Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Quincy-Part One: Why, you ask?

Let's get one thing straight: I love Jack Klugman. Years from now, entertainment anthropologists will know him as The Klug Man, a mysterious uber-being every bit as lovable and as fearful as the Sasquatch. I would never speak ill of the man. In fact, I would beat the snot out of any detractors foolish enough to hate on him. He bears the heavy crown of the badass.

Back when the Klug used to shill for Steak-Umm Brand leathery meat product, I framed a photo of him grinning around a big sandwich. For years, I used it as a character yardstick, rejecting any co-worker foolish enough to say, "Who's that?" The ones who gave knowing nods I accepted as (damaged) kindred spirits. Sadly, I misplaced the photo in a move, and my character judgment has suffered since.

I admire the Klug in all of his incarnations. From classic "Twilight Zone" episodes to "The Odd Couple" and beyond, that hangdog face always entertains. No one does impassioned outbursts quite like him, and no show registered on the Richter scale quite like "Quincy, M.E."   

The show debuted in 1976 when I was an impressionable six. It had all of the right elements: a guy who lives on a boat, gets all the chicks, does a little science, solves crimes, yells at people and walks away at the end of the day knowing that he'd put things right no matter how many sacks he had to bust along the way.

If you're lucky enough to have the RTV Retro Television network, you can witness the Quincy magic every weekday. I watch the show now with renewed love and respect. From my 39-year-old perspective, the show is completely gonzo. The clothes, the cliches, the cars, the tirades, the preachiness. Every episode is packed with laughs, but my admiration has only grown.

One of the few good qualities of the 70s was that you didn't have to be pretty to be on TV. Hell, you could have one ugly mug and get your own show! Talent was the deciding factor. The one good thing in that confused decade. Oh, and your show had to have a badass theme. There's another point for the 70s: the theme songs were awesome.

Klugman kicked America's ass every week as a loose cannon coroner who refused to play by the rules, and he has my deepest admiration. Sure, the latter-day episodes detoured into wackiness (the "punk rock kills" episode, anyone?), but the show really tried and there's no denying that Klug charisma.

So strap in for an exploration of the phenomenon known as "Quincy, M.E." We'll delve into its history, its cast and all of the facets that make it classic television.


  1. hey, quincy,m.e. is awesome. if know the show as well as you say however you would know that the character of dr. astin grew into a warm and likeable. john s. ragin is a fine and underated actor and he gave dr. astin a nice personality who worked well with quincy and sam and really cared about people. he did some great shows about dealing with substance abuse problems and the real toll it takes on peoples' lives. he was much more than an obnoxious mustache.

  2. Fair enough, 'spence. You're right. Astin did indeed loosen up and become less of an administrative caricature as the show went on. I have to confess that I liked the feuding dynamic of the early episodes, though. Kudos to Ragin for giving the character more depth as the show progressed.