Doogie Howser, M.D.

Doogie Howser, M.D. is an American medical drama television series that ran for four seasons on ABC from September 19, 1989, to March 24, 1993, totaling 97 episodes. Created by Steven Bochco and David E. Kelley, the show stars Neil Patrick Harris in the title role as a teenage physician who balances the challenge of practicing medicine with the everyday problems of teenage life.

Doogie Howser, M.D.
GenreMedical drama
Created bySteven Bochco
David E. Kelley
StarringNeil Patrick Harris
Max Casella
Belinda Montgomery
Lawrence Pressman
Mitchell Anderson
Kathryn Layng
Lisa Dean Ryan
Lucy Boryer
Markus Redmond
James B. Sikking
Theme music composerMike Post
Composer(s)Mike Post
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes97 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)Steven Bochco
Linda Morris (seasons 3–4)
Vic Rauseo (seasons 3–4)
Producer(s)Nat Bernstein
Joe Ann Fogle
Scott Goldstein
Jill Gordon
Nick Harding
Mark Horowitz
Mitchel Lee Katlin
Phil Kellard
Tom Moore
Linda Morris
Vic Rauseo
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time21–23 minutes
Production company(s)Steven Bochco Productions
20th Century Fox Television
(seasons 1-3)
20th Television
(season 4)
Distributor20th Television
Disney-ABC Domestic Television
Original networkABC
Picture format480i (SDTV)
Original releaseSeptember 19, 1989 (1989-09-19) 
March 24, 1993 (1993-03-24)


Dr. Douglas "Doogie" Howser (Harris) is the son of David (James B. Sikking) and Katherine Howser (Belinda Montgomery). As a child, he twice survived early-stage pediatric leukemia[2] after his father—a family physician—discovered suspicious bruising. The experience contributed to the younger Howser's desire to enter medicine.

Possessing a genius intellect and an eidetic memory,[3] Howser participates in a longitudinal study of child prodigies until his 18th birthday.[4] He earned a perfect score on the SAT at the age of six, completed high school in nine weeks at the age of nine,[5] graduated from Princeton University in 1983[6] at age 10, and finished medical school four years later. At age 14, Howser was the youngest licensed doctor in the country. As a newspaper article (one of several noting some of Doogie's aforementioned accomplishments that are shown in the series' opening title sequence) stated, he "can't buy beer... [but] can prescribe drugs".

The series begins on Howser's 16th birthday; the cold open of the pilot episode shows him stopping his field test for his driver's license to help an injured person at the scene of a traffic accident. Howser is a second-year resident surgeon[7] at Eastman Medical Center in Los Angeles, and still lives at home[8] with his parents. His best friend and neighbor, Vinnie Delpino (Max Casella), is a more typical teenager—climbing through Howser's bedroom window to visit—and connects him to life outside of medicine. Howser has kept a diary on his computer since 1979;[9] episodes typically end with him making an entry in it, making observations about the situations he had experienced or learned in the episode.

Howser seeks acceptance from both children his age, and his professional colleagues. Many episodes also deal with wider social problems: AIDS awareness, racism, homophobia, sexism, gang violence, access to quality medical care, and losing one's virginity are topics, along with aging, body issues, and friendship.

Howser initially has a girlfriend, Wanda Plenn (Lisa Dean Ryan), but they break up after she leaves for college; he also begins a trauma surgery fellowship and moves into his own apartment. Bochco intended to end the show with a "season-long story arc for Doogie where he becomes disaffected with the practice of medicine and quits medicine to become a writer".[10] ABC abruptly canceled the show due to low ratings, preventing Bochco and the show's writers from implementing the storyline other than Howser's resignation from Eastman and departure for Europe in the final episode.


