Monday, March 8, 2010

Marcus Welby: The Acid Test



Marcus Welby fascinates me. He is a family doctor and so much more. I love how he gets involved with every aspect of his patient's lives. How he acts as a friend as well as a professional. In a sense, he views his medical duties in the same way that Angela Landsbury solved mysteries in Murder She Wrote. By looking beneath the surface, by considering all physical and psychological components of the individual's health and life. Marcus Welby is "Father Knows Best", an ideal father figure who you know and love. While his assistant, the motorcycle riding Kiley represents the younger generation, giving the show a younger more hip appeal. Think "The Rookies" as opposed to any cop show that came after it.

I think the psychological component is what makes Marcus Welby a standout for me, seperating it from other medical dramas. The setting is not the hospital. Instead, it is the households of the people he helps. And the doctor is never the main character in the series. The patients are. Each episode focuses on complex problems that combine the medical with the psychological. A closeted gay father attempts suicide, a boy with an alcohol problem learns to face his fears, etc. Each episode stands alone as a movie. I appreciate this forever changing cast of characters.

Anyway, I wish this got an official DVD release because the only episodes I have seen have been those taped off television. *update: Season 1 and 2 now available from Shout Factory). Of course, the reason I discovered the show in the first place was because Scott Jacoby appeared in several of the episodes (as different characters) and I collect pretty much anything that he has appeared in. I even based a comic (the first story in my book Dirtbags, Mallchicks and Motorbikes), loosely, on the Marcus Welby episode "Jake's Okay".

Recently, I read a paperback book in the Marcus Welby Series. #2, The Acid Test. I believe these books are independent of the show, in other words, not novelizations of episodes. It was a good read. The premise involved a college professor, a political science teacher. He gets involved with student affairs and then begins acting irrationally. He believes he is going insane and is afraid that his actions will effect his family. Welby and Kiley try to discover the root of the problem, believing that it is psychological. Eventually though, they discover that the Professor was drugged (LSD in the punch bowl!) which is causing him to have acid flashbacks.
Again, this reminds me of a Rookies episode with Scott Jacoby (the one where he puts acid in hamburgers in the High School lunchroom). Anyway, in retrospect, this subject matter may appear silly...but it isn't. I choose not to view these stories with irony. This was television that dealt with real issues and had stories about real people, rather than just glamour and action. I like the slow pace and moral standards upon which these programs are modeled around.



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