DVD Review: Quincy, M.E. (Season 4)

When Jack Klugman passed away on Christmas Eve, there were plenty of tributes to the actor who stepped in front of the cameras in 1950. Most of the highlights involved his Emmy winning role as the messy Oscar Madison on The Odd Couple. Others focused on his numerous guest spots in The Twilight Zone. But the most important role in his career was the lead in Quincy, M.E. Klugman elevated the profile of coroners as Dr. R. Quincy. This was a job that most TV shows reduced to bit characters known more for paperwork and nerd science techniques. They weren’t the stars of the investigation like homicide detectives or private eyes. Quincy changed all that when he broke the crime scene tape. He wasn’t satisfied examining a corpse, typing up his conclusions, briefing the investigating officers and moving onto the next gurney. He wanted to know exactly what killed the victim, who did it and why it happened. Quincy was a one man CSI as he refused to give up on a case. Quincy, M.E.: Season 4 brings more bizarre corpses into his office.

The show at this point had a reliable formula. Quincy suspects the person didn’t die like Lt. Frank Monahan (Garry Walberg) and his crew assumes. He starts poking around with the help of his assistant Sam Fujiyama (Robert Ito). Quincy steps on the wrong toes which gets his superior Dr. Robert Asten (John S Ragin) on his case. But Quincy produces irrefutable evidence which gets Dr. Asten behind him as he cracks the case. No homicide detective gets the better of Quincy. Eventually Quincy ends up back at the restaurant/bar run by Danny Tovo (Saturday Night Fever‘s Val Bisoglio).

“The Last Six Hours” reminds us that Quincy can’t ever get away from his job. He heads out of town with his lady friend (Sharon Acker) for a fun time only to witness an accident. Instead of just giving the police a quick statement, Quincy must track down the poison that caused the wreck to cure a woman. The same poison has been used to kill others recently. “Speed Trap” toasts a race car driver. Quincy thinks it’s more than just an accident. Why wouldn’t he suspect foul play with Simon Oakland (Kolchak: The Night Stalker) prowling the pit. “A Test for the Living” is interesting since it delved into testing kids for autism at a time when this was not a major subject. “Death by Good Intentions” puts Quincy on the hot seat when he must prove that a doctor didn’t kill a patient with malpractice. The doctor is a suspect since he was an affirmative action hire. Parnell Roberts (Bonanza) plays a doctor on the staff. The next season he’d return to TV as Trapper John, M.D. for seven seasons.

“Images” makes it seem like Jessica Walter (Arrested Development and Archer) dies in a motel fire. There’s a mystery about what she’s doing in such a dump since she’s a popular TV reporter. Quincy has a hitch in his case since Jessica isn’t dead. “Even Odds” makes Quincy his next client on the slab. He’s shot at a crime scene and goes into a coma. Sam and Dr. Asten and Lt. Monaghan must solve the case using Quincy’s tips. Edward Grover (Baretta) must save Quincy’s life. “No Way to Treat A Body” starts off boring enough with Quincy helping his girlfriend move into a new house. But things get exciting when they discover what’s trapped within the walls. “A Night to Raise the Dead” opens with a mudslide that causes a cemetery to unload on a suburban community. This get weird when they discover the bodies aren’t that old. Greg Morris (Mission: Impossible) is part of the clean up crew.

“A Small Circle of Friends” turns a football player’s death into a VD outbreak. Raymond St. Jacques (Cotton Comes to Harlem) is the doctor from the health department. “The Depth of Beauty” demonstrates what can go wrong during plastic surgery. “Walk Softly Through the Night” is a two-parter dealing with drug overdoses. This is about kids looking for doctors to prescribe the dangerous pills. “Aftermath” crashes a plan outside Los Angeles. Quincy is supposed to identify bodies, but gets tangled in other aspects of the victims’ lives. “Dark Angel” puts a cop (The Untouchables‘ Neville Brand) on the hotseat when he’s accused of killing a suspect. The cop swears the kid was on PCP, but Quincy can’t spot it on the lab reports.

“Physician, Heal Thyself” kills a girl after a botched abortion. Quincy fears the doctor was drunk. The guest stars include Anne Francis (Honey West) and June Lockhart (Lost In Space). “Promises to Keep” focuses on Quincy’s first marriage and why his medical career got in the way. “Semper-Fidelis” puts Quincy in the middle of a Marine murder mystery. Nobody wants to talk. “An Ounce of Prevention” delves into the dangers of pesticides on food. “The Death Challenge” kills a magician on TV. Was this a homicide trick? Don Ameche (Trading Places) is part of the fatal illusion. “The Eye of the Needle” kills a woman who was being treated by a holistic doctor. Quincy’s investigation is compromised because he has a thing for the doctor.

Quincy: Season 4 has the show in its groove. Quincy uncovers new ways and controversial ways to put victims in the morgue. Klugman has completely given himself over to the character. He’s no longer Oscar Madison in scrubs. He does more at a crime scene than the entire cast of C.S.I. The impact Klugman had as Quincy shouldn’t merely be marked by ratings. Even more important than just changing the role of the coroner in TV mysteries, Quincy inspired a generation to become medical examiners. Klugman is the patron TV saint of coroners which is a worthy legacy.

The Episodes
“The Last Six Hours,” “Speed Trap,” “A Test for the Living,” “Death by Good Intention,” “Images,” “Even Odds,” “Dead and Alive,” “No Way to Treat a Body,” “A Night to Raise the Dead,” “A Question of Death,” “House of No Return,” “A Small Circle of Friends,” “The Depth of Beauty,” ” Walk Softly Through the Night” (two-parter), “Aftermath,” “Dark Angel,” “Physician, Heal Thyself,” “Promises to Keep,” “Semper-Fidelis,” “An Ounce of Prevention,” “The Death Challenge” and “The Eye of the Needle.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are crisp enough to give you the details of the crime scenes. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. You can hear the joyful rasp of when Quincy uncovers the true nature of the case.

There are no bonus features.

Quincy, M.E.: Season 4 brings the groundbreaking genius of the first major TV medical examiner. He refuses to just take the simple way out of a report. He won’t back away from the truth no matter who above him wants him to stop investigating. It remains a fun and addicting crime show.

Shout! Factory presents Quincy, M.E.: Season 4. Starring: Jack Klugman, Garry Walberg, John S. Ragin, Val Bisoglio and Robert Ito. Boxset Contents: 23 episodes on 6 DVDs. Released: December 18, 2012. Available at Amazon.com

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