Quincy M.E.


There are few people in this world who can make a successful career transition from sportswriter to coroner. But after winning television audiences over as perpetual slob Oscar Madison on the hit 70s sitcom The Odd Couple, actor Jack Klugman wasn’t quite finished with the prime-time spotlight. This time around, he donned a set of medical scrubs and endeared himself to millions as Quincy M.E.

Loosely based upon real-life Los Angeles coroner, Thomas Naguchi, Quincy M.E. took television audiences on a trip to the county morgue each week as they watched Quincy try to solve various crimes using a combination of modern forensic science and old-fashioned detective skill.

Quincy was a brilliant man, almost Holmesian in his pursuit of truth. Even when a body had obviously expired from natural causes, Quincy would notice some small discrepancy that indicated foul play and wouldn’t let the matter drop. He went up against his boss and the whole police department if necessary, turning detective to ferret out the murderer of the unlucky stiff.

Not everyone thought Quincy was a meddling know-it-all: his friend and assistant, Sam, was a loyal ally in Quincy’s investigations as were Lt. Monahan and Sgt. Brill, two sympathetic police officers who helped out Quincy in his quests. It is true that the relentless Quincy went above and beyond the job description of a coroner, often staking out suspects, trailing witnesses and going undercover. Luckily, he was always right when foul play was involved.

For a show taking its cues from a room full of dead people, Quincy, M.E. wasn’t gory at all. The recently departed were barely shown on camera, the action focusing instead on Quincy’s methods and what he discovered using scientific procedures. Audiences could safely sit down to dinner while Quincy did his thing.

Eventually, the series shifted its attention from the nuts-and-bolts investigative style to ‘very special episodes’ dealing with contemporary social issues, like toxic waste, plastic surgery, anorexia, drugs and child abuse. One very memorable episode had Quincy delving into the punk subculture of the time.

Quincy M.E. debuted in 1976, as part of the NBC Sunday Night Movie. Viewers loved the cantankerous coroner so much in these 90-minute TV films that, soon after, the network green-lighted an hour-long series. The show ran for eight seasons, with Klugman earning four Emmy nominations for the role. The series ended in 1983, but has thrived in syndication ever since and is still quite popular around the world.

Meanwhile, Quincy M.E. proved that viewers would loyally tune in en masse to a show about a guy examining dead bodies. Today, of course, TV shows about forensic investigation are more popular than ever (and far more graphic), but Quincy M.E. was the groundbreaking pioneer and its legacy as such is firmly cemented into television history.

Were you a fan of Quincy M.E. back in the day? We’d love to hear any memories or thought you have on this hit television crime-drama in our comments section below.

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