The weekly, half-hour dramedy was created by Steven Bochco. He originated the concept and asked David E. Kelley to help write the pilot, giving Kelley a "created by" credit. Harris was the first actor the show's staff had found that could convincingly play a teenage doctor, but ABC executives opposed his casting. Bochco's contract required that the network pay an "enormous" penalty if it canceled the project, so ABC was forced to let him film the pilot. The network still opposed Harris's casting and disliked the pilot, but after positive reception during test screenings, ABC greenlit the show.[11]


Main cast

  • Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Douglas "Doogie" Howser, the show's protagonist.
  • Max Casella as Vincent "Vinnie" Salvatore Delpino, Howser's best friend since they were five years old.[12] A typical girl-crazy teenager, Delpino resists his father's demands to join the family business and instead attends film school to pursue a career as a film director.
  • James B. Sikking as Dr. David Howser, Doogie Howser's father. The Vietnam War MASH veteran has a family practice.
  • Belinda Montgomery as Katherine Howser, Doogie Howser's mother. Originally a housewife, she later returns to work as a patient advocate at her son's hospital.[13]
  • Lisa Dean Ryan (seasons 1–2, recurring in season 3) as Wanda Plenn, Delpino's high-school classmate and Howser's girlfriend. After her mother dies in an automobile accident, Plenn's relationship with Howser suffers. After she leaves for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago they end their relationship.
  • Lucy Boryer (seasons 1–3, two episodes in season 4) as Janine Stewart, Delpino's girlfriend and Plenn's best friend. She drops out of college[14] and becomes a buyer for a department store.
  • Lawrence Pressman as Dr. Benjamin Canfield, head of Eastman Medical. Canfield is an old friend and classmate of David Howser, and persuades him to join the hospital to run its family practice.[15]
  • Mitchell Anderson (seasons 1–2) as Dr. Jack McGuire, a resident at Eastman and Howser's friendly rival. A visit to rural Mexico inspires him to leave the hospital to serve the poor overseas.[16]
  • Kathryn Layng as Mary Margaret "Curly" Spaulding, a nurse at Eastman. Spaulding occasionally dates McGuire and, briefly, both Canfield[17] and Howser.[18]
  • Markus Redmond (seasons 2–4, guest star in season 1) as Raymond Alexander, an orderly (and later an EMT) at Eastman. While he was a gang member, Alexander meets Howser after taking him hostage during a convenience-store robbery;[19] after finishing his sentence, Howser helps him get a job at the hospital as an orderly.[20]

Recurring cast

  • Rif Hutton as Dr. Ron Welch, a fellow doctor who is also friends with Howser.
  • Robyn Lively as Michele Faber (seasons 2 and 4), a nursing student. She becomes Howser's girlfriend shortly before he decides to leave Eastman and go to Europe.
  • Barry Livingston as Dr. Bob Rickett (seasons 2–4), a fellow doctor working at Eastman.


SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedRankRatingTied with
First airedLast aired
126September 19, 1989 (1989-09-19)May 2, 1990 (1990-05-02)2814.5The Simpsons
Night Court
225September 12, 1990 (1990-09-12)May 1, 1991 (1991-05-01)2414.7N/A
324September 25, 1991 (1991-09-25)May 13, 1992 (1992-05-13)N/AN/AN/A
422September 23, 1992 (1992-09-23)March 24, 1993 (1993-03-24)N/AN/AN/A

Home media

Anchor Bay Entertainment released all four seasons of Doogie Howser, M.D. on DVD in Region 1 (United States and Canada) between 2005 and 2006.[21][22][23][24] At one point there were plans for a Complete Collection release which was announced on August 28, 2008, which was eventually canceled.[25]

Revelation Films has released all four seasons on DVD in Region 2 (United Kingdom).


