Synopsis of TV Show
As the popularity of shows like Columbo proved, detectives were a hip subject for prime time during the 1970’s. This popularity inspired a tidal wave of P.I. shows that usually took their title from their lead character’s last name—Kojak, Beretta, and so on. But not all of these prime time snoopers were of the “investigation, shootout, arrest” mold. Quincy, M.E. broke new ground by dispensing with the usual detective-drama elements in favor of an effective combination of social issues and science. The result was a long-running hit that continues to be a major cult favorite today.
Quincy was the brainchild of Glen Larson, the television mogul behind fan favorites like Battlestar Galactica and Knight Rider. Unlike most crime shows, Quincy, M.E. did not focus on a cop or a detective. Instead, Quincy was the Chief Deputy Medical Examiner (thus, the “M.E.” in the title) for Los Angeles County, assigned to determine the cause of death in official city cases. Because of his medical training, Quincy understood there was often more to an apparently simple death than met the eye, often leading him to suspicions of… murder!
Quincy’s doubts often led him to do his own detective work to find out the real story, setting him at odds with Dr. Astin, his supervisor at the Coroner’s Office. It also caused tension with some police officers (since his findings often contradicted their theories on the cause of death), and the extra work often disrupted his own private life, but Quincy pressed ahead to get the necessary evidence. When the truth came out, the dedicated M.E. usually presented his findings to Lt. Monahan and Sgt. Brill, a pair of helpful cops who could always be counted on to back up Quincy’s ideas when he ran into troubles with the bureaucracy. Additional help came from Sam, a dedicated assistant at the Coroner’s office.
Quincy’s cases held up the cop show tradition of foul-play excitement, but they also departed from tradition by focusing on suspense and scientific investigation instead of the usual car-chase-and-shootout theatrics. In fact, Quincy’s writers devoted much time and research to properly portraying Quincy’s medical and forensic techniques. The show even utilized a technical adviser, Mark Scott Taylor, to “act out” certain medical procedures to ensure that they looked nothing less than genuine. As a result, Quincy, M.E. won praise from publications like Science Digest in addition to its critical and public accolades.
Quincy, M.E. also earned high marks for using its detective-show format to tackle important social issues. Quincy’s investigations often involved such difficult topics as child abuse (“A Good Smack In The Mouth”), the dangers of ‘fad diets’ (“Sugar And Spice”), and violence in subcultures like the punk rock scene (“Next Stop, Nowhere,” a kitschy cult favorite for many aficionados of punk-rock culture). The show also regularly challenged the problems created by the public bureaucracies of the police force, hospitals, and nursing homes.
This combination of science, suspense, and social conscience was obviously a potent one, turning Quincy, M.E. into a long-running hit. The show originally debuted as one of four rotating segments on The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie in the fall of 1976, but Quincy’s incredible popularity won its own prime time slot at the beginning of 1977. It went on to run for seven years and an impressive 148 episodes before its farewell case in 1983. Today, Quincy continues to live on through worldwide syndication, picking up new fans on a regular basis. This enduring popularity shows that Quincy, M.E.’s blend of medical science and topical drama is just what the medical examiner ordered for many a television fan.
Release History of Prime Time Show10/3/76 - 9/5/83 NBC
TV Sub Categoriesdrama
Television StudioUniversal Television
TV CastDr. Quincy Jack Klugman
Sam Fujiyama Robert Ito
Dr. Robert Asten John S. Ragin
Lt. Frank Monahan Garry Walberg
Det. Brill Joseph Roman
Danny Tovo Val Bisoglio
Diane (1980-83) Diane Markoff
Dr. Emily Hanover (1982-83) Anita Gillette
James A. Watson Jr.* District Attorney Jim Barnes