Doogie Howser, M.D.

Doogie Howser, M.D.
Doogie Howser, M.D.
Doogie Howser intertitle.jpg
Genre Comedy-drama
Created by Steven Bochco
David E. Kelley
Starring Neil Patrick Harris
Max Casella
Lisa Dean Ryan
James B. Sikking
Belinda Montgomery
Lawrence Pressman
Lucy Boryer
Mitchell Anderson
Markus Redmond
Kathryn Layng
Composer(s) Mike Post
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 97 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Steven Bochco
Linda Morris
Vic Rauseo
Producer(s) Nat Bernstein
Joe Ann Fogle
Scott Goldstein
Jill Gordon
Nick Harding
Mark Horowitz
Mitchel Lee Katlin
Phil Kellard
Tom Moore
Linda Morris
Vic Rauseo
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time 21–23 minutes
Production company(s) 20th Century Fox Television
Steven Bochco Productions
Distributor 20th Television
Original channel ABC
Original run September 19, 1989 (1989-09-19) – March 24, 1993 (1993-03-24)

Doogie Howser, M.D. is an American television comedy-drama starring Neil Patrick Harris as a 16-year-old doctor who also faces the problems of being a normal teenager. Created by Steven Bochco and David E. Kelley, ABC aired the show from 1989 to 1993 for four seasons totaling 97 episodes.



Dr. Douglas "Doogie" Howser (Harris) is the son of David (James B. Sikking) and Katherine Howser (Belinda Montgomery). As a child, he twice survived early-stage pediatric leukemia[1] after his father—a family physician—discovered suspicious bruising. The experience fueled Howser's desire to enter medicine.

Possessing a genius intellect and an eidetic memory,[2] Howser participates in a longitudinal study of child prodigies until his 18th birthday.[3] He earned a perfect score on the SAT at the age of six, completed high school in nine weeks at the age of nine,[4] graduated from Princeton University in 1983[5] at age 10, and finished medical school four years later. At age 14, Howser was the youngest licensed doctor in the country. As the headline in a newspaper article stated, Howser "can't buy beer [but] can prescribe drugs."

The series begins on Howser's 16th birthday; the cold open of the pilot episode shows him stopping his field test for his driver's license to help an injured person at the scene of a traffic accident. Howser is a resident surgeon[6] at Eastman Medical Center in Los Angeles, and still lives at home[7] with his parents. His best friend and neighbor, Vinnie Delpino (Max Casella), is a more typical teenager—climbing through Howser's bedroom window to visit—and connects him to life outside medicine. Howser keeps a diary on his computer; the episodes typically end with him making an entry in it.

Howser seeks acceptance by both others his age and his professional colleagues. Many episodes also deal with wider social problems: AIDS awareness, racism, homophobia, sexism, gang violence, access to quality medical care, and losing one's virginity are topics, along with aging, body issues, and friendship.

Howser initially has a girlfriend, Wanda Plenn (Lisa Dean Ryan), but they break up after she leaves for college; he also begins a trauma surgery fellowship and moves into his own apartment. Bochco intended to end the show with a "season-long story arc for Doogie where he becomes disaffected with the practice of medicine and quits medicine to become a writer."[8] ABC abruptly canceled the show due to low ratings, preventing Bochco and the show's writers from implementing the storyline other than Howser's resignation from Eastman and departure for Europe in the final episode.

Doogie Howser, M.D. won the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences' Emmy Award three years in a row for Best Sound.


The weekly, half-hour comedy-drama was created by Steven Bochco. He originated the concept and asked David E. Kelley to help write the pilot, giving Kelley a "created by" credit. Harris was the first actor the show's staff found that could convincingly play a teenaged doctor, but ABC opposed his casting. Bochco's contract required that the network pay an "enormous" penalty if it canceled the project, so ABC was forced to let him film the pilot. The network still opposed Harris's casting and disliked the pilot, but after successful test screenings ABC greenlit the show.[9] The soundtrack of the series is by Mike Post and uses Post's trademark mid to late 1980s Yamaha DX7 synthesizer.


