Episodes The Life Machine Toast the Golden Couple Wives and Losers Welcome Home, Dear Anna A Little Child Shall Lead Hour of Decision Aftermath
Leslie Nielsen played an amiable drunk in three season four episodes: "Do You Trust Your Doctor?" and "She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not" Parts 1 &2 and I thought for a time he was playing the same character here but the name is different, (Walter Burton in Season 4 and Harry Kleber here). Here he needs dialysis and is a guinea pig for an artificial kidney which brings him back to health: he just has to come in twice a week for treatment. Simple. However the way things turn out, this becomes quite a tour-de-force for Nielsen, who, long before he became a comic icon as Frank Drebin, was one of our better dramatic actors.
The problem with this machine is that there's only one of them and they can treat only 5 patients at a time on it. There are a dozen such patients who need the machine and a committee is set up to see who gets it. The show then focuses, (oddly over seven episodes rather than an even number), on Kleber and four couples who are on the list, as well as the nurse played by Jean Inness who was the head nurse on Kildare's floor in prior seasons, before Lee Kurty took over. She has a husband with a kidney problem and is assigned to the kidney unit because she hopes to help her husband along with the other patients. The problem is age is one criteria for the selection and he is older than the other patients. Another complication is that one of the patients, on old friend of Kildare's played by Robert Reed, ("The Defenders" had just ended the previous spring).
The patients come to realize that they are pitted against each other and the question for everyone, including the viewer is: By what criteria do you decide who lives or dies? One is a brilliant designer working for the Pentagon and in the middle of a project. One is a prominent lawyer involved in a lot of civic affairs that do a lot of good. One is a guy on welfare whose wife is working as a cleaning lady to make ends meet. One is the female half of a cute young couple with a young baby.
It makes for a powerful story but the math doesn't add up. For one thing, we are shown only Kleber and the four couples: what about the seven other people, (one of whom is Iness's unseen husband)? All four of the couples could be chosen. The machine, we are told, could service up to 25 people but somehow the limit is five. This apparently has something to do with the number of beds that can be put in the room. There's no discussion of producing a second machine or getting a larger room with more beds. And do the people have to have their dialysis all at once? Can't they alternate? Can't some of them go elsewhere where they might have another machine? Are there other treatments available? They seem in different stages of the disease: do some of them need it more than others? Maybe my mind needs dialysis to remove the questions it asks.
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