Fall TV Preview: 1979 is Gonna Be a Great Year! [California Seething]
September is a very exciting month for television. In the coming weeks, the major networks will launch dozens of new comedies, dramas and reality shows to be viewed and dissected by dozens of self-appointed media critics around the country.
Since I’m not gonna watch any of that horseshit, though, I’ve decided to write about Quincy.
Look, I’ve suffered enough in the name of New Television Programming. I spent two goddamn weeks in an S&M relationship with Bob Costas where he teased me with promises of Platform Diving and Who concerts and then slapped me across the face with a half hour preview of Animal Practice and the late fucking news. Seriously, NBC – when did you become such a top? There used to be so many different colors in the peacock’s tail and now there are only Shades of Grey (say it with me one last time, America- JUST SHOW THE FUCKING SPORTS! Man that feels good. God, I miss the Olympics. I wonder if Bob Costas is thinking about me. I know I’m thinking about him. His smile, his eyes, the way he spoke in wry tones about Rhythmic Gymnastics. I’d love to slather his head in Grecian Formula while he slaps my butt with a badminton racket until it’s as red and swollen as China’s sporting ambitions and we watch Water Polo together. Rio can’t come soon enough, except for the fact that the Brazilians totally aren’t ready. Well, hopefully Mitt Romney will be looking for a job soon and he can help them out.)
So, clearly all this exposure to New Television has taken its toll on my fragile psyche (I’m a delicate motherfucking flower) and there were only 2 possible solutions available:
1. Stop watching television completely
2. Watch Quincy
Giving up television is like giving up gluten. You know, dumb. I mean, yes, I know there are people out there who have a genuine medical reason to give up gluten, I learned all about it in my Gluten Sensitivity Sensitivity Training (mandatory in California due to AB1825. Schwarzenegger pushed it through after he was accused of gluten harassment by a former assistant who claims Arnold called him a “little gluten girly man” and then fucked his wife and fathered two illegitimate children named Expendable 1 and Expendable 2 with her. Why did Maria leave him? He was a perfect Kennedy.)
But there’s no medical reason to give up television and most people only do it so they can sew another Merit Badge onto their White Liberal Goody Two Shoes Lifestyle Vest (Sweatshop free. Made from 100% recycled hemp. Stems and seeds only) right between the “Huffington Post reader”, “Proud Prius Owner”, “Adopted a rescue Labradoodle” and “Camped out all night for Ira Glass tickets” badges. And I do understand that there’s joy to be found in smug self-righteousness but there’s even more joy to be found in Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch and Pawn Stars, so I’m willing to put up with trailers for Matthew Perry’s new shitpile and the occasional crippling intestinal pains in order to enjoy these simple pleasures.
Of course, nobody in history, except Jamie Oliver, has ever derived so much joy from smug self-righteousness as Dr. Quincy, M.E. (Andrew Weil is a close second. God doesn’t even have a beard that smug.) From 1976 – 1983, Quincy crusaded against all the random and obscure evils of the world: Legionnaire’s Disease, botulism, airline safety, drunk abortion doctors, irresponsible plastic surgeons, lookalike amphetamines, Tourette’s Syndrome, anorexia, hazardous waste, irresponsible plastic surgeons and punk rock.
Every week, Quincy would dedicate his life to fighting one of these evils with every fiber of his being until the episode was over and he never talked about it ever again. He was like a college freshman who takes on every injustice that someone hands him a flyer for in the Campus Center and fights for it body and soul until he meets a hot girl that’s interested in something else.
Seriously, the only reason Quincy never took on gluten sensitivity is because he never heard of it (Store Owner: “Hey I didn’t kill da kid. I just sold him a Twinkie. What he did wit it when he left my store – dat’s his bizniss.” / Quincy: “Sure- all you did was sell him a Twinkie. But that boy had a gluten sensitivity so acute that when he ate that Twinkie his stomach ruptured like a water balloon and he died within minutes. Now how many more kids just like him need to die before shop-keepers like you stop selling this poison and start selling real gluten-free alternative snack cakes? One hundred? One thousand? Ten thousand? How many is too many? Where is the line? We’ve got a gluten time-bomb just waiting to go off in this country and shop keepers like you just keep lighting the fuse. As far as I’m concerned, it was murrrrderrrr. The minute you sold the Twinkie to that young man, you murrderrred him- the same as if you had put a bullet in his brain. And I’m going to see that you pay for it” [storms out] Store Owner: “Uhm, yeah, speaking of paying, that coroner guy just walked out without paying for his Kit-Kat. What a dick.”)
In order to best understand Quincy, one needs to take a scientific approach. I’ve performed post-mortem operations on 3 key episodes in order to learn what made the show tick and, if possible, to determine the cause of death of the series.