From left to right, Lawrence Pressman as Dr. Canfield, Neil Patrick Harris as Doogie Howser, Mitchell Anderson as Dr. McGuire and Kathryn Layng as Nurse Spaulding.
  • Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Douglas "Doogie" Howser.
  • Max Casella as Vincent "Vinnie" Salvatore Delpino, Howser's best friend since they were five years old.[10] Delpino resists his father's demands to join the family business and attends film school instead.
  • James B. Sikking as Dr. David Howser, Doogie Howser's father. The Vietnam War MASH veteran has a family practice.
  • Belinda Montgomery as Katherine Howser, Doogie Howser's mother. The housewife returns to work as a patient advocate at her son's hospital.[11]
  • Lisa Dean Ryan (Seasons 1–2, recurring in Season 3) as Wanda Plenn, Delpino's high-school classmate and Howser's girlfriend. After her mother dies in an automobile accident Plenn's relationship with Howser suffers, and after she leaves for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago they end their relationship.
  • Lucy Boryer (Seasons 1–3, two episodes in Season 4) as Janine Stewart, Delpino's girlfriend and Plenn's best friend. She drops out of college[12] and becomes a buyer for a department store.
  • Lawrence Pressman as Dr. Benjamin Canfield, head of Eastman Medical. Canfield is an old friend and classmate of David Howser, and persuades him to join the hospital to run its family practice.[13]
  • Mitchell Anderson (Seasons 1–2) as Dr. Jack McGuire, a resident at Eastman and Howser's friendly rival. A visit to rural Mexico inspires him to leave the hospital to serve the poor overseas.[14]
  • Kathryn Layng as Mary Margaret "Curly" Spaulding, a nurse at Eastman. Spaulding occasionally dates McGuire and, briefly, both Canfield[15] and Howser.[16]
  • Markus Redmond (Seasons 2–4) as Raymond Alexander, an orderly (and later an EMT) at Eastman. Alexander meets Howser after taking him hostage during a convenience-store robbery;[17] after finishing his sentence, Howser helps him get a job at the hospital.[18]
  • Robyn Lively (recurring in Seasons 3–4) as Michele Faber, a nursing student. She becomes Howser's girlfriend shortly before he decides to leave Eastman and go to Europe.


DVD releases

Anchor Bay Entertainment released all 4 seasons of Doogie Howser, M.D. on DVD in Region 1 between 2005–2006.[19][20][21][22] As of 2010, these releases have been discontinued and are out of print. Before the DVDs were discontinued, there were plans for a Complete Collection release which was announced on August 28, 2008, which was eventually canceled.[23]

Television ratings

The first two seasons were successful and were in the top 30.

Season Season premiere Season finale TV Season Ranking Viewers
(in millions)
1st September 19, 1989 May 2, 1990 1989–1990 #30[24][25] 13.34[24][25]
2nd September 12, 1990 May 1, 1991 1990–1991 #24[26][27] 13.68[26][27]
3rd September 25, 1991 May 13, 1992 1991–1992 #35 11.99
4th September 23, 1992 March 24, 1993 1992–1993 #50 9.67


In the United States, Doogie Howser, M.D. had a run in local syndication between September 1994 and September 1996. The show also aired on cable on Odyssey Network (now Hallmark Channel) from 1999 to 2001. The show hadn't aired anywhere else until The Hub began airing reruns on October 11, 2010.

Cultural influence

  • Harris has satirized his years playing a teenage medical doctor several times.
    • In an episode of Roseanne, Roseanne has a dream after having undergone breast reduction surgery. She goes to the mirror and realizes that she has comically larger breasts than before. Doogie Howser (Harris) comes in and asks an upset Roseanne if they were supposed to be bigger than they are in the dream. Roseanne screams but then is woken up by her husband Dan. To make sure she was dreaming, she looks under her bedsheet, sees the surgery went as planned, and sighs "Way to go, Doogie!"
    • Barney Stinson (also played by Harris) writes in his computerized diary at the end of the How I Met Your Mother episode "The Bracket" while the Doogie Howser theme music plays.[28] In "The Stinsons" he also comments "Call me crazy but child actors were way better in the '80s".
    • In the 2004 comedy Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Harris--playing a fictionalized version of himself--claims to have "humped every piece of ass ever on that show" (except the hot nurse, over whom he expresses regret). Harris is referred to as "Doogie Howser" while stealing Harold's car from the convenience store. In Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, Harris remarks, after taking psychotropic mushrooms, "Dude, I was able to perform an appendectomy at 14, I think I can handle a few 'shrooms".
    • In 2008, Harris appeared in commercials for Old Spice deodorant, claiming to be an expert because he "used to be a doctor for pretends."
    • During the opening of the 2009 TV Land Awards, Harris, the host, travels through "The TV Land Zone" (a spoof of The Twilight Zone), where he finds himself the star of TV classics. At one point, Harris walks into a doctor's office, dressed as Doogie, while the Doogie Howser, M.D. theme plays. After realizing where he is, he storms out, saying "No no no, not gonna happen! Check my contract!".
    • On the January 10, 2009 episode of Saturday Night Live, the SNL Digital Short featured guest host Harris leading a full orchestra version of the Doogie Howser theme. When the song concludes, he turns toward the camera and sheds a tear.[29]
    • On the March 14th, 2011 episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live, a "real doctor" played by Harris endorses Kimmel's Jim-Miracle Diet, as the Doogie Howser theme plays.[30]
  • In Anthony Bourdain's New York Times bestselling book Kitchen Confidential, any blond, good-looking waiter working in his restaurant is immediately nicknamed 'Doogie Howser'.[31]
  • Smart mice obtained by genetic engineering have been named "Doogie mice" in honor of Harris's character.[32][33]