Critical reception

According to Metacritic, Marvin Kitman of Newsday gave season 1 of Doogie Howser, M.D. a 40/100 score and commented: "What a wasted childhood my kids have had, I got to thinking while watching this otherwise normal Doogie Howser. It makes you look at your kids differently. What lazy bums they must be, still in high school at 16."[26] Scott Weinberg of DVD Talk recommended season two: "It's not high art, but it's a heckuva lot better than what generally passes for your average weeknight sitcom."[27] Christopher Smith of the Bangor Daily News gave season three a "C" grade and commented: "No classic, this series. [...T]he show has become gratingly cute, particularly in the episodes “Doogiesomething,” “Double Doogie with Cheese,” and “Lonesome Doog.” Doog, I’m Dooged out."[28]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Result Category Recipient
1990People's Choice AwardWonFavorite New TV Comedy Series
Viewers for Quality Television AwardNominatedBest Actor in a Quality Comedy SeriesNeil Patrick Harris
Best Supporting Actor in a Quality Comedy SeriesMax Casella
Young Artist AwardWonBest Young Actor Starring in a Television SeriesNeil Patrick Harris
NominatedBest New Television Series
Best Young Actor Guest Starring in a Television SeriesMichael Bacall
1991Primetime Emmy AwardWonOutstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy Series or a SpecialJoe Kenworthy (production sound mixer)
Bill Thiederman (re-recording mixer)
Dean Okrand (re-recording mixer)
Mike Getlin (re-recording mixer)
(for the episode "Doogenstein")
Humanitas PrizeNominated30 Minute Network or Syndicated TelevisionNat Bernstein
Mitchel Katlin
(for the episode "To Live and Die in Brentwood")
Young Artist AwardsWonBest Young Actor Guest Starring in a Television SeriesChristopher Pettiet
Best Young Actor Starring in a Television SeriesNeil Patrick Harris
1992Primetime Emmy AwardWonOutstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy Series or a SpecialJoe Kenworthy (production sound mixer)
Bill Thiederman (re-recording mixer)
Dean Okrand (re-recording mixer)
Mike Getlin (re-recording mixer)
(for the episode "Lonesome Doog")
NominatedOutstanding Cinematography for a SeriesMichael D. O'Shea
(for the episode "Summer Of '91")
Golden Globe AwardNominatedBest Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series - Comedy/MusicalNeil Patrick Harris
Young Artist AwardWonBest Young Actor Starring in a Television Series
NominatedBest Young Actress Co-starring in a Television SeriesLisa Dean Ryan
1993Primetime Emmy AwardWonOutstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy Series or a SpecialJoe Kenworthy (production sound mixer)
Mike Getlin (re-recording mixer)
Dean Okrand (re-recording mixer)
Bill Thiederman (re-recording mixer)
(for the episode "Doogie Got a Gun")

Cultural influence

  • Neil Patrick Harris has satirized his years playing a teenage medical doctor several times:
    • In an episode of Roseanne, Roseanne Connor (Roseanne) has a dream after having undergone breast reduction surgery. She goes to the mirror and realizes that her breasts are comically larger than before. Doogie Howser (Harris) comes in and asks an upset Roseanne if they were supposed to be bigger than they are in the dream. Roseanne screams, but then is woken up by her husband Dan. To make sure she was dreaming, she looks under her bedsheet, sees the surgery went as planned, and sighs, "Way to go, Doogie!"
    • Barney Stinson (also played by Harris) writes in his computerized diary at the end of the How I Met Your Mother episode "The Bracket," while the Doogie Howser theme music plays.[29] In the later episode "The Stinsons," he also comments, "Call me crazy but child actors were way better in the '80s".
    • In the 2004 comedy Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Harris – playing a fictionalized version of himself – claims to have "humped every piece of ass ever on that show" (except the hot nurse, over whom he expresses regret). Harris is referred to as "Doogie Howser" while stealing Harold (John Cho)'s car from the convenience store. In Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, Harris remarks, after taking psychotropic mushrooms, "Dude, I was able to perform an appendectomy at 14, I think I can handle a few 'shrooms".
    • In 2008, Harris appeared in commercials for Old Spice deodorant, claiming to be an expert because he "used to be a doctor for pretends".
    • During the opening of the 2009 TV Land Awards, Harris, who hosted the show, travels through "The TV Land Zone" (a spoof of The Twilight Zone), where he finds himself the star of TV classics. At one point, Harris walks into a doctor's office, dressed as Doogie, while the Doogie Howser, M.D. theme plays. After realizing where he is, he storms out, saying, "No no no, not gonna happen! Check my contract!"
    • On the January 10, 2009 episode of Saturday Night Live, an "SNL Digital Short" featured Harris, the episode's guest host, leading a full orchestra version of the Doogie Howser theme. When the song concludes, he turns toward the camera and sheds a tear.[30]
    • On the March 14, 2011 episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, a "real doctor" played by Harris endorses Kimmel's Jim-Miracle Diet, as the Doogie Howser theme plays.[31]
    • Harris in 2017 joined other actors from medical television shows in Cigna's "TV Doctors of America" advertising campaign for annual checkups.[32]
  • Neil Patrick Harris played Doogie Howser in The Earth Day Special in 1990. In the special, Doogie, along with two other doctors (played by Dana Delany and James Brolin), are informed by the Back to the Future trilogy scientist Emmett L. Brown (played by Christopher Lloyd) on how to save Mother Nature (played by Bette Midler).[33]
  • In Anthony Bourdain's book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, any blond, good-looking waiter working in his restaurant is immediately nicknamed "Doogie Howser".[34]
  • Smart mice obtained by genetic engineering have been named "Doogie mice" in honor of Harris's character.[35][36]

