Sunday, August 19, 2018

TV on DVD Review: Diagnosis: Murder - Season 2

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun mysteries to solve
Cons: A few weak episodes, I prefer later seasons more
The Bottom Line:
Doctor solving crime
Makes for fun mystery show
Still pleasure to watch

“I Like Playing Good Cop, Bad Cop.”  “You Want to Play Bad Cop Next Time?”  “Yeah!”

Diagnosis: Murder is a different type of medical mystery show.  Instead of trying to figure out why a patient has weird symptoms, we are solving murders.  What makes it a medical show?  The majority of the main characters work in a hospital.  And with Dick van Dyke leading the pack, how can it help be anything but fun.

Dr. Mark Sloan (Dick van Dyke) is a chief of internal medicine at Community General hospital in Los Angeles, where he works with Dr. Jack Stewart (Scott Baio) and Dr. Amanda Bentley (Victoria Rowell).  Mark spends time trying to avoid the hospital’s administrator, Norman Briggs (Michael Tucci), often with the help of Mark’s administrative assistant Delores Mitchell (Delores Hall).

And he gets involved in murders, much to the annoyance of his son, LAPD homicide investigator Steve Sloan (Barry van Dyke).  When he does, Jack and Amanda are quick to jump in and help him solve things, with Norman and Delores sometimes helping as well.  Over the course of this season, they get involved when Mark’s accountant dies while Mark is being audited, the members of a board that Norman is on start dying, a body at the hospital keeps vanishing, a mobster dies after Mark operates on him, and a string of suicides are tied to a dating service.

The show can really change tone from episode to episode.  A perfect example is mid-season, when Mark’s annoying sister, played by Betty White, arrives in town and drives everyone crazy while they try to solve the murder of her real estate agent in her new home.  The very next episode involves the murder of a boxer, and is much more serious in tone.  Oh, there is usual something fun in each episode, Dick van Dyke is the main character after all.  How can you have a serious show when Mark Sloan does his hospital rounds in roller skates?

The one thing this season is missing are opened mysteries – mysteries where we know who did it, and the suspense comes from watching Mark and the gang catch them.  This show would often mix things up by including these alongside the traditional “who done it” type of mystery, but that’s not the case this season.

I started watching the show near the beginning of season 5 so I must admit I have never really connected well with Norman, Delores, and Jack since they were all before my time.  Even having watched both of Delores and Jack’s season’s now, I still find I prefer Jessie, who arrives next season.  It’s also funny seeing episodes where Mark and Steve don’t share the beach house, something that was a staple of the later seasons.

On the fun side, there is the episode where Amanda wins a day on the set of The Young and the Restless.  Why is it so much fun?  Victoria Rowell played Drucilla on that soap at the same time she was playing Amanda on this show, and the script pokes some fun at that.  While I had seen some of these episodes in reruns, I don’t think I had seen that one before.

The mysteries themselves are good.  I rarely have a clue what is going on before Mark figures it all out.  There are a couple of clunkers over the course of the season, but for the most part the mysteries work.

And the acting is fine as well.  It’s very clear that everyone is having fun, yes, even Norman.  I may not like Norman, but Michael Tucci is clearly enjoying his time on the show.

Season 2 consisted of 22 episodes, and they are all preserved in this six-disc set.  There are no extras, and the full frame picture has a few flaws.  Likewise, the sound, which is stereo, won’t blow you away.  But since this is a mid-90’s TV show, the picture and sound fit the show.  And fans of the show won’t complain since they get to enjoy spending time with these characters again.

And really, that’s the highlight of the show.  These characters are fantastic, and I love getting to see them in action again.  If you are a fan of Diagnosis: Murder, you’ll enjoy getting lost in this season 2 set.

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