The series was unique for its time. Unlike traditional detective dramas where a hardened police detective would solve crimes through interrogation and instinct, “Quincy M.E.” turned this trope on its head.
Instead of a police detective, we got Dr Quincy, a medical examiner played by the talented Jack Klugman. (We never found out the good doctor’s first name — the most we got was that it started with the letter R.)
Quincy didn’t rely on a gut feeling or suspect interviews to solve crimes — instead, he used scientific facts, autopsy findings, and other forensic evidence. The titular pathologist character was not content to stay in his lab, as his relentless pursuit of the truth often led him out into the field.
His unique perspective on crime, coming from the autopsy table rather than a police badge, set the series apart from other shows of the era. Furthermore, the Quincy TV show was unafraid to tackle complex social issues, bringing them to the forefront in several episodes.
The show’s writers were not content with just presenting an engaging murder mystery — they ensured that viewers left each episode with something to think about, a fresh perspective on societal issues, or a newfound respect for the power of forensic science.
The talented supporting cast only added to the strength of the series. Robert Ito as Sam Fujiyama, Quincy’s skilled lab assistant, provided a solid foil to Quincy’s strong personality, while characters like Lt Frank Monahan (played by Garry Walberg), and Dr Robert Asten (played by John S Ragin), often acted as the voice of traditional authority, challenging Quincy’s unconventional methods. Val Bisoglio as Danny Tovo offered a down-to-earth perspective and a friendly refuge for Quincy in his bar.
All in all, “Quincy M.E.” was a groundbreaking show — at the time — that looked at crime from a new angle, using the power of science to unravel the truth behind the mystery. Its influence on the genre is undeniable, and it’s a series that deserves to be remembered for its unique contributions to television history.
Quincy M.E. theme song and opening credits
Klugman’s ‘Quincy, M.E.’ has all the ingredients of good drama (1976)
By Steve Hoffman in the Cincinnati Enquirer (Ohio) October 2, 1976
Never go into a TV series with preconceived notions. I should know that. But, I figured Jack Klugman as a medical examiner in a coroner’s office was too far-fetched. Who would believe it?
If you want to see how wrong I was, watch the 9:30-11 p.m. “NBC Sunday Mystery Movie” on NBC Channel 5. As “Quincy M. E.,” Klugman is good. The program is good. It has a lot of those nifty ingredients that make good drama.
I just couldn’t imagine that sloppy Oscar Madison of “Odd Couple” fame being sharp enough to solve some sticky murders. In this first “Quincy,” he breaks up a City Hall murder scandal in convincing style.
There is one similarity between the Klugman of “Odd Couple” and the Klugman of “Quincy.” Neither rack up high scores in the romance department. In “Quincy,” he is forever putting his girlfriend Lee (Lynnette Mettey) on the waiting list.
Quincy is no “Yes” man. To the contrary, he is forever at odds with his superiors in the coroner’s office and the police detectives he must work with.
One of Oscar’s card-playing chums in “Odd Couple,” Garry Walberg, plays Quincy’s chief adversary, police lieutenant Monahan. Unknown John S. Ragin plays his superior, Dr Astin. His lone professional friend appears to be his sidekick, Sam Fujiyama (Robert Ito).
The action comes fast and thick. First, a woman is found strangled and raped along the beach. When a thief is found nearby, shot by police, Lt. Monahan wants to pin the rape-murder on him.
But that theory is blown fast although Quincy said all along the man was too small to pull such a caper. While Quincy is testing theories and arguing with officials, a City Hall politico is murdered. Then, Quincy finds a CH secretary had mysteriously died in Mexico.
There is one fine twist in the story. Harry Rhodes, a Cincinnati native, who for a long time was known as Hari, plays a mayor who is made to look as if he is a prime suspect.
How Quincy solves the case I won’t tell. But there is enough action and violent crimes to hold you until the next “Quincy, M. E.” adventure rolls around after “Columbo,” “McMillan” and “McCloud.”
