse, Melissa and Sean and grandchildren Stevie Rae and Wes. He is also survived by his sister, Joanna Frank, who played Sheila Brackman, the wife of Douglas Brackman Jr. (her real-life husband Alan Rachins), on L.A. Law and his first wife, actress Barbara Bosson.
To watch some clips from Doogie Howser M.D. go to http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=doogie+howser+m.d.&aq=f
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20050307105401/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/doogie.html
For The Doogie Howser M.D. Fan Club go to http://www.fanpop.com/spots/doogie-howser-md
For the Personal Journal of Doogie Howser go to http://doogiehowsermd.blogspot.com/
For your Doogie Howser Fan Fiction go to http://www.fanfiction.net/tv/Doogie_Howser_M_D/
To see the Cast of Doogie Howser M.d. Then and Now go to http://theawesomedaily.com/doogie-howser-cast-then-and-now/
For a Website dedicated to Neil Patrick Harris go to http://chloe74.tripod.com/neil.html
For an article on Doogie Howser M.D. go to https://tv.avclub.com/doogie-howser-clumsily-but-bravely-tackled-issues-like-1798266334
For some Doogie Howser M.D.-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/doogie-howser-md
For a review of Doogie Howser M.D. go to https://web.archive.org/web/20080302084638/http://www.televisionheaven.co.uk/doogiehowser.htm
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrERtikdPus
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Keywords: Doogie Howser M.D. Cast (Links Updated 7/26/18)