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I'm waiting for the other DVD's, so I've watched four episodes of this
series thus far. I remember when I was young when this show came on the
air, but was too young to appreciate it or understand it. The episodes
I've watched are, My Brother Joe (6); The Wild Intruder (11); Break
Through the Bars (20); and General Practitioner (27). These short half
hour episodes (B&W) were actually very good even in comparison with the
forensic flashiness of CSI's and terminology crazed Bones series.
Richard Boone's appearance as only the introductory narrative was
disappointing since I was hoping he would be starring in the episodes,
but that disappointment was cast aside as I watched each show. Each
episode was instructive with various situations of both medical and
family topicked issues. These issues were very well addressed to teach
the public ... and were not done in in the push-down-your-throat kind
of way, which gave this series more class than most of what I've seen
today. I must admit I laughed a few times when the camera focused on
some old forensic equipment as state of the art, but I did wonder if
they did use actual medical equipment for this series.
I did not find this series as a nostalgic view, nor did I find it corny or creepily old-fashioned or melodramatic. This show had class of an upper crust that I believe would be good to run re-runs on television today (if they haven't already done so).
Naturally, technology has changed since this series aired, but these episodes I have viewed, their content is timeless and still applies to today's perspectives. For example, in Break Through the Bars episode, Lee J. Cobb stars as a man in a bank who suddenly undergoes depression and manic episodes. Social stigma was stronger at the time this episode aired, but I don't believe it has changed that much today for mental illness. In the episode The Wild Intruder, the subject of breast cancer still remains a mystery and one that is hard to treat, plus the personal hardship of having a breast removed ... and, at the end of the episode there is Richard Boone narrating a summarization in a medical scheme of basically informing the public that such is the sacrifice to continue living.
This series addresses some very tough issues other than medical. So, if people can get past the black and white versus color mental block, I sincerely believe they'll enjoy watching this good oldie series.
Medic had the bad fortune to be scheduled opposite I Love Lucy. Richard
Boone, in the character of Dr. Konrad Styner, introduced the stories
about doctors' experiences and acted in at least one episode, Flash of
Darkness. Had anybody seen it, that episode would have been discussed
in every news magazine and on every talk show. In it, Dr. Styner was at
his office when he received a call that an atomic bomb had been dropped
over the nearby city. He and his staff rushed to an improvised medical
center and treated the injured while not knowing if their own families
had survived. In 1954, the possibility of an atomic bomb attack by the
Soviets was considered very real, and school children practiced
marching calmly to the basement (three minute warning) or scrambling
under the desk (no warning). Yet, I am not aware that there was any
reaction to this show.
In another episode, Never Come Sunday, a couple have an autistic daughter. The medical profession can do nothing for the child's condition and the mother desperately seeks out expensive quacks who hold out the promise of a cure. Unfortunately, this show could run today and be as pertinent as it was a half century ago.
In the episode, My Brother Joe, a 10 year old boy succumbs to injuries he sustained from being hit by a drunk driver.
The show was not exactly escapist fare. It dealt with real issues not often seen on television, and dealt with them realistically and without sensationalism. No wonder it didn't do well.
James Moser was one of the outstanding writing talents in Television history. Sadly, he is almost forgotten and is, probably, quite unknown. He graduated from a Catholic college in California, then booked ship as a sailor on a tramp steamer headed to Australia. After working a variety of jobs in Australia, including journalism, he returned to the states and started writing for Radio. Jack Webb noticed his talent and hired him to be head writer on Dragnet. Moser wrote a wide range of teleplays in the fifties, including a dramatization of the life of Charles Proteus Steinmitz. Moser came up for the idea of an intelligent, realistic medical drama, that would star Richard Boone as Dr. Conrad Styner. To make sure the show was authentic, Moser worked as an orderly in a Los Angeles hospital for nearly two years. Medic, while critically acclaimed, lagged in the ratings, and was canceled after several years. Moser later came up with an idea for an even better, equally hard-hitting medical show, Ben Casey. Later Moser created another superb show that flopped in the ratings, Slattery's People. In 1965, he was the first person to receive The Gabriel Award from The Catholic Academy of Broadcast Professionalws for creating "shows that uplifted the human spirit." Of Course, NONE of them can be found on DVD.
"Medic" is one of the finest shows ever produced for television. The
grandfather of 'modern' medical shows, in many ways it is styled as a
documentary; each segment deals with a specific medical issue and all
bets seemed to be off - breast cancer, epilepsy, diabetes mental
illness, tuberculosis, muscular dystrophy, leprosy, poor parenting, and
hearing loss were all covered and more. During a time when one couldn't
use the word pregnant on television, the series presented the story of
a woman who dies while giving birth, and the birth is shown. It is
often graphic and surprisingly candid, many times quite serious.
