Marcus Welby, M.D.

Marcus Welby, M.D. is an American medical drama television program that aired Tuesdays at 10:00–11:00 p.m. (EST) on ABC from September 23, 1969, to July 29, 1976. It starred Robert Young as the title character, a family practitioner with a kind bedside manner, who was on a first name basis with many of his patients (and who also made house-calls), James Brolin, as Steve Kiley, M.D, a younger doctor who played Welby's partner, and Elena Verdugo, who played Welby and Kiley's dedicated and loving nurse and office manager, Consuelo Lopez. Marcus Welby, M.D., was produced by David Victor and David J. O'Connell. The pilot, A Matter of Humanities, had aired as an ABC Movie of the Week on March 26, 1969.

Marcus Welby, M.D.
Marcus Welby, M.D. title card
Created byDavid Victor
StarringRobert Young
James Brolin
Theme music composerLeonard Rosenman
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons7
No. of episodes169 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)David Victor
Producer(s)David J. O'Connell
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time60 minutes
Production company(s)Universal Television
DistributorNBCUniversal Television Distribution
Original networkABC
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseSeptember 23, 1969 (1969-09-23) 
July 29, 1976 (1976-07-29)


As with most medical dramas of the day, the plots often concerned a professional conflict between well-meaning physicians. Here, Welby's unorthodox way of treating patients was pitted against the more strait-laced methods of Steven Kiley (James Brolin). The catch with this particular program was that the roles were reversed in that Kiley was much younger than Welby. The opening credits of each episode reminded viewers of the generation gap between the two doctors, Welby driving his sedan and Kiley riding a motorcycle. Welby had served in the US Navy as a doctor during the war, and was a widower. He owned a sail boat and enjoyed the ocean. In an early example of product placement on television, Welby consumed many bottles of high-gravity malt liquor below deck and would, at times, gather inspiration for his novel treatments after one of these nautical benders.

The doctors worked alongside each other in their private practice in Santa Monica, California, regularly working in conjunction with the nearby Lang Memorial Hospital (this was later revealed in exterior shots to be the real-life Saint John's Hospital and Health Center in Santa Monica). At the office, their loyal secretary-nurse and friend was Consuelo Lopez (Elena Verdugo). Other characters that appeared throughout the series included Dr. Welby's frequent girlfriend Myra Sherwood (Anne Baxter), his daughter Sandy (first Christine Belford then Anne Schedeen) and her son Phil (Gavin Brendan), and Kathleen Faverty (Sharon Gless), an assistant program director at the hospital, who worked closely with Welby & Kiley. Kiley met and married public relations director Janet Blake (played by Pamela Hensley) in 1975, at the beginning of the show's final season on the air.

In the episode Designs (which aired on March 12, 1974), Young was reunited with his Father Knows Best co-star, Jane Wyatt; she played a fashion designer whose marriage to an embittered paraplegic led her to fall in love with the doctor while keeping her marriage a secret most of the episode.

Medical features

Its handling of many varied medical cases – some common, some uncommon – made it an instant hit for ABC. Story lines included impotence, depression, brain damage, breast cancer, mononucleosis, sexually transmitted diseases, epilepsy, learning disabilities, leukemia, dysautonomia, rape, Alzheimer's Disease and addiction to painkillers, among others. At its second season (1970–1971), it ranked #1 in the Nielsen ratings, becoming the first ABC show to top the list. The same year, both Young and Brolin won Emmy Awards for their work, as did the show for Outstanding Dramatic Series. Young won a Golden Globe in 1972 for his performance. Members of the American Academy of Family Physicians served as technical advisers for the series and reviewed every script for medical accuracy.


