If Mrs. Howser were a Ferengi, would that make her Doogie’s Moogie?
“I haven’t felt like a child prodigy in a long time.”
What do you do when your teenage doctor is no longer a teenager? That was the conundrum facing the writers of Doogie Howser, M.D. as the series grew up in its third year. Fortunately, the writers, which included series creator Steven Bochco (NYPD Blue) and future TV superstar David E. Kelley (Boston Legal) gave the show a renewed focus on character development and interaction during its third year.
Now, Anchor Bay has released all 24 episodes of season three on a four-disc set, so viewers everywhere can relive the ups and downs of Doogie’s 18th year.
Dr. Douglas “Doogie” Howser (Neil Patrick Harris, Undercover Brother) is a bona fide genius, having spent what would have been his high school years as a full-blown doctor in an LA hospital. Now that he’s 18, life has slowed down a little for the teen doc, with plenty of time to hang out with his best friend Vinnie (Max Casella, Ed Wood), Vinnie’s girlfriend Janine (Lucy Boryer, Body Bags), and his parents David (James B. Sikking, Hill Street Blues) and Katherine (Belinda Montgomery, Days of Our Lives). At the hospital, Doogie has support from his nurse friend Curly Spaulding (Kathryn Lang, The Marrying Man), his stern boss Dr. Canfield (Lawrence Pressman, American Pie), and gang-banger turned orderly Raymond (Markus Redman, Fight Club). Doogie’s relationship with his girlfriend Wanda (Lisa Dean Ryan, Dead At 21) officially ends this year, but she remains a part of his life in one way or another.
• “The Summer of ’91”
The series made headlines across the country in 1991 with this episode, in which Doogie loses his virginity on the eve of Wanda’s departure for college in Chicago. The big event almost doesn’t happen, though, thanks to plenty of distractions on their big night.
• “Doogie has Left the Building” Parts One and Two
Doogie and Vinnie decide to “live the dream” by moving out and getting their own apartment. But their non-stop beer commercial lifestyle might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
• “It’s a Damn Shaman”
Doogie learns a thing or two about compromise when parents refuse treatment for their child based on their religious beliefs.
• “The Cheese Stands Alone”
Vinnie and Janine’s relationship is strained yet again when a sexy classmate shows an interest in Vinnie. Janine, meanwhile, has a surprising confession for Doogie.
• “Lonesome Doog”
When Wanda returns home for a visit, Doogie looks forward to rekindling the romance. But, several months away at college have left Wanda with some changes, and some new friends.
• “When Doogie Comes Marching Home”
Doogie and Vinnie collaborate on a Civil War screenplay, leading to an episode-long 1860s dream sequence.
After his car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Doogie meets a kindred spirit, Shannon (Danielle von Zerneck, La Bamba, Living in Oblivion.) She’s a fellow genius, alone in the wilderness studying the stars with her telescope. She and Doogie have only one night together, though, knowing that they must go back to their regular lives in the morning.
• “Room and Broad”
It’s all about conflicts between parents and young adults, when Doogie’s parents insist that he start paying rent, while Curly has trouble convincing her father to agree to a pacemaker.
It’s one long, late night as Doogie, Wanda, Vinnie, and Janine all gossip, spread rumors, and reveal secrets in a series of long-distance phone calls.
• “Truth and Consequences”
Doogie falls for a large-nosed librarian after learning she’s scheduled for plastic surgery. Now he has to ask himself, is he really after her, or who she’s about to become.
• “It’s a Wonderful Laugh”
Years before Patch Adams, Doogie serves up his own lesson about the healing power of laughter, with help from Vinnie and some film school snobs, not to mention Jerry Lewis and the Three Stooges. Nyuk! Nyuk!
• “Dangerous Reunions”
When Katherine gets a visit from an old flame, Doogie finds that he’s more upset about than his dad is.
• “Mummy Dearest”
Doogie is enlisted to help an archaeologist perform an autopsy on an ancient Egyptian mummy. When accidents start happening around the hospital, though, everyone starts to believe rumors about—wait for it—the mummy’s curse. So why wasn’t this one used earlier in the season as a special Halloween episode?
