A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although murder is central to this drama series and the act of killing is often shown, the violence is pretty cheesy and not likely to upset older tweens. Other mature content (sexual references, drinking, smoking, etc.) is sparse, and the show's use of humor greatly lightens the overall mood. Still, kids may be affected by the show's violent and criminal themes or confused by the frequently changing assumptions of guilt and the discussions of murder motives.
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What's the story?
DIAGNOSIS: MURDER is a combination medical/crime drama from the 1990s that stars TV icon Dick Van Dyke as Dr. Mark Sloan, chief of internal medicine at L.A.'s fictitious Community General Hospital.
In addition to his duties as a doctor and part-time medical consultant for the police department, Dr. Sloan assists his son, Det. Steve Sloan (played by Dick's real-life son, Barry), in solving the constant stream of murder cases that inexplicably occur in his immediate vicinity. Over the show's eight-year run, the father-son team was assisted by several of the doc's colleagues, including Dr. Amanda Bentley (Victoria Rowell) and Dr. Jack Stewart (Scott Baio), who was later replaced by Dr. Jesse Travis (Charlie Schlatter).
Is it any good?
As both medical and crime dramas go, this one ranks fairly low on upsetting content -- especially compared to today's primetime standards. While murder scenes often show blood, fatal wounds, and corpses, the violence is mitigated by the show's hokey feel and lighthearted dialogue, making it unlikely to upset tween viewers. And even though sex plays a role in some episodes, there's no nudity and little more than allusions to physical relationships between characters. Drinking and smoking are fairly minimal and reserved for adults in social settings.
That said, Diagnosis Murder may be a hard sell for tweens and teens, who will probably be turned off by its dated feel and somewhat simplistic plots. If they do tune in, remind them that in the real world, clues are rarely so easily uncovered, crime so neatly solved, or criminals (especially murderers) so easily apprehended.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how this show compares to current crime dramas. Are today's shows more violent? What do you think led to that shift? Do you think using more realistic violence increases the show's credibility with viewers? Why or why not? How could increased violence in the media have a negative effect on viewers? For more about media violence, click here.