Thursday, September 3, 2009

Quincy-Part Two: Where'd he come from?

Before we uncork Quincy's righteous fury, we need to look back to his origins. 

Did you know that Quincy was based partly on real-life L.A. County Chief Medical Examiner Thomas Noguchi? Known to 

be meticulous and uncompromising, he presided over a slew of controversial

 cases from 1961 to 1982. Noguchi picked up the nickname "Coroner to the Stars" after overseeing the autopsies of Marilyn Monroe and Robert F. Kennedy.

He was forced to surrender his chiefdom in '82 for his outspoken conduct and his habit of speaking too freely with the media, but he kept working for the county and slipped neatly into a lucrative book deal and a cushy position at USC.

Sure, that covers the "all-powerful medical examiner" facet, but Dr. Noguchi will have to share the credit as we turn far to the north to thank Canada for the rest of the equation. Yes, you heard me. Thank Canada. Now.

"Quincy, M.E." was the American incarnation of Canada's "Wojeck," starring the wonderfully badass John Vernon as a crusading coroner.

Wojeck fought for justice on the gritty streets of Toronto from 1966-1968. Mr. Vernon went on to epic, memorable roles such as the mayor in "Dirty Harry," Mr. Big in "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" and, of course, Dean Wormer in "Animal House." 

"Wojeck" was inspired by the actual cases of unflinching Toronto coroner Dr. Morton Shulman. The show's tough, tell-it-like-it-is style is credited for shaking up what had been fairly staid Canadian television.

I caught a couple of episodes of "Wojeck" centuries ago. It was a stark, uncompromising show filmed in harsh black-and-white. Hell, just check out the opening, and you'll get the flavor. 

So take two fiery coroners, add a dash of John Vernon brashness, stir in some talented writers and bake it all in the belly of the Klug. The result is artery-hardening TV goodness.

(I would've paid to see a coroner cagematch between Quincy and Wojeck.)

Next up, we'll take a deep, dark look at our cast.

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