  1. ^ Pilot 15:00
  2. ^ 'I can't help it. I remember everything I read.' "The Grass Ain't Always Greener" Season 1, episode 25 (April 25, 1990).
  3. ^ "The Summer of '91" Season 3, episode 1 (25 September 1991).
  4. ^ "Doogstruck". Season 3, episode 8 (November 20, 1991)
  5. ^ Courie, Katie. "‘Give something back – you’re graduating from Princeton!’" Princeton University Class Day address on 1 June 2009, Princeton Alumni Weekly, 15 July 2009.
  6. ^ He began his residency in September 1988, a year before the pilot. "Every Dog Has His Doogie." Season 1, episode 12 (November 29, 1989).
  7. ^ 1782 Amalfi Drive, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272. "Lonesome Doog." Season 3, episode 6 (October 30, 1991)
  8. ^ Doogie Howser M.D., Season 1 DVD
  9. ^ Adalian, Josef (2011-03-21). "The Vulture Transcript: Prolific TV Creator David E. Kelley on His Career Hits and Misses". Vulture. New York. Retrieved March 21, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Vinnie Video Vici" (25 October 1989).
  11. ^ "The Doctor, the Wife, her Son and the Job" Season 2, episode 21 (13 March 1991).
  12. ^ "Educating Janine" Season 3, episode 13 (1 April 1992).
  13. ^ "It's a Tough Job...But Why Does My Father Have to Do It?" Season 4, episode 13 (13 January 1993).
  14. ^ "Planet of the Dateless" Season 2, episode 22 (20 March 1991).
  15. ^ "Oh Very Young" Season 2, 11 (28 November 1990).
  16. ^ "What You See Ain't Necessarily What You Get" Season 3, episode 18 (11 March 1992).
  17. ^ "Use a Slurpy, Go to Jail" Season 1, episode 20 (28 February 1990).
  18. ^ "Guess Who's Coming to Doogie's" Season 2, episode 2 (19 September 1990).
  19. ^ Doogie Howser, M.D. - We've Got Dr. Doogie's DVD Cover Art! By David Lambert,
  20. ^ Doogie Howser, M.D. - Take a look at the front cover for Season 2! By David Lambert,
  21. ^ Doogie Howser, M.D. - Doogie's Getting Kissed On The 3rd Season Set's Cover By David Lambert,
  22. ^ Doogie Howser, M.D. - Package Art For Doogie's Final Season By David Lambert,
  23. ^ Doogie Howser, M.D. - Anchor Bay Preps for Surgery: New Complete Collection Cuts Out in May By David Lambert,
  24. ^ a b Top Rated Programs – 1985–1990
  25. ^ a b TV Ratings: 1989–1990
  26. ^ a b Top Rated Programs – 1990–1995
  27. ^ a b TV Ratings: 1990–1991
  28. ^ Sepinwall, Alan. "HIMYM, "The Bracket": No bets, just slaps." The Star-Ledger, March 31, 2008.
  29. ^ Digital Short: Doogie Howser Theme
  30. ^ Jimmy Kimmel, Neil Patrick Harris (2011-03-14). The Hottie Body Jim-Miracle Diet. YouTube. 
  31. ^ Anthony Bourdain, "Kitchen Confidential" (2000)
  32. ^ Marc D. Hauser, "Swappable Minds", in "The Next Fifty Years" (Ed. J. Brockman), Vintage Books (2001)
  33. ^ Tang YP, Shimizu E, Dube GR, Rampon C, Kerchner GA, Zhuo M, Liu G, Tsien JZ (1999). "Genetic enhancement of learning and memory in mice". Nature 401 (6748): 63–69. doi:10.1038/43432. PMID 10485705. 

External links

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