This first script by executive producer Glen A. Larson and producer Lou Shaw deserves bouquets. It has a lot of humor and Klugman takes full advantage of his light lines to get the best impact.
Perhaps Quincy is an impossible character. Area medical examiners might scoff at Quincy’s procedures. Still, it makes good entertainment.
What I like best about Klugman’s Quincy is his hard-driving aggressiveness. It shows up particularly when he and his girl are on dates. He will drop anything, including an exotic candlelight dinner, to gain a notch in an investigation.
That may be the chief flaw of “Quincy.” No woman would put up with some of the stuff Quincy dishes out. His Lee Porter is too understanding, too condescending, and has far too much tolerance.
Besides Klugman, the only known actor in the “Quincy” cast is Henry Darrow, who plays his Mexican counterpart. That may be a key factor in “Quincy’s” success: There no are no “big stars” to take the attention away from Klugman’s portrayal.
Quincy is a fine addition to those NBC “Sunday Mystery Movies.” It should hold its own in the survival derby.
Klugman suffered anxiety before returning to TV as Quincy (1976)
By Kay Gardella, Des Moines Register (Iowa) October 3, 1976
New York, N.Y — Shortly before Jack Klugman went to work on “Quincy,” he was by his own admission “in limbo.” The actor who spent five years as Tony Randall’s unkempt roommate Oscar Madison in “The Odd Couple” could hardly wait to get back to work.
“Waves of anxiety would come over me while I waited to start the series,” Klugman confessed during a lunch break in his dressing room trailer on the Universal lot.
“The anxiety was something I actually felt physically,” he said, as he formed waves with his arms to demonstrate what he went through. ”My work has become everything to me. I know it’s wrong, it should be a guide post, but to me, it’s my life, my sanctuary.”
In “Quincy,” Klugman stars as a sharp-witted coroner with a medical degree and the determination of a detective to prove his theories. “The character should be believable,” insists Klugman, who said he was glad to be back into a dramatic part after five years in comedy.
Klugman expressed gratitude to acting. ‘I’ve met people who taught me to read, to appreciate the arts. I once lived on 113th Street in Manhattan with Charles Bronson for a couple of years, and we had a great library. We lived in one room that didn’t even have a bathroom in it, but we had great books — Benchley, Huxley, Jack London, Perelman, and you name them. Bronson was a joy.”
Now that he is a success, he isn’t overly awed by himself: “Success isn’t everything. It doesn’t give you instant wisdom. A lot of actors, once they’ve made it, have an opinion about everything. Al Jolson used to say if someone contradicted him: ‘What have you got in the bank?’ They become authorities on everything.”
What does give you wisdom? “Experience, objectivity, just going around with your eyes open. You must find the artist in yourself and this is difficult. And don’t be a blamer. Even if you’re right, walk away. Stop blaming the other guy. Everything isn’t a life and death situation.”
Klugman was speaking from experience. He has just pulled out of an emotional slump after losing a great sum of money in a faulty investment. “When I found I was being wiped out, suicide even came to mind. Since I’d put all my money in a joint fund for my family, it was the worst. I couldn’t tell my wife. Then one day I faced up to it and told her. I couldn’t live with the guilt anymore.
“But I learned that money isn’t my life, and that I could go on working and make some more. I had been living like a monk, withdrawing into myself and running off alone and hiding, not able to face things. Now everything is different. I realize we’re not here for a long time, and the only person that can make us miserable is ourselves.
“I don’t like to stay in a role too long,” Klugman went on. “When you do something like Oscar Madison for five years, you become something like a specialist. There are a lot of acting muscles you don’t use.
“Performance comes out of work and rehearsals. It doesn’t come out of the blue sky. The reason the stage actor is better in films is the fact that he’s learned to rehearse, to select and reject. On what level you select and reject determines what kind of an artist you are.
“If a man paints a line and the next day softens it and keeps selecting colors, something of whatever he does remains — the severity of the line and the softness of the line. That’s what makes an artist.”