Episode One: “…The Thigh Bone’s Connected to the Knee Bone…”
Synopsis: Quincy is assigned to teach a university class on Forensics. One of his students brings him a leg bone which she found lying around next to a construction site on campus. Despite the objections of his boss, Dr. Asten, LAPD Homicide Lieutenant Frank Moynihan, and his young, pretty blond stewardess girlfriend, he proceeds to shut the construction site down, close down the city dump and practically get his entire class killed in his obsessive desire to discover the identity of the man whose leg bone was found and to figure out who murdered him. In the end, they discover he is a former university football player from Lubbock, Texas who was murdered by his partner after committing a robbery.
What do we learn from this episode?
Dr. Quincy is a Love Machine- For the vast majority of human history, middle-aged Jewish men with big noses and protruding ears were not considered sexy. In the 70s and early 80s, though, for reasons that our best scientists still can’t explain, this suddenly changed and schlub was the new hunk.
Though it seems unfathomable to us today in an era when even the ugly duckling on Criminal Minds is a former Calvin Klein underwear model, there was a time, not that many years ago, when we, as a society, came together to embrace the rumpled, middle-aged, big-eared, big-schnozed Jew (was it Holocaust guilt?) and we allowed ourselves to believe in a reality where he could date a beautiful stewardess half his age even though he lived on a boat, had a shitty car, worked 16 hours a day with dead people and spent all his free time playing poker at a bar with his cronies.
Evidently, this was attractive to women in the 70s. Was it the drugs? Maybe. Was it brain damage suffered from repeated head trauma experienced during sex in TWA’s small airplane bathrooms (a.k.a- Mile High Syndrome- see Quincy, M.E.- Season 7, Episode 10)? Possibly. Personally, I blame repeated exposure to macramé, brown cars, avocado green kitchens, powder blue leisure suits, shag carpeting, wide lapels and wood paneling – on FUCKING EVERYTHING for so damaging the aesthetic sensibilities of young women in the 70s that they had no way of realizing that Jack Klugman wasn’t a sexy beast.
I mean, if repeated exposure to acts of brutality can desensitize a soldier to the horrors of war than surely driving a beige AMC Gremlin while wearing a plaid polyester pant suit could desensitize young women to the ugliness of Quincy. And, while the short term impacts of exposure to extreme ugliness faded in the far more attractive 1980s (yes children, the Don Johnson look was actually an improvement) the long-term effects of PDSD (Post Disco Stress Disorder) have never been fully understood.
Of course, it’s also possible that the show was written by pervy middle aged Jewish men who just wanted to fantasize that beautiful young shiksas would still find them sexy without TV money and cocaine. This, of course, is a fantasy that still exists today – though gluten free pizza and designer yogawear have taken the place of cocaine. So, yes, children, the 70s were in fact better than today, despite the simply terrible wallpaper.
Doctor Quincy is a Terrible Employee- When I was younger, I admired Quincy. I respected his combative spirit, his tireless pursuit of justice, his single-minded focus on uncovering the truth despite the objections of small minded bureaucrats like Dr. Asten who were only ever concerned with trivialities like “budget” and “caseload.”
But now that I’ve spent a few years in middle management, I’ve learned that small-minded bureaucrats make the world go round and tireless crusaders are just a fucking management nightmare.
I mean, yes, Quincy, I know that everyone has a right to their life and nobody has that right to take that life away and blah blah blah blah blah blah, but while you’re flying out to Lubbock, Texas to track down a killer from 20 years ago because of one lousy bone, 50 dead gangbangers were brought into the morgue with fatal gunshot wounds – what about their lives? What about their killers? Do you know how big the caseload is for the LA Coroner’s Office?
And, while we’re at it, what about the budget? Do you know how much all this overtime for Sam is costing? And the airline tickets to Texas? And the sketch artist you brought in to do a rendering of the murder victim – do you know what that guy gets an hour – now that’s criminal!
And the lab equipment you used? And all the drinks you bought at Danny’s for your students and expensed to the department because you were “discussing the case”?
I mean, Dr. Asten is the real hero of this show. Anybody can go gallivanting across the country solving ancient murder cases but it takes real courage and inner strength to sit through board meetings, pour over spreadsheets and figure out how to get the gas chromatograph machine fixed without going over budget in the fiscal year.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get down to the theatre and meet the air conditioning repair guy before all the creatives wander in and start whining. Bunch of fucking Quincys, the whole lot of them.
