Besides being a character with one of the strangest names ever in the annals in television, Doogie Howser of Doogie Howser, M.D. was also one of the smartest. He was a child genius who breezed through high school, college and medical school before he could grow facial hair, eventually becoming a doctor who was younger than most of his patients.
Neil Patrick Harris starred as the sixteen-year-old genius who worked as a second-year resident at Eastman Medical Center. The structure of the show was unusual in its day, because it mixed both drama and comedy in a half-hour format with with no laugh track, in a vein similar to the late 90’s hit Ally McBeal. Doogie lived at home with his parents, mom Katherine and fellow doctor dad David.
Because Doogie spent most of his time working and interacting with adults, he relied on his best friend Vinnie Delpino and girlfriend Wanda to keep him in touch with his inner teenager. Doogie had to deal with intense life and death situations in his work, but he also had to deal with sex, relationships, and coming of age as a young man in his own life. The show depicted all of these personal struggles in a humorous and realistic way.
In fact, the real surprise of the show was just how believable Doogie was. Doogie didn’t come off as superhuman or geeky; he was just a normal kid with a high I.Q. Although his life was quite extraordinary, the audience had no problem relating to Doogie as a person. The creators of the series, Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue) and David E. Kelley (L.A. Law, The Practice), are known for creating memorbable and realistic characters such as Doogie.
What also helped make Doogie into such a credible character was the journal entry he made into his computer at the end of each episode. One week, Doogie might have an incredible insight about the value of life and the next, he could be dealing with the painful teenage ritual of breaking up with his girlfriend. Either way, he was a person you couldn’t help but admire and, more importantly, like.
USA / ABC – Steven Bochco Productions / x25 minute episodes / Broadcast 19 September 1989 – 21 July 1993
Creators: Steven Bochco, David E. Kelley / Theme Music: Mike Post
Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Douglas “Doogie” Howser
James B. Sikking as Dr. David Howser
Belinda J. Montgomery as Katherine Howser
Max Casella as Vinnie Del Pino
Lawrence Pressman as Dr. Benjamin Canfield
Kathryn Layng as Nurse Curly Spaulding
Markus Redmond as Raymond Alexander
Lucy Boryer as Janine Stewart
Lisa Dean Ryan as Wanda Plenn
Mitchell Anderson as Dr. Jack McGuire