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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Quincy, M.E.: Season 7
Quincy, M.E.: Season 7
Shout Factory // Unrated // November 11, 2014
List Price: $39.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted December 10, 2014 | E-mail the Author
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It's hard not to like the quaint charms found watching Quincy, M.E. (1976-83), the sincere - boy, is it ever - medical examiner procedural starring the irreplaceable Jack Klugman as "the original crime scene investigator." Produced by Universal Television, and with Lou Shaw co-created by the late Glen A. "Larceny" Larson, Quincy had that same sausage factory look and structure of other Universal shows, but it stood out because, frequently, Quincy tackled real health care issues ripped, as they say, from the headlines. Hopelessly dated in some respects and at times as message-driven as a bad Stanley Kramer movie, Quincy nonetheless still holds up much of the time. And though absurdly bloodless for a show about a coroner, in other ways it's still more realistic than later series like CSI - Crime Scene Investigation and NCIS, shows that are all sizzle, no steak.

Once again, Shout! Factory comes to the rescue. Universal released seasons one and two in 2005, but took four years to get around to season three, then abandoned the series altogether after that. Shout! Factory has picked up the mantle, and has released seasons four, five, and six within a few months of one another, leaving only Season 8 to go. The video transfers of these filmed-in-35mm programs are very good and the packaging includes helpful plot synopses and airdates.

Quincy had an unusual history. It began as part of the same NBC Mystery Movie series that included Columbo, McMillan & Wife, and McCloud. However, those shows all rotated wheel-like on alternating Sunday nights. Quincy had the misfortune to be scheduled on a similarly rotating wheel spin-off from that concept, The NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie, whose less-remembered programs included Banacek, Madigan, and Lanigan's Rabbi.

Quincy, M.E., debuting in 1976, was the only lasting success of the Wednesday night series, and as the novel rotation format was dying off anyway (even Columbo was gone by '78), the decision was made to retool Quincy midway through its first season from an occasional series of 90-minute TV movies into a weekly hour one.

Quincy M.E. follows Los Angeles-based forensic pathologist Dr. Quincy (Jack Klugman) - like Columbo, Quincy has no other name - as he uses cutting-edge science to solve seemingly unsolvable crimes, and to play Devil's Advocate in otherwise "open and shut" cases. In his investigations long-suffering assistant pathologist Sam Fujiyama (Robert Ito), long-suffering boss Dr. Asten (John S. Ragin), and long-suffering LAPD Lt. Monahan (Garry Walberg) aid him. Quincy also spends a lot of time at the local bar, Danny's, run by long-suffering pal Danny Tovo (Val Bisoglio). Unilaterally their sole function is to fight or put up with Quincy's outrageous theories and social irresponsibility.

Where Columbo's success rested on a combination of star Peter Falk's unendingly entertaining portrayal of that title character and a sure-fire formula that, with care, could be milked ad infinitum, the secret of Quincy's early success fell almost entirely on star Jack Klugman's shoulders. At first.

Co-creator Glen A. Larson, rest his soul, was a producer of extreme bad taste - he made Irwin Allen look sophisticated - and who within the television industry had a notorious reputation as a blatant, unapologetic plagiarist. (James Garner, who minces no words in his memoirs, calls him a thief and recalls decking Larson after one such bit of chicanery.) One thing's for sure: Larson wrote teleplays that could turn normal brains into cottage cheese before the first station break. One early Quincy script co-written by Larson was so bad Klugman refused to appear in it. On his own show.

In the earliest, Larson-influenced episodes, Klugman's Quincy was an unstoppable dynamo, a one-man army fighting the system. Armed with wild theories supported by forensic evidence, Quincy sanctimoniously badgers and screams and whines through clenched teeth. Quincy is a fidgety workaholic, antsy even when on vacation or aboard his dry-docked boat in Marina del Rey. Klugman's Cagney-esque intensity (in the good sense), where even the most innocuous scene is played at a "10," was its main appeal, often nearly crossing over into high camp.

Eventually Larson, busy with other (but hardly worthwhile) projects, was more or less kicked off Quincy and more talented hands were brought in at the helm. In later seasons, various members of Klugman's family are noted in the credits. Maybe they were inexperienced in the field of weekly television production but, from a creative standpoint, they couldn't have been any worse than Larson. No one could, rest his soul.

By season 7, Quincy is much more laid-back, genial and very much a team player. Instead of the lone wolf he was in those earliest episodes, Quincy is as much a teacher for the younger pathologists, and whose expertise and experience are called upon as needed. I'd forgotten how much less of Quincy, M.E.'s later seasons center around Quincy than they do about the workplace generally and the procedural and evidence conflicts arising among various colleagues and with their law enforcement liaisons.

The scripts are far better than the genre's unimpressive battling average for early-‘80s TV. Quincy, M.E., often addressed serious issues more along the lines of the unjustly forgotten (and far more polished) Lou Grant, shows in which Klugman, the producers, and their writers could be justly proud. Many of these best episodes explicitly advocate changes in real, existing laws (including D.U.I.s, in this set), hospital policies, hospice care, the marketing of pharmaceuticals (look-alike drugs in season 7), on behalf of Down's Syndrome kids, environmental issues, etc.

Busy, familiar character actors from both Klugman's generation and younger talent pop up in these episodes, this season including Paul Picerni, Henry Jones, Martin E. Brooks, Leonard Stone, Robert F. Simon, Diana Muldaur, Ed Nelson, Mimi Rogers, Charles Aidman, Lonny Chapman, Paul Fix, Michael Constantine, Tyne Daly, Salome Jens, Simon Oakland, William Smithers, Robert Hooks, William Sanderson, Tom Atkins, Craig Stevens, Barbara Stuart, Gerald S. O'Loughlin, Philip Baker Hall, Alan Arbus, Clu Gulager, Ellen Geer, Colleen Dewhurst, Kelly Ward, Lloyd Gough, Joby Baker, William Sylvester, Anthony Eisley, Fredd Wayne, Martin Balsam, Norman Lloyd, Stefan Gierasch, Dixie Carter, Jonathan Frakes, Paul Mantee, Carrie Snodgrass, Ina Balin, George Gaynes, James Gregory, and Albert Paulsen.

Video & Audio

Quincy M.E. looks quite good for its age with bright, clean transfers presented in their original full-frame ratio. For the most part the images are free of dirt and wear, and have not been time-compressed. No complaints here. The mono sound is equally acceptable for its age, with optional closed-captioning. The season's 24 episodes are spread across six single-sided discs. No Extra Features

Parting Thoughts

Though clearly dated in many respects, I'm having a ball revisiting Quincy, M.E. and I suspect those with a like-minded nostalgia will enjoy them, too. Recommended.

Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes film history books, DVD and Blu-ray audio commentaries and special features. Visit Stuart's Cine Blogarama here.

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