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8 Long Hair, High Tech, and Mod What surely must be the strangest press release created about a doctorshow episode was distributed by CBS Television during May 1971. Titled “Medicine and Long Hair,” it began: If you ‹nd yourself in a hospital being cared for by someone with long hair, you may have to look twice—it could be a doctor rather than a nurse. That’s on the authority of Frank Glicksman, who, as executive producer of Medical Center on the CBS Television Network, keeps a sharp eye on modern medicine.1 Glicksman’s eye was not peering at the increasing number of woman physicians who were beginning to swing through medical school doors. Instead, his interest was in the way that anti-establishment styles of the younger generation were making their way into the hospital scene. “One reason we did [an episode] with this theme,” Glicksman said, “was the shocked reaction of a friend of mine when he visited a hospital and saw that interns and residents alike had joined the trend to long hair.” The story concerned what the press release called “a hippie style doctor,” played by Gary Lockwood. In the drama, said the release, “Lockwood’s unconventional appearance and his partiality for motorcycles put him in sharp con›ict with an establishment surgeon,” played 175 by Andrew Duggan. The two disagree on the treatment of a girl (Stefanie Powers, Lockwood’s real-life wife) who is facing a leg amputation. In the end the younger surgeon proves correct in his medical approach. He even wins the girl. “Our idea was to show that a man, whether he’s a doctor or not, shouldn’t be judged by the length of his hair or the cut of his clothes,” Glicksman explained in the press release. “Those external factors have nothing to do with a man’s medical skills.” The circular added that Gary Lockwood was enthusiastic about his role because, he said, “[i]t makes a statement we need today.” Lockwood’s statement could itself be taken as a banner phrase for the period. In the late 1960s, “now” and “relevance” were words that Hollywood television producers and network executives tossed around furiously. Young adults in con›ict with establishment ‹gures seemed like good plot directions. Doctor shows were part of this trend, as CBS, NBC, and ABC executives increasingly gave the nod to medical series. The new medical-program cycle had started in earnest during September 1969, when each network ushered in a prime-time doctor series. ABC introduced Marcus Welby on Tuesdays at 10. CBS gave Medical Center a 9 p.m. Wednesday berth. And NBC mounted The Bold Ones on Sunday at 10. The ‹rst two shows climbed quickly toward the top of the hits chart, with Medical Center just a few notches below the heralded Welby. In fact, it ultimately would beat Marcus Welby by a few months as television’s longest-running doctor show to that point (seven years). The Bold Ones didn’t do nearly as well with the numbers, but NBC executives were nevertheless satis‹ed with the show’s performance. It would stay on the air four years. Seeing the beginning of a good thing, executives scheduled two more doctor series for the 1970–71 season, The Interns (CBS) and Matt Lincoln (ABC). All the programs, including Welby, carried the burden of a television industry nervously trying to keep up with its society. The trick was to parlay strong ratings out of a multitude of contradictions: be challenging but harmless, relevant but escapist, immersed in social change but comfortably familiar. The creators of Medical Center and The Bold Ones, especially, showed that it was easier to do than it might seem. They found ways to adapt the traditional doctor-show formula that ‹t comfortably with contem176 | PLAYING DOCTOR porary marketing, dramatic, and censorship considerations in such a way as to actually evade painful realities of social change while pretending to face up to them. As we will see, this evasiveness applied to the doctor shows’ depiction of the medical system at least as much as to their portrayal of any other part of society. However, with the failure of The Interns and Matt Lincoln to gain high Nielsen ratings, the issue for producers and programmers became one of tactics. Their mission was to determine what new elements could be merged with the traditional formula so as to create certi‹ably huge audience grabbers that could, in turn, be...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780472027576
Related ISBN
9780472034277
MARC Record
OCLC
671656072
Pages
472
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-21
Language
English
Open Access
No
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