The show was not afraid to tackle social issues. The 1973 episode "The Other Martin Loring", was about a middle-aged man whom Welby advised to resist his homosexual impulses. The Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) zapped ABC, occupied its New York headquarters and picketed.[1] The next year, "The Outrage" was a story of a teenage student who was sexually assaulted by his male teacher, showing homosexuality with pedophilia. Seven sponsors refused to buy television advertising time, and 17 television network affiliates refused to air the episode.[2][3] This was the first known instance of network affiliates refusing a network episode in response to protests.[4]

In addition, an episode dealing with abortion was refused by San Diego area ABC affiliate XETV, a station licensed to Tijuana across the border in Mexico, due to that country's views on the practice at the time.[5]


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
PilotMarch 26, 1969 (1969-03-26)
126September 23, 1969 (1969-09-23)April 14, 1970 (1970-04-14)
224September 22, 1970 (1970-09-22)March 30, 1971 (1971-03-30)
324September 14, 1971 (1971-09-14)March 14, 1972 (1972-03-14)
424September 12, 1972 (1972-09-12)March 6, 1973 (1973-03-06)
524September 11, 1973 (1973-09-11)March 12, 1974 (1974-03-12)
624September 10, 1974 (1974-09-10)March 11, 1975 (1975-03-11)
724September 9, 1975 (1975-09-09)May 4, 1976 (1976-05-04)
TV filmsMay 16, 1984 (1984-05-16)December 19, 1988 (1988-12-19)

Crossovers with Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law

During its run, Marcus Welby, M.D. had two crossover stories with its legal spin-off series Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law. In "Men Who Care", Marshall defends the father of Welby's patient when the man is accused of murdering his daughter's boyfriend. In "I've Promised You a Father", Marshall defends Kiley in a paternity suit filed by a nurse claiming that Kiley is the father of her child.

Nielsen ratings

1973–74Not in the Top 30

It was the first show in ABC's history to become the #1 show on television.


By the mid-1970s, the popularity of medical dramas began to wane. Ratings for both Marcus Welby, M.D. and CBS's Medical Center began to drop, as did the ratings for daytime dramas General Hospital and The Doctors. Previous episodes initially went into syndication in the fall of 1975 as Robert Young, Family Doctor (to avoid confusion with the first-run episodes still airing on ABC). The show ended its run in 1976 after a total of 169 episodes were made.

Television movies

In 1984, the reunion movie The Return of Marcus Welby, M.D. aired, with Young and Verdugo reprising their roles. Another movie was made in 1988, Marcus Welby, M.D.: A Holiday Affair.

Home media

Shout! Factory (under license from Universal Studios Home Entertainment) has released the first two seasons of Marcus Welby, M.D. on DVD in Region 1.[10][11]

Mill Creek Entertainment released a 10-episode best-of set entitled Marcus Welby, M.D.: The Best of Season One on March 22, 2011.[12]

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
Season 1 26 May 4, 2010
Season 2 24 October 12, 2010


  1. Capsuto, p. 92
  2. Capsuto, pp. 106–109
  3. Tropiano, pp. 18–21
  4. Alwood, p. 150
  5. Becklund, Laurie (October 29, 1978). "Broadcasters' Battle of the Border---a Lucrative Market Is at Stake". Los Angeles Times.
  6. " TV Ratings > 1960's". Archived from the original on April 11, 2015. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  7. " TV Ratings > 1970's". Archived from the original on January 11, 2013. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  8. " TV Ratings > 1970's". Archived from the original on April 11, 2015. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  9. " TV Ratings > 1970's". Archived from the original on April 11, 2015. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  10. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 24, 2010. Retrieved January 23, 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Marcus Welby, M.D. - Shout! Factory Newsletter Announces Spring DVD for Season 1
  11. "Marcus Welby, M.D. DVD news: Announcement for Marcus Welby, M.D. - Season 2". Archived from the original on April 27, 2015. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  12. "Marcus Welby, M.D. DVD news: Announcement for Marcus Welby, M.D.: The Best of Season 1". Archived from the original on April 27, 2015. Retrieved April 20, 2015.


  • Alwood, Edward (1998). Straight News: Gays, Lesbians and the News Media. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-08437-4.
  • Capsuto, Steven (2000). Alternate Channels: The Uncensored Story of Gay and Lesbian Images on Radio and Television. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-41243-5.
  • Tropiano, Stephen (2002). The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV. New York, Applause Theatre and Cinema Books. ISBN 1-55783-557-8.
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