• “Double Doogie with Cheese”
Vinnie bets Doogie a new CD player that the genius doctor can’t last two days at Vinnie’s new job in the fast food industry.
• “The Show Mustn’t Go On”
A cool actor visits the hospital to do research for his hit medical show. Doogie and Vinnie, meanwhile, figure rewriting a script could be what it takes to help a patient.
• “If this is Adulthood, I’d Rather be in Philadelphia”
Doogie learns his new flame has a big surprise she hasn’t told him about. Is Doogie mature enough to handle this kind of relationship?
• “What You See Ain’t Necessarily What You Get”
Doogie treats Curly to some karaoke for her 30th birthday, and the two of them start to wonder if there’s more than just friendship in the future for them.
• “My Father, My Self”
With his fourth and final year of residency soon to end, Doogie considers joining his father’s private practice.
• “Educating Janine”
When Doogie’s mom tries to help out Janine with some friendly advice, Janine’s parents respond by throwing her out of the house.
• “Sons of the Desert”
It’s time for some serious Spring Break partying as Doogie and Vinnie head to Palm Springs. But there are some surprises waiting for both of them once they get there.
• “That’s what Friends Are For”
Doogie tries to be a good friend to Wanda and Vinnie, but his best intentions keep backfiring when he counsels Wanda about her dad’s new romance and Vinnie about his lack of height.
• “Thanks for the Memories”
An elderly patient in danger of losing his memory relies on Doogie’s genius to help remember facts from the past.
• “Club Medicine”
Doogie and his dad head off to Honduras on a humanitarian trip to help the local hospital there. Once there, though, Doogie clashes with a wisecracking MASH-style doctor.
The “teenage doctor” novelty that made the first season so amusing wore off quickly. The second season was then marked by bland and tedious sitcom clichés. For this third season, the creators wisely decided to focus on the drama half of this “dramedy.” The emphasis of Doogie Howser M.D.‘s third season is on the characters’ relationships with each other. Friendships, romances, and parent/child interactions are all put to the test this year.
Vinnie gets as much screen time here as Doogie, if not more. No longer just comic relief, Vinnie deals with his parents, Janines’ parents, and his ongoing patience with Janine herself. Vinnie makes a lot of self-discoveries this season, often with Doogie along only as an observer.
Another recurring theme here is that of becoming an adult. Sure, the characters always wondered about their futures, but now, they’re standing on the edge of the cliff. Vinnie struggles with life as an artist vs. actually making a living. Janine wonders whether college is the right path for her, and even Doogie faces the unknown in his career. Several episodes have the younger characters standing up for themselves, insisting they have what it takes to be an adult.
And that brings us to sex. Sex. Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex. Sexy McSex-sex. This series has been preoccupied with sex from day one, but in this season all that tension grows and then builds up to a climax (Cough! Ahem.) with the almost-controversial episode when Doogie loses his virginity. It happens just as Wanda leaves for another city, and two worry they’ll never see each other again, so there’s conveniently no “morning after” drama to deal with immediately. And for parents, rest assured that nothing explicit happens on screen. Your middle-schoolers have seen steamier stuff in their copies of Maxim.
Before you think this season offers nothing but “horny college guy” comedy, there are some moments of heart here as well. This is seen in the season’s standout episode, “Doogstruck” when Doogie encounters someone who might have become his soul mate, if only they had more than one night to share with each other. “Doogstruck” is real old-fashioned romance, the kind rarely seen in Hollywood anymore, and it’s one of the series’s finest moments.
Picture and audio quality here pick up from where the previous box sets left off, with bright colors and no distortion in the sound. The extras consist of Harris and Sikking sharing their memories of day-to-day life on the set. Again, it’s unfortunate that the extras aren’t more substantial, but what’s here isn’t bad.
Newcomers to the weird world of Doogie are better off starting with the first season. For everyone who suffered through the tedious second season, know that this one is an improvement.