Real life comparisons

Balamurali Ambati graduated from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and obtained his medical license when he was only 17 years old, a Guinness World Record, and has been compared to the fictional Doogie Howser, though Ambati himself disliked the association.[37]

Sho Yano who became the youngest student to attain an M.D. from the University of Chicago at 21 years old has also been called a real-life Doogie Howser.[38]

Doogie Howser has been used as a moniker for several people involved in politics. In 2009, 13-year-old author and speaker Jonathan Krohn was nicknamed "Doogie Howser GOP"[39][40] 17-year-old Evan Draim, the youngest delegate at the 2012 Republican National Convention, was referred to as a "Doogie Howser of the GOP"[41][42] Republican congressman Aaron Schock has been referred to as a Doogie Howser for being the youngest member of Congress in 2009 at 27 years old.[43][44] In 2015, Jon Stewart called Schock a "Doogie Howser wannabe" for his travel expenses and activities while still in office.[45][46]

Some teenagers who have impersonated doctors are often referred to as Doogie Howser.[47][48][49] Others who have excelled at a young age have been called Doogie Howser.[50][51]

See also


  2. "Pilot (at 15:00 mark)". Hulu.
  3. "The Grass Ain't Always Greener – Season 1, episode 25 (April 25, 1990)". Steven Bochco Productions/20th Century Fox Television. Hulu. I can't help it. I remember everything I read.
  4. "The Summer of '91 – Season 3, episode 1 (September 25, 1991)". Steven Bochco Productions/20th Century Fox Television. Hulu.
  5. "Doogstruck – Season 3, episode 8 (November 20, 1991)". Steven Bochco Productions/20th Century Fox Television. Hulu.
  6. Courie, Katie. "'Give something back – you're graduating from Princeton!' (Princeton University Class Day address on June 1, 2009)". Princeton Alumni Weekly. July 15, 2009.
  7. He began his residency in September 1988, a year before the pilot. "Every Dog Has His Doogie – Season 1, episode 12 (November 29, 1989)". Steven Bochco Productions/20th Century Fox Television. Hulu.
  8. 1782 Amalfi Drive, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272. "Lonesome Doog – Season 3, episode 6 (October 30, 1991)". Steven Bochco Productions/20th Century Fox Television. Hulu.
  9. "Thanks for the Memories – Season 3, episode 23 (May 6, 1992)". Steven Bochco Productions/20th Century Fox Television. Hulu.
  10. Doogie Howser M.D., Season 1 DVD
  11. Adalian, Josef (March 21, 2011). "The Vulture Transcript: Prolific TV Creator David E. Kelley on His Career Hits and Misses". Vulture. New York. Retrieved March 21, 2011.
  12. "Vinnie Video Vici (October 25, 1989)". Steven Bochco Productions/20th Century Fox Television. Hulu.
  13. "The Doctor, the Wife, her Son and the Job – Season 2, episode 21 (March 13, 1991)". Steven Bochco Productions/20th Century Fox Television. Hulu.
  14. "Educating Janine – Season 3, episode 13 (April 1, 1992)". Steven Bochco Productions/20th Century Fox Television. Hulu.
  15. "It's a Tough Job...But Why Does My Father Have to Do It? – Season 4, episode 13 (January 13, 1993)". Steven Bochco Productions/20th Century Fox Television. Hulu.
  16. "Planet of the Dateless – Season 2, episode 22 (March 20, 1991)". Steven Bochco Productions/20th Century Fox Television. Hulu.
  17. "Oh Very Young – Season 2, 11 (November 28, 1990)". Steven Bochco Productions/20th Century Fox Television. Hulu.
  18. "What You See Ain't Necessarily What You Get – Season 3, episode 18 (March 11, 1992)". Steven Bochco Productions/20th Century Fox Television. Hulu.
  19. "Use a Slurpy, Go to Jail – Season 1, episode 20 (February 28, 1990)". Steven Bochco Productions/20th Century Fox Television. Hulu.
