Neil Patrick Harris, of Paul Verhoeven's fantastic Starship Troopers will probably always be best known for his long running turn as Doogie Howser M. D. which ran weeknights on ABC from 1989 until 1993. The premise? Howser is a sixteen year old genius who is so far beyond smart that he's actually working as an accredited medical doctor at a local hospital despite his young age. In between dealing with patients and trying to help people, he deals with the things most teenage boys deal with – girlfriends, cars, and hanging out with friends. A lot of Doogie's spare time is spent with his best friend, Vinnie Delpino (Max Casella who has had small parts in Ed Wood and Analyze This since the show ended) who also serves as the show's chief source of comic relief.
What made Doogie Howser M. D. interesting was the way that he had to balance his life as a doctor with his life as a teenager. It worked in much the same way that Spider-Man works in that the contrast between the two lives that the one central character leads makes for interesting viewing providing equal parts, drama, and humor (or in Spidey's case, action and humor). These two separate storylines running throughout the series made it appealing to both kids, who were sucked in to find out how Doogie's social life would turn out, and adults, who could groove on the sometimes serious medical drama that the show actually handled fairly well when you take into account that the central character is a child genius turned doctor (an odd concept in and of itself but one that is easy to look past once you start getting into the show). Oddly enough, given that last comparison, Harris has gone on to provide the voice of Spider-Man in the recent animated series.
Despite the fact that the series focused on the life and times of a teenager who still lived in his parent's house, there was an air of maturity to the show which lead to the tackling of such subjects of teenage promiscuity and our own mortality (such as when Doogie eventually loses a patient for the very first time and has to deal with it in his own way). The show wasn't all serious though, as Vinnie and Doogie quite frequently got into hi-jinks as teenage kids are apt to do, and Vinnie had a way of turning pretty much any conversation into a discussion about sex regardless of the original topic at hand. Some of the situations that Doogie and his girlfriend, Wanda, got into were also quite humorous at times and the show was all around, good spirited family entertainment.
The episodes contained in the set are laid out as follows:
The Ice Queen Cometh
A Stitch Called Wanda
The Short Goodbye
Vinnie Video Vici
Blood And Remembrance
She Ain't Heavy, She's My Cousin
My Old Man And The Sea
Tonight's The Night
Every Dog Has His Doogie
Doogie The Red-Nosed Reindeer
Greed Is Good
Attack Of The Green-Eyed Monster
It Ain't Over Till Mrs. Howser Sings
Tough Guys Don't Teach
I Never Sold Shower Heads For My Father
Doogie's Awesome, Excellent Adventure
Use A Slurpy, Go To Jail
Whose Mid-Life Crisis Is It Anyway?
Vinnie's Blind Date
And The Winner Is...
Breaking Up Is Hard To Doogie
The Grass Ain't Always Greener
Frankly, My Dear, I Don't Give A Grand
Each of the episodes in the set is presented in it's original fullframe aspect ratio. Video quality is pretty solid, though not perfect. A few scenes look just a tad soft and there is some edge enhancement scattered throughout but for the most part these are very minor problems that don't detract from the show at all. Mpeg compression artifacts and print damage are never an issue and color definition is, for the most part, natural looking and life like, particularly the green and white hues used in many of the hospital scenes where much of the show takes place.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Mix on this set sounds fine. There are no subtitle options but there is an English closed captioning feature. While there isn't a whole lot of channel separation going on the dialogue is clean and clear and you won't have any problems understanding anyone as they speak. Background music and sound effects are mixed properly and while the sound quality isn't going to blow you away, there aren't any glaring problems with it either. It's perfectly sufficient and gets the job done without and issues.
The extra features, all on the fourth disc in the set, are limited to two on camera interviews: one with Neil Patrick Harris (16:16) and one with Steven Bocho (17:26). Both of the interviews are pretty interesting and worth watching. Harris covers not only his career within the context of the show but also how it lead to some problems with type casting and with people thinking of him only in terms of Doogie Howser and not as a serious actor. Steven Bocho, one of the writers for the series as well as one of the co-creators (along with David E. Kelly), gives his take on things as well and has a few interesting anecdotes about the series.
Doogie Howser M. D. – Season One holds up surprisingly well. I dug the show as a kid for the humor and for the novelty of it all but as an adult (well, legally if not mentally) I found a whole new level of drama to the series that worked on a different level than I expected it too. Anchor Bay's DVD set looks and sounds decent enough and the interviews were nice to see. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.