Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Doogie Howser, MD


As children, it was tough to see beyond our own narrow worldview. If the world didn't revolve around us, then at least we must have had a fair portion of gravitational pull. In turn, our flawed perspective-taking led us to believe that every child's life was pretty much just like our own. Unless evidence to the contrary presented itself, we all seemed relatively assured that our childhood was the prototype.

Until, of course, we heard of a youngster named Doogie Howser. Though technically a fictional character, his divergence from our limited expectations of childhood and adolescence was enough to secure our interest and engage our imaginations. Just think, a mere kid, a kid just like you or me, living a double life. No, not in the exciting superhero manner we were accustomed to, but rather on the basis of his academic achievements alone. You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from nerdy kids that there existed a route to exceptionality that precluded athleticism.

Doogie was renowned for his geekiness, and the uncool amongst us savored this fact. Though seriously ill as a child, Doogie managed to beat society's odds not only through a recovery to good health but also on the academic front. At the tender age of six he aced the SAT, achieving a perfect score. In a couple of months, he had breezed through high school and found himself accepted to the prestigious Princeton University at the age of ten. After a few years of medical school, our Doogie was well on his way to becoming a full-fledged doctor.

Of course, all of this happened before we ever laid eyes on our hero. We met Doogie at the slightly riper age of 16, already elbow-deep (sometimes literally, or at least surgically) into his medical residency. In the first episode, Doogie is taking his driver's license road test and drives recklessly to step in at the scene of a nearby accident. When a cop tries to apprehend him by asking "Do you want to go to jail?", Doogie bad-assedly retorts "No, you'll be the one going to jail...for criminal negligence!" Oh, burn! His mother looks on dreamily and remarks, "That's my son...the doctor!"





(Doogie Howser DVD trailer runs until the 1 minute mark...I can't be responsible the garbage that follows, I'm at the mercy of the almighty YouTube uploaders)

Doogie was not just your run-of-the-mill socially inept wunderkind, though. The show knew better than to make Doog into what he probably would have been in real life: a pompous social outcast incomprehensible to his peers. No, our friend Doogie was marvelously well-adjusted for someone who'd had a lifetime's worth of achievements in a mere decade or so of existence. In the show, he was just a normal kid, or so we were led to believe.

So how exactly did they manage to lead us to this improbable conclusion of normalcy? Well, for starters, he's got a totally goof-off best friend, Vinnie. In sitcom tropes, a zany sidekick is more than just a comic foil; rather, this character allowed us to take the leap of faith in assuming that a Doogie could really be friends with a Vinnie.

Vinnie, like all good 90s TV best friends, meets up with Doogie by climbing through his bedroom window. I guess he, Jessie Spano, and Sam from Clarissa Explains it All had a conference call or something. I don't know about you, but I was generally encouraged to use doors as my main point of entry. Bromancing aside, Vinnie was always pulling Doogie into his fast-talking teenage craziness. The intro shows a tiny snippet of their soda-packed beer hat-wearing, pool jumping antics:






If that theme music fails to transport you directly back to your childhood, I don't know what will.

Before he was hawking Old Spice deodorant and tripping in the backseat on Harold and Kumar's car, Neil Patrick Harris was a formidably pioneering child star. Though you may have forgotten it, he was the original Carrie Bradshaw--albeit, with more calming music and less voice-overs during his typing sequences.






Don't you just love that two-color screen and boxy font? That computer is just beckoning me, aching for a floppy disk insertion or a rousing round of Space Invaders.

All in all, Doogie Howser, MD was just a smart show. Not because of its brainy main character, but for its ability to present him to us as a relatable, regular guy. A part of all of us wanted to be Doogie, regardless of our actual academic aspirations. He had normal teenage relationships and problems, but he also got to be a legitimate hero.

Thankfully, we can all get our weekly (daily, on Lifetime) fix of NPH on ABC's How I Met Your Mother in which Harris plays the womanizing Barney Stinson. Lucky for us, the show isn't afraid to poke fun at the former child star:






(My favorite part is when he looks up, nods, and smiles. Is it just me, or did the guy from the Commerative Obama Plate commercial steal that signature move from Doogie?)

21 comments:

Adventures in Newlywed said...

Ha! My childhood nickname was "Doogie Howser", so this made me laugh extra-hard :) (Long explanation as to why, as I am NOT a boy, faint at the sight of blood, and haven't the slightest aptitude towards anything in the science/medical field)...

Sadako said...

I never watched this show, but whenever I hear his name I think of that Simpsons ep where Neil Patrick Harris is playing Bart in that made for TV movie about the events in the episode where Bart joins the mafia sort of. Also I think of Harold and Kumar. I can still nostalgiaze, right? Right?

Dani said...

I was a huge fan of Doogie's...I thought he was the coolest...smart, funny, charming, and he was a Dr. What more could a girl want?

I haven't seen How I Met Your Mother, but that little clip is great. I totally want to see it now.

Love your blog!

Badass Geek said...

Fan... wait for it... wait for it.... tastic!

outpostroad said...

I still have a crush on Max Casella.

for the love of pictures said...

Love, love, love NPH :) Doogie Howser was a great show for its time. I know I watched my fair share of it.

Jaime said...

OH. MY. GOSH. The theme music!!!!! I was totally gaga for Doogie when I was like 7. And his buddy Vinnie was awesome in The Newsies. :D

Andhari said...

I'M SUCH A FAN OF NPH. I screamed when they used Doogie Howser instrumental in one of the episodes of HIMYM. :)

Sally-Sal said...

'Bromancing'. I cracked up.

Little Ms Blogger said...

OMG his hair and eyelashes - he looks like a girl in the pic.

I liked DH MD, haven't seen his new show yet, but hear it gets rave reviews.

Mr. Condescending said...

isnt nph gay? not that its a problem, I just thought he was gay now.

My Wooden Heart said...

Love him! I used to watch this religiously.

Miss Rosa said...

OMG. When will they start running reruns?

penny lane said...

i LOVED doogie! i remember thinking he was so cute and smart and i wanted to marry a boy just like him. it feels like 100 million years ago!

they should definitely move it into syndication!!

Elizabeth Marie said...

I had the biggest crush on Doogie. I think I still do.

Shannon said...

I love me some Neil Patrick Harris. Great post!

nikki said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE Neil Patrick Harris! Loved Doogie, Loved Harold & Kumar and Love How I Met your Mother. NPH makes everything better.

Syndication for Doogie!

Optimistic Pessimist said...

I met an 18 year old guy named Howser and I said like Doogie Howser MD and he had absolutely NO idea what I was talking about. I feel appreciated here!

Lil' Woman said...

I heart Neil Patrick Harris...old and new! :)

Just Playing Pretend said...

I just named my puppy Stinson. I obviously am a NPH fan. For.ev.er.

cath said...

One of the bestTV series of all time.

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