“I Wonder What Other Fathers and Sons Do on Their Days Off.” “Well, Nothing as Fun as This.”
Season 5 of Diagnosis: Murder holds a special place in my heart. It was the season when I started watching the show. I was fresh out of college, and a coworker at my first job mentioned it when she learned I liked light mysteries. I was quickly hooked on this unique combination of mystery and comedy.
This is the first season to have only four cast members in the opening credits, and these are the main characters we will stick with for the rest of the series. Leading the cast is Dick van Dyke as Dr. Mark Sloan, the head doctor at Community General Hospital in Los Angeles. Then comes Victoria Rowell as Dr. Amanda Bentley, who becomes the adjunct LA County coroner this season. Next, we have Charlie Schlatter as Jessie Travis, one of the residents at the hospital. Rounding out the cast is Dick van Dyke’s real life son Barry van Dyke playing Mark’s son Steve, who is a homicide detective for the LAPD.
I mentioned earlier that the show has a mix of comedy and mystery. While most of the episodes are fairly light, some are more serious than others. Among the more serious episodes of the season are the investigation into an airline crash that wasn’t the accident it first appeared to me. Mark is brilliantly framed for murder. And the season opener finds Steve involved in a case that might point to corruption in the police department.
Then there are the episodes that are pure fun. Possibly my favorite this season involves the death of the newest TV executive because it has so many jabs at the TV industry. I even laugh at the jab at my favorite TV show. A ratings stunt by a pair of TV talk show hosts (as played by Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford) ends in tragedy when one of them shots the other on air. And a murdered mime gets Mark involved with the neighborhood house sitter on a case.
Of course, most of the cases fall somewhere in between. We get scenes that are comic, but the mystery is fairly serious. Still, this is a light show. You’ll probably laugh at least once, usually at the main characters.
And that’s one thing that sets this show apart in my mind. I love these four characters and their relationships. They quite obviously care about each other, and the relationships are what keep me coming back for more. I love watching them in action. This is also the season that first introduces us to Jessie’s girlfriend, Susan Hilliard, as played by Kim Little. I always loved her character.
There are a couple of fun bits of casting this season. One episode features all guest stars who were part of classic spy shows. Another features guest stars who were regulars on the sitcom Happy Days, and its spin offs.
With all this fun, I do have to call out “First Do No Harm.” This episode is nothing but a lecture about the evils of HMOs. Sorry, but that’s not what I tune in to watch. It’s one of my least favorites in the entire series.
The show also continues to employ two types of mystery plots. Some weeks, we don’t know who did it until Mark solves it at the end. Other times, they tell us earlier on and the suspense comes from watching Mark try to capture the killer. Either way, I’m usually entertained.
Ironically enough, the exception to that is the two parters. We get three of them this season. One is too long and drawn out, the second two ambition. The third actually works and gives us an explosive cliffhanger.
The acting is mostly good. I’ll find the occasional moments that are over the top, and that comes from the regulars as well as the guest stars. But for the most part, I’m able to sit back and enjoy the show. Likewise, the few effects we get are good for a late 1990’s TV show. Yes, they are a bit dated today, but the mostly hold us. It does help that this isn’t an effects heavy show.
Season five consisted of twenty-five episodes. All of them are part of this seven-disc set. We don’t get any extras, but fans will be delighted to have these episodes to enjoy again.
Diagnosis: Murder is extremely rewatchable. Even if you remember who done it, the character moments make the show entertaining. If you are a fan or looking for a light mystery, you’ll enjoy season 5.