Episode Two: “Next Stop, Nowhere”
Synopsis: Zack, a teenage drifter is stabbed while “slamdancing” in a “punk rock” club. Quincy blames the nihilism and violence of “punk rock” for Zack’s death. When she is accused of his murder, Zack’s girlfriend Abigail runs away from home and hides out with her best friend Molly. Molly, who is the real murderer, convinces Abigail that Abigail is the killer and that she was so “spaced out” on “’ludes” that she doesn’t even remember killing Zack. Then, Molly tries to kill Abigail slowly by giving her Codeine – a drug that Abigail is allergic to. After Quincy discovers that Abigail is innocent and that she may be in danger, he appeals to the “punks” in the “punk rock” club to provide him with information about her whereabouts. Molly’s boyfriend hears Quincy’s appeal and saves Abigail from Molly’s dastardly plan. Abigail returns home, ready to turn her life around. Quincy drinks and dances at Danny’s with his psychiatrist girlfriend to the Glen Miller Band because he’s old.
What do we learn from this episode?
Dr. Quincy Protects The Young People From the Evils of the World- Okay, so really, this episode isn’t about the evils of punk rock, it’s about the evils of having an incredibly shitty best friend who tries to frame you for murder and then kill you.
But, putting that aside, once Quincy’s realizes that punk rock is evil and that the hatred and hopelessness expressed in the music are partially responsible for Zack’s death, Quincy does everything in his power to reach out to the young people with the safety pins in their ears and their bad Ziggy Stardust makeup to convince them that life is worthwhile even though they all believe that they have no future to look forward to because the bomb’s gonna come and wipe them all out.
Of course, it’s been 30 years since this episode aired and all of these punks have grown up, gone to college, gotten jobs, bought houses, had kids, refinanced their houses, sent their kids to college, refinanced their houses, spent a fortune on medical bills for their aging parents, refinanced their houses, had their deadbeat kids move back home after college because they couldn’t get jobs, lost all their retirement savings in the stock market, got laid off, saw the value of their houses wiped out and are now facing foreclosure.
So, hey, looks like the punks were right- they really didn’t have any future to look forward to! Only it wasn’t the bomb that wiped them all out, it was the economy. Shame about that, the bomb would have been a lot quicker and less painful. Besides, it’s way more fun fighting off mutants for gasoline in a post-nuclear world than fighting with Bank of America to stay in your home when you’re three months behind on payments. At least the mutants were human, once. Oh well, there’s still the Zombie Apocalypse to look forward to, that could be fun! Or maybe a massive drought possibly caused by man-made weather conditions that turns half the country into a disaster area. Oh, wait, never mind.
Episode Three: “Has Anybody Here Seen Quincy?”
Synopsis: Quincy is nowhere to be found. In his absence, it falls upon the venerated and beloved Chief Coroner Dr. Hiro (never seen or spoken of before or since) to solve a complicated case involving smuggled diamonds for Lt. Moynihan. With Sam’s help, Hiro not only efficiently solves this case but also saves a young actress who was brought to the morgue even though she isn’t dead and figures out that a young boy in the hospital was poisoned accidentally when he ate cigarette butts out of the ashtray in his parents’ home. The episode ends with a surprise birthday party for Dr. Hiro – organized by Sam and catered by Danny. Everybody’s happy!
What do we learn from this episode?
Everything works better when Quincy isn’t around to louse it up- Dr. Hiro doesn’t preach. He doesn’t rant and rave. The only time he gets at all self-righteous is when people mispronounce his name “Hero” and he needs to correct them (“Not ‘Hero’, ‘Hiro’!”) The case is solved, the bad guys busted, the actress saved, the young boy diagnosed in time and, best of all, everyone’s done with work by 6 PM and they can relax and enjoy the party.
No overtime, no caseload backups, no budget problems- even Asten can kick back and get champagne in his moustache. They should just fire that deadbeat Quincy and have Hiro do everything instead – or better yet, promote Sam. I mean, he’s the one doing all the real work- and besides, the character of Quincy was actually based on Dr. Thomas Noguchi – they just made him a white guy because they figured American audiences were racist and would never support a show with an Asian protagonist. And you know what, they were right! I mean, come on, Dr. Fujiyama, ME – nobody would have watched that crap, and I would be stuck right now with no alternative but to watch The New Normal or throw my TV out the window. So, thank god for Quincy- he might have made everybody’s life a living hell and been a huge pain in the ass, but at least he was white (and a Jew- shhhhhh!)
Eventually, America grew tired of Quincy’s relentless preaching and the show went off the air. Like a Facebook friend who posts every single MoveOn.org petition on their wall, sooner or later America grew tired of Quincy’s tireless and tiresome activism and decided to collectively defriend the show. So, I guess what I’m saying is that Quincy, M.E. died of natural causes.
But wait. What’s this? The final episode of the series was actually a pilot for a spin-off series featuring Quincy’s wife. Sam, this show didn’t die of natural causes, it was murrrrderrrrred.
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