Previous in this series: Mathnet, Perry Mason and Ben Matlock, Batman, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Tom Swift , Sherlock Holmes, and Encyclopedia Brown.
This is the last installment in the series.
Diagnosis Murder came just as I was entering my teen years. The show was a long-time success for so many reasons throughout its eight seasons.
First and foremost was Dick Van Dyke, one of America’s most beloved actors, a TV legend whose Dick Van Dyke show was already an American classic. Van Dyke was charismatic and multi-talented, and he brought that to his role as Sloan.
Van Dyke was backed up by a strong supporting cast including Victoria Rowell as Dr. Amanda Bentley, the pathologist and Van Dky’es real life son Barry played his TV son Police Lieutenant Steve Sloan, and the younger demographic was served by sidekicks Dr. Jack Stewart (Charles Baio) and the Dr. Jesse Travis (Charlie Schlater). The likable and talented cast did a great job with each week’s program.
Van Dyke’s stature commanded great guest stars and the program offered all sorts of surprising crossover, including allowing Mike Connors to solve another case of Matlock and allowing Ben Matlock to appear on his third network. They also had several themed episodes were guest stars all had something in common. One such episode centered on an alleged alien abduction. Guest stars included Star Trek alum Majel Barrett, Walter Koenig, Will Wheaton, and George Tekei as well as Lost in Space’s Billy Mummy.
As a mystery show, the program transition over time. It began as more of “Murder She Wrote” series with straight whodunits. Later seasons played around with different styles including Columbo-style inverted mysteries with Dr. Sloan as the relentless detective. Other episodes would be more soft boiled mysteries that Jessica Fletcher might easily undertake. Other episodes were action-packed adventures. The program mixed it up and managed to be great entertainment throughout its eight year run. It managed to show that a mostly PG detective story could be quite successful, even in the turbulent 1990s.
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