  20. "Guess Who's Coming to Doogie's – Season 2, episode 2 (September 19, 1990)". Steven Bochco Productions/20th Century Fox Television. Hulu.
  21. David Lambert (February 4, 2005). "Doogie Howser, M.D. - We've Got Dr. Doogie's DVD Cover Art!". Archived from the original on October 20, 2012.
  22. David Lambert (August 2, 2005). "Doogie Howser, M.D. - Take a look at the front cover for Season 2!". Archived from the original on October 20, 2012.
  23. David Lambert (November 2, 2005). "Doogie Howser, M.D. - Doogie's Getting Kissed On The 3rd Season Set's Cover". Archived from the original on October 20, 2012.
  24. David Lambert (February 16, 2006). "Doogie Howser, M.D. - Package Art For Doogie's Final Season". Archived from the original on October 20, 2012.
  25. David Lambert (March 28, 2008). "Doogie Howser, M.D. - Anchor Bay Preps for Surgery: New Complete Collection Cuts Out in May". Archived from the original on November 18, 2011.
  26. "Doogie Howser, M.D. - Season 1 Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  27. Scott Weinberg (September 25, 2005). "Doogie Howser, M.D. -- Season Two : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". DVD Talk. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  28. Christopher Smith (January 28, 2006). "DVD corner". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  29. Alan Sepinwall (March 31, 2008). "HIMYM, "The Bracket": No bets, just slaps". The Star-Ledger.
  30. "Digital Short: 'Doogie Howser' Theme". Saturday Night Live (SNL Studios/Broadway Video). Archived from the original on July 5, 2009.
  31. Jimmy Kimmel, Neil Patrick Harris (March 14, 2011). The Hottie Body Jim-Miracle Diet. YouTube.
  32. Holub, Christian (September 15, 2017). "Neil Patrick Harris, Kate Walsh Join TV Doctors of America For New Video". Entertainment Weekly.
  33. A Matter of Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Lexicon Page 125
  34. Anthony Bourdain (2000). "Anthony Bourdain 'Kitchen Confidential'". Kitchen Confidential. Archived from the original on September 25, 2013.
  35. Marc D. Hauser (2001). "Swappable Minds". The Next Fifty Years" (Ed. J. Brockman). Vintage Books.
  36. Tang YP, Shimizu E, Dube GR, Rampon C, Kerchner GA, Zhuo M, Liu G, Tsien JZ (1999). "Genetic enhancement of learning and memory in mice". Nature. 401 (6748): 63–69. Bibcode:1999Natur.401...63T. doi:10.1038/43432. PMID 10485705.
  37. "Teen doctor: 'Just don't call me Doogie'". The Victoria Advocate. May 17, 1995. Retrieved April 2, 2013.
  38. Enjoli Francis (June 4, 2012). "M.D. at 21, Sho Yano Is Real-Life 'Doogie Howser'". ABC News. Retrieved April 2, 2013.
  39. Chumsky, Susan. "The Growing Pains of Jonathan Krohn".
  40. "Homeschooler: Jonathan Krohn".
  41. "Meet Evan Draim of Alexandria, the 'Doogie Howser' of the GOP - Alexandria Virginia News - LocalKicks".
  42. "Evan Draim: 17-year-old delegate at RNC".
  43. Strzemien, Anya (March 30, 2009). "Aaron Schock, "Hottest Freshman," Talks Doogie Howser And Dating On "Today Show" (VIDEO)" via Huff Post.
  44. "Young Gun".
  45. "Jon Stewart Rips Fallen GOP Rep. Aaron Schock: 'Doogie Howser Wannabe' (Video)". March 19, 2015.
  46. "Jon Stewart Rips Fallen GOP Rep. Aaron Schock: 'Doogie Howser Wannabe' (Video)".
  47. "Doogie Howser Wannabe Busted At Hospital". The Smoking Gun. January 16, 2015.
  48. "Florida Teen Arrested for Posing as a Licensed Doctor: Authorities".
  49. John, Ollie. "Doogie Howser Gone Wrong: Teen Arrested for Impersonating a Doctor" via
  50. Reporter, Mario Boone, News 8 (March 28, 2018). "Ansonia teen hailed a "genius" after perfect score on AP chemistry exam".
  51. "20-Year-Old Prosecutor: Young Cooley Grad Sworn Into Florida Bar".
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