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Featured TV on DVD Review: Marcus Welby, M.D.: Season One

May 2nd, 2010

Marcus Welby, M.D.: Season One - Buy from Amazon

Marcus Welby, M.D. ran for seven years, starting as a TV movie in 1969. It starred Robert Young from Father Knows Best as the titular doctor and James Brolin as Dr. Steven Kiley, a young doctor that is his associate.

It the pilot we meet Dr. Marcus Welby, a general practitioner checking in on the high school football team. After seeing a football player get hurt during practice, he runs to his help, but suffers a mild heart attack. Dr. Welby is not the kind of person to let a minor cardial infarction slow him down, so he immediately starts seeing patients again. And by immediately, I mean before he leaves his hospital room. His doctor is worried about his health, but unable to convince him to retire, he at least gets Dr. Welbyto hire an associate to reduce his workload. He hires Dr. Steven Kiley, who wants to be a neurologist and who thinks General Practitioners are dinosaurs and that specialists are the way of the future.

Essentially the show is a medical drama where half the drama comes from the personality differences between the two doctors. One of them is a more by-the-book doctor that likes to stick to the traditional methods, while the other is more unorthodox in his methods and is more willing to think outside the box. The big twist here is that is it Dr. Welby that is the more free spirited thinker. This part of the show is the part that stands up the most, the chemistry between the two leads.

That's not to say that the medical drama isn't interesting, but I think the most common compliments you'll hear about the show's medical mysteries end in, "for its day". It dealt with issues that were taboo or groundbreaking, "for its day". Some of the medical conditions and diseases that were dealt with were unfamiliar or exotic, "for its day". Some of the medical techniques seem positively antiquated, while some attitudes don't fair much better. In The Foal we hear a young boy referred to as "retarded" over and over again. Other topics discussed include racism, drug addiction, abortion, infidelity, and others. For some of these, the show handles it better than its age would suggest.

While watching the seven-disc set, I noticed a number of guest shots, including Tom Bosley in the pilot movie. James Doohan was in Let Ernest Come Over, which was about a cop with hypoglycemia, which was probably all but unheard of at the time, but is now one of those conditions that's self-diagnosed so often it's lost almost all meaning. Others that pop up include Robert Guillaume and Vera Miles.

The only real complaint I have is the lack of extras. Outside the pilot movie and a booklet with pictures and episode summaries, there are no extras. The episodes look and sound great, especially given the age of the show, but I would have loved some interviews.

The Verdict

Not every aspect of Marcus Welby, M.D. has aged well and there are no real extras on the seven-disc set. However, the chemistry between the two leads is strong and there are still more than enough medical mysteries that work to recommend Season One, especially if you are a fan of medical dramas.

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