Doogie Howser, M.D.



Prodigy juggles a career as a doctor with teenage issues.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

While the teenage lead characters make many mistakes, each episode typically ends with a positive lesson learned.

Positive role models

Doogie sets an example for learning as a path to success, but he also demonstrates questionable behavior as he balances his adolescent learning curve with his mature intellectual development.

Not applicable

The show deals frankly with sexuality for its teenage leads within the standards of network television. While there's little explicit visually, conversations frequently deal with the topics of women, dating, and physical attraction.


Words like "damn" and "crap" are used commonlly by both adults and teens.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Occasional consumption of alcohol by main character (who's underage) and others in a casual social manner, never overconsumed.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this sitcom from the late 1980s deals frankly with many of the typical moral, emotional, and physical issues faced by the average teenage boy ... although this boy happens to also be a working doctor. This means that many storylines and interactions deal with the ups and downs of male-female relationships. Kids in their early teens and up may find themselves relating to the experiences of the lead characters, and with a healthy and supportive family structure and positive lessons learned in almost every episode, this is a fine (if retro) choice for late tweens and up.

What's the story?

A child prodigy from an early age, Doogie Howser (Neil Patrick Harris) has followed in his father's footsteps by becoming a doctor ... but at age 16. As he works on his residency at a local hospital, he also engages in typical teenage misadventures with his best friend, Vinnie (Max Casella), and learns about affairs of the heart from his steady girlfriend, Wanda.

Is it any good?


From its plunking synthesizer opening theme to the characters' hairstyles and clothing choices, DOOGIE HOWSER, M.D., is a true product of its time, the late '80s and early '90s. It's easy to be distracted by the show's dated look and feel, but Doogie was actually ahead of its time when it came to dealing with issues important to teens with humor and honesty.

Star Harris is better known today as the lecherous Barney on How I Met Your Mother, but this was his breakout performance, walking the fine line along Doogie's vast intellectual intelligence and still-developing emotional maturity. The show may not stack up favorably against some of today's strongest TV comedies, especially when it comes to developing a moral question and resolving the issue within 22 minutes. It can frequently feel heavy-handed in the way that many sitcoms from this era do -- episodes all too often end with the family gathered together and Doogie having learned an important lesson, a concluding moment familiar to TV viewers since the days of Leave It to Beaver. Still, there's no denying the show's good humor and strong performances, which make it eminently watchable even decades later.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the show deals frankly with topics of sexuality. How did you think the way it covers these issues relates to your experiences?

  • Did you find the story of a teenager who becomes a doctor to be believable? Do you relate to the characters and what they're going through?

TV details

Cast:James B. Sikking, Max Casella, Neil Patrick Harris
Network:Discovery Family Channel
TV rating:TV-PG
Available on:DVD, Streaming

This review of Doogie Howser, M.D. was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Written byAnonymous April 15, 2011

Classic '80s and 90's show about teenaged overachiever

This show is very good. Firstly, let me make it clear that the sex talk is perfectly frank. In fact, one episode deals directly with Doogie and Wanda not wanting to have sex even though they are pressured to do so. They do eventually have sex together, but as far as I know, nothing is shown. The show cusses infrequently with dam* hel* and pisse* at times. That's the worst it get's though. You shouldn't have to worry about anything else.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Great messages
Kid, 12 years old January 18, 2011


This show is boring....fell asleep....nd fake cuz no 16 year old boy can become a doctore dat takes like 10 he started at 6..............dumb
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Special Needs Guide