Retro T.V. Review: Diagnosis Murder (1993)
Updated: Nov 21, 2022
Show Name: Diagnosis Murder
Created By: Joyce Burditt
Starring: Dick Van Dyke, Barry Van Dyke, Victoria Rowell, Charlie Schlatter, Michael Tucci, Scott Baio, Delores Hall, Cynthia Gibb and Stephen Caffrey
Number of Seasons: 8
Number of Episodes: 178 + 5 TV movies + Pilot
Aired Dates: October 29, 1993 to May 11, 2001
I had to go to London for a business trip recently. In my room, I had cable and the first channel that I turned on had this show playing. You would have figured that the first show that I saw would have been a British show, but alas that was not the case.
I remember watching Diagnosis Murder with my dad back in the day. It starred the legendary actor Dick Van Dyke. These are the types of shows that my dad would like. They all followed a certain formula such as Murder She Wrote, Matlock or even Mannix.
Let us see if this TV show has aged as well as Dick Van Dyke.
I learned some new things while researching for this review. For example, did you know that the show started as a spin-off from the TV Show Jake and the Fat Man? Dick Van Dyke played the character of Mark Sloan in the episode, "It Never Entered My Mind". The details of this character were a little different, as apparently in this particular episode he did not have any offspring.
It is not clear exactly what made this perfect for a spin-off series, but after the pilot episode, a new series was born. At first the ratings were not that great and there were a few times where it was tentatively cancelled. However, in its third season, it was a mid season replacement and it thrived in its new time slot.
I did not know this but apparently, that we owe this series to the movie Dick Tracy. According to Wikipedia:
Warren Beatty cast the comedy veteran in a darker role for his colorful comic-strip flick, turning him into the crooked D.A. Fletcher. Van Dyke's wonderful performance would lead to him being considered for the role of Mark Sloan.
Other than Dick Van Dyke, the show starred one of his sons, Barry Van Dyke. There were many family members who appeared in the show including Dick Van Dyke's brother, Jerry Van Dyke.
The show had a few casting changes along the way. probably the biggest one was Scott Baio. He was on the show only for the first few seasons. He was then replaced on the roster with a new character and actor named Charlie Schlatter. He would go on to star until the end of its run and TV movies.
The premise of this show is very simple. Steve Sloan (played by Barry Van Dyke) is a Police Lieutenant and solves crime. His father Mark Sloan (played by Dick Van Dyke) is a medical doctor. Mark helps his son Steve on investigations.
In addition to the 2 main characters, they also have help from a few of their colleagues. Jack Stewart (Played by Scott Baio) is a doctor at the hospital and close friend of mark Sloan.
There is also Amanda Bentley who was played by both Cynthia Gibb (TV Movies prior to TV series) and Victoria Rowell who would go on to play the character until the end of the series.
Diagnosis Murder Theme
The theme is not super great but it does the job. It has that Benny Goodman vibe to it and it fits the TV series very well. Also, in the show Mark Sloan plays the clarinet.
The visuals are nothing stunning but it is simple. At a time when most theme songs are a minute or longer, this one falls short of 40 seconds. I must admit that it has that cheesy 90's feel to it and I like it.
This show is a guilty pleasure of mine. If it is on TV I will watch it. In fact, it does play on one of the over the air channels, MeTV at 11 am every morning.
When it is on, I just watch it. No matter where we are in the storyline. It is just fun for me. Is it a great series? Not at all, but like I said it is a guilty pleasure and I am sure that it is for many people. The audience for this was probably a little older. They were trying to get the Dick Van Dyke age group to watch and it did well for itself. I guess it was the same for the TV show Matlock.
What makes the show is Dick Van Dyke. No matter what he does on the screen, his charisma shines through. He adds some humour and decent acting. The rest of the cast, it not super memorable. They do their jobs well but you would be hard pressed to remember who played what role.
I must admit that I do not remember the episodes with Scott Baio too much. It is as if these seasons were erased as I rarely see them on TV. Before doing this review, I had forgotten about that and then I was, "Oh yeah, he did play in this!".
If you like old TV shows such as Matlock, Jake and the Fat Man and Murder She Wrote, then this will be right up your alley. This is a very generic TV show which does not stand out from the crowd.
I do find it a shame that shows like this would probably not happen anymore. Many of the shows today are with younger actors that can do stunts. There was something to be said about shows that went for smarts over action. The last of this type of genre is probably Law and Order.
Also, yes the formula for Diagnosis Murder was done 75000 times before, but at least it was called something different. Now, it seems that many shows that are on, are reboots from series' past such as MacGyver, Magnum PI and Hawaii Five-0. Unless you are bringing back the old actors or pass the torch properly, the new reboots are usually panned by audiences. Having said that, that formula
I think that this is a good show and it has its moments. For many people who grew up after the 80's, this is a good way to catch a glimpse of what Dick Van Dyke can do and see for yourself why he is an acting legend.
What do you think? Let us know in the coordinates below.