Voice-over narration gives many facts and explanations about diagnoses
This series is a time capsule of where medicine was in 1954-6, which makes it invaluable as a teaching tool for those studying medicine, especially since each episode is packed with information about the illness being dealt with (imagine seeing what a polio sufferer went through). This series was overseen by doctors, and many appear in the series.
The producer was Worthington Miner, who was responsible for Studio One, one of the greatest live dramatic anthology series in the history of television. The 'host' of the series is Richard Boone, an exceptional actor, director and teacher. He appears in every episode, but only acts in a few of them (one of them is one of the best in the series, about a possible atomic bomb attack). He is so convincing as a doctor that many viewers did not think he was an actor, and when it came time for him to audition for "Have Gun, Will Travel," the producers were initially not sure that he would be convincing. Overall, the acting is exceptional, with such actors as a very young Dennis Hopper, Vera Miles, Bobby Driscoll, Beverly Garland, Lee Marvin, Warren Stevens and more.
Music was written by Victor Young, and orchestrated by Sidney Fine. This is one of the last projects composed by Young (he died in 1956) and it beautifully supports the action. Many of the scores are just plain gorgeous, and it's a pity that Young did not record an album of some the themes he wrote for the series (thankfully, many of the scores he wrote exist, donated to UCLA).
Such a series was doomed from the start due to its subject matter and its seriousness; this would be a hard series to watch as a marathon. Immediately branded 'controversial,' it was scheduled at the same time as "I Love Lucy" and was frequently preempted for other programming. It managed to hang on for two years and 59 episodes, of which Timeless Media has made 44 available (reportedly, acceptable prints of the missing 15 could not be located).
Still not well known, Medic deserves to be celebrated as the important series it is. If you collect classic early television, the Timeless set is a must-buy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Medic" is a top-drawer medical drama that ran from 1954 to 1956. The
series took the same anthology approach that was later adopted by
"Twilight Zone" and other shows: each episode had established and
up-and-coming actors in a different medical drama each week. The steady
Richard Boone starred as Dr. Konrad Styner, who narrated each show and
acted in several. The show was well-directed, compact, and compelling.
Lots of past and future stars appeared, including Claude Akins, Beverly Garland, Hugh Beaumont, Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, and many others. The show was remarkably frank for its period and portrayed medicine in a no-nonsense fashion. The series may appear rather technically crude now, but it's a lot better than most shows today, which include inane and suggestive dialogue, swooshing sound effects, screaming laugh tracks and really childish stories. I highly recommend considering the DVD set for an excellent mid-1950s TV experience.
P.S. You sure can tell this was made in the 1950s. After a particularly tricky delivery of a newborn, Dr. Styner and another doctor start smoking cigarettes outside the delivery room!
No need to repeat consensus points or details emphasized by other
Actually, I'm surprised the series lasted as long as it did, two seasons (1954-56). The trouble is the format aimed at realism at a time when TV was new, and escapism was the prime-time norm. And not only did episodes of Medic deal as realistically as possible with all manner of medical problems, but the narratives were often highly literate. Thus, demands were made on the audience, especially when real footage of an operation was included. In short, it wasn't the kind of series you relaxed with behind a TV-tray dinner. I suspect creator James Moser was influenced by his early work on Dragnet (1951-59) and its effort at police work realism.
To my knowledge, Medic has never been revived or re-run during the intervening years. Now, happily, episodes are available on DVD, so there's an opportunity for the series to reach cult status, which it richly deserves. For example, high level drama is implicit in story lines when serious medical problems are the topic. So there's little need for contrivance in that regard. (Nonetheless, one entry deals with teenage acne, hardly life-threatening, but a real adolescent problem at the time. "When Mama Says Jump" 1956) Then too, I like the fact that real doctors are often used, without need for a central hero, like a Ben Casey or a Dr. Kildare. Rather, it's the medical profession as a whole and not a personality that's elevated. Note too that actor Boone's rather strong but homely appearance also promotes a sense of reality and not Hollywood. Understandably, entries generally ended on an upbeat note. Occasionally, however, a note of uncertainty would creep into the ending, a further gesture to reality and a TV novelty at the time.
Of course, what was cutting edge medicine in 1955 likely is no longer so. In that sense, the show is somewhat dated. Still, the built-in human drama remains as current now as it was then. Thanks be to creator Moser for the bold gamble he took. It's one that certainly merits DVD revival.
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