How does a child prodigy (who theoretically can do anything in the world) stay balanced with everything they will face?
This ABC sitcom showed the balancing act which fictional 16 year old Douglas "Doogie" Howser constantly faced in his life. Doogie decided he wanted to become a doctor after surviving a form of childhood cancer (although in retrospect, we do not see him going to survivor activities which are so common now).
Although he is a Princeton-trained doctor, Doogie is still subject to his parents rules and needs personal guidance from friends. Being booksmart only gets people so far in life. The 1989-1990 season has 26 episodes which are the perfect treatment for just when you feel blah. This season has some notable episodes.
In "Vinnie Video Vici" we see a great example how Doogie's `normal' friends help keep him grounded. Aspiring filmmaker and best friend Vinnie Delpino trails "Doog" around on his hospital rounds with the trusty video camera to chronicle the life of a teenage doctor. Vinnie and his video camera are a constant presence throughout this season (and the rest of the series) proving that people smarts are sometimes better than book smarts.
Also helping are Doogie's parents Katherine and David Howser (Belinda Montgomery and James B. Sikking). Although they allow their son to graduate from Princeton and work as a doctor at the local hospital, they still insist he pull his own weight around their house. He is not allowed to think that he is any better than the rest of the family because of his intellectual feats.
A pivotal episode is "Use a Slurpy, go to jail" where a gang member named Raymond Alexander (Markus Redmond) holds Doogie and Vinnie hostage in a convenience store. Doogie's seen lots of blood at this point, but the idea that his own could be spilt is very chilling to the young doctor. Redmond's character would inexplicably later join the cast to reform his life as an orderly, but I would honestly think that working in close proximity to somebody who had once attempted to kill me in cold blood would be unacceptable. At this point however, the scripting is fairly realistic.
Doogie also wrestles with the same issues that everyteen faces. "Frisky Business" he decides to throw a beer-soaked party while his parents are out of town---despite being on call at the hospital. In Doogie the Red-nosed Reindeer" Doogie is caught in a lie after he feigns illness so he can go to a Christmas Eve party instead of having to work at the hospital. This is so much more refreshing than a depiction of a prodigy as a flawless person who never messes up.
Plus, it helps that Harris himself is pleasant on the eyes. His strawberry blond hair and hazel eyes light up the screen. To balance his age and professionalism, he makes hospital rounds wearing really funky `new wave' ties. Howser sees patients of every age, but wants to impress that he is not `stodgy'.
The only really weird episode from this season was "The ice queen cometh" After asking her young colleague out to dinner, the new chief of the hospital radiology department wants him to be her sperm donor. Since Doogie is only physically/emotionally 16 during this same episode, this other doctor is obviously not aware of statutory rape laws. These statues do not make exemptions for child prodigies. As book smart as he is, Doogie only has the sexual/hormonal maturity of the average teenager.
I grew up watching this series, and am pleased that Neil Patrick Harris has successfully transitioned into a `grown up' acting career with such projects as Stark Raving Mad and Undercover Brother. With all that is publicized in this world about unbalanced child stars and former child stars, people who can break the mold (such as Harris who had previously acted in Clara's Heart among other hit titles) demonstrate true genius in my book.
Extras include an interview with Harris himself.