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Doctor Doctor Feelgood Feelgood

There was a time when television shows couldn't get syndicated unless they had at least five seasons under their belts. But that was in the dark ages when there were only three or four channels, and there was more than enough programming to fill up the day. Apparently, not enough people are making new television shows, and basic cable channels are running out of episodes of Working to show at all hours of the day. This means that more obscure shows are being selected for revival... assuming revival means being shown on USA at 9 a.m.

Now, I don't care about most of the shows that didn't make it to five seasons, because they're mostly things like Hulk Hogan's Thunder in Paradise. But occasionally the set of television shows for which I have a deep and inexplicably abiding affection intersects with the set of television shows that basic cable network executive monkeys have picked out of the vast pile of dusty videotapes. And then I jump up and down like a loon. Luckily for the people who live below me, that doesn't happen very often.

But now USA is showing reruns of Doctor, Doctor. That sentence ends with a period instead of eighteen exclamation points only because I have learned rigorous self control. The delight I feel in seeing Matt Frewer's long-forgotten sitcom bursts all bounds of proper punctuation. For two years, I watched him cutting up as Dr. Mike Stratford, and I was never disappointed in his cheerful buffoonery. It didn't bother me that CBS gave it five timeslots on four different days from 1989 through 1991. I followed it diligently, although I may have missed a week or two when I lost track of it. I enjoyed the show so much that I even watched Shaky Ground, his later sitcom which didn't last out a year. I was even briefly willing to watch the Pink Panther cartoons where Frewer provided the voice for the Panther. That had to stop, though, because even my rampant fandom isn't enough to overcome the fact that it just isn't right for the Pink Panther to talk.

I realize not everyone remembers Doctor, Doctor. In fact, hardly anyone seems to have watched it. It was basically the story of Wacky Doctor Miks Stratford and his three co-doctors. And some other people, who changed from season to season as the producers flailed desperately around trying to latch onto an audience.

In addition to Matt Frewer, whose Max Headroom was world-famous at the time (you kids will have to trust me on this), Doctor, Doctor had Julius Carry, who you might have seen briefly on Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place. He was also Bucky in "Disco Godfather," for what that's worth. Oh, and he was Lord Bowler on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. There were a couple other people, but my new motto is "If you were Max Headroom or someone in 'Disco Godfather,' I'm not interested." That should look good on my business cards.

My point here is that whenever I'm going on about sitcoms I wish I had on tape, one of the shows most likely to come up is Doctor, Doctor. In my memory, it's hilarious. I can recite several lines from memory and then proceed to fall about laughing while the people around me look on nervously and wonder if they should call security. Sometimes they think I invented the whole show out of my imagination, and I have no way of proving it really existed. Well, I didn't, until USA decided that the world had been starved of Matt Frewer's comedic stylings long enough.

So now I'm watching it, and it's funny, but it's not the knock-down, drag-out, laugh-out-loud-and-apologize-to-the-neighbors-later affair I remembered. The funniest line so far, uttered by Matt Frewer in response to being informed that his tie has a stain, is, "Stain?! All this time I thought it was our family crest!" That's sort of funny, I guess, but really only because it uses the phrase "family crest". Family crests are funny. Tha t "business card" line I used two paragraphs ago would have been much funnier with family crests instead.

Now, just because the first episode I saw wasn't shimmering with golden wackiness doesn't mean I'm going to start badmouthing it. It has a refreshing air of absurdism: one of my treasured memories is of Matt Frewer, in response to being told "I'm not in the mood for jokes," whipping out a banana peel, shouting "How about a sight gag?" and proceeding to take an elaborate pratfall. That's great stuff.

But I have to face the facts that some mean-spirited videotape jockey has been saving Doctor, Doctor until I'd lost all first-hand memory of it, and now they've decided it's time for me to see how I like the taste of my words. It's all very disillusioning. The next thing you know, someone will start airing Jason Bateman's brilliant It's Your Move.

Well, I've decided I don't care if Doctor, Doctor isn't "really" hilarious. As long as the reruns (airing on USA at 9:00 am PST) continue to remind me, however vaguely, of the Platonic ideal sitcom I have in my head, I'll continue to watch. Sure, it's possible that the reality of watching Matt Frewer imitating a massive bird of prey in response to unexpectedly seeing his mother isn't going to be funny. But it'll still be funny in my memory.

And I don't intend to be swayed by the facts.


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