21 April 2015

TV DVD Review: "Diagnosis Murder": The Complete First Season

Rated: Uncertain, but likely TV-PG for language and violence (US) / PG (Canada)
Starring: Dick Van Dyke, Barry Van Dyke, and Victoria Rowell
Released: 1993 - 1994 (original TV premieres) / 2006 (DVD)
Synopsis: Dr. Mark Sloan (screen legend Dick Van Dyke) is among the many doctors at Community General Hospital, but what sets him apart is his knack for solving murders.  His son, Steve (Barry Van Dyke), is a police officer who often consults Mark for assistance.  With the help of his fellow doctors Jack Stewart (Scott Baio) and Amanda Bentley (Victoria Rowell, The Young and the Restless), Dr. Sloan is determined to solve the cases, or die trying...but, every one seems to be a tough nut to crack.  Will he find the murderers before it's too late?
This DVD set also contains the episode of Jake and the Fatman which introduced the character of Dr. Sloan.
Features guest appearances by James Cromwell (Babe), Gerald McRaney (Promised Land), Delta Burke (Designing Women), and Catherine Hicks (7th Heaven).

The Good: Mystery series like these are always fun, and this one is no exception.  Pretty much every whodunit will keep you guessing until the end, and Dr. Sloan's deduction ability is amazing.  Adding the episode of Jake and the Fatman which was the inspiration for this series was a nice touch.  Admirable restraint was shown in regards to the violence and the profanity; the first few episodes have almost zero utterances of bad words, and most of the rest of them contain a scant two or three, if even that many, while the violence is only slightly bloody at worst.  Dr. Sloan and his associates are all likable and upstanding characters as well.

The Bad: As good as this is, I do have one complaint: While investigating murders, Dr. Sloan and crew meet some rather shady characters, some of which are involved in rather tawdry matters, as you'll see below in the content concerns.  While the violence and language is only "PG" level, some of the themes bring it into "PG-13" territory, which may turn away young children or other discerning viewers.  All such content is vilified; still, some viewers may want to proceed with caution.  Also, one episode isn't much of a whodunit, as the murderer is revealed right from the start.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: One sex scene, though nothing graphic is shown; several discussions of extramarital affairs; a woman is said to be a "call girl"; a small amount of kissing and flirting; a woman is given a sexy undergarment as a birthday gift. 2/5
  • Nudity: Cleavage and shirtless guys are seen a scant few times; more of note is a bikini-clad woman who shows a man a tattoo on her rear end, which we see as well, and another woman who takes her top off in the presence of two men, exposing her bare shoulders and the upper part of her chest. 1.5/5
  • Language: Profanities ranging from d-words, h-words, and misuses of God's name are sprinkled in an average of two or three times per episode; b-words are also used, though less frequently. 3/5
  • Violence: As you'd expect, someone is murdered in every episode, though it's slightly bloody at worst and never gory.  Elsewhere, people are shot at non-fatally, and some violent descriptions are heard. 3/5
  • Drugs: People smoke and drink infrequently; an episode features a doctor misusing prescription drugs. 3/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Along with what was mentioned under "Violence," right many scenes are rather dark and scary.  One episode features a rather severe earthquake. 2/5
  • Other: An episode features a priest as a murderer; Dr. Sloan and others practice a bit of deception, and they gamble as well. 3/5
Conclusion: C. S. Lewis fans will recognize this iconic quotation: "You may find Narnia a more savage place than you remember." That's how I felt about this first season; I watched this on TV on and off again with my mom as a kid, but I definitely don't remember it being quite so trashy.  Then again, this isn't a kids' show; I know that adult viewers could easily do much worse.  Compared to most modern mysteries, Diagnosis Murder shows admirable restraint in all areas...but, it still could be too much for some viewers to handle.  As entertaining and fun as it was, I have to say: Proceed with caution.

Score: 3/5

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