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 Quincy, M.E. is a criminal investigation show that aired on NBC from 1976 to 1983, and as such shares a lot of the issues common with shows of that era, namely, sexism, smoking, and drinking. The show's cast lacks a major female member, unless you count Quincy's various lady-friends who often appear in bikinis or lingerie; all the important work is done by men while women serve as secretaries, waitresses, and moms. Characters, including Quincy, drink on almost every show and there are frequent references to "needing a drink" after stressful events. Some characters act drunk, slurring words and walking unsteadily. Other characters, particularly criminals, may also smoke onscreen. The violence is mild by today's standards, with guns appearing infrequently and almost never fired. Fist fights are clearly staged and phony. Blood and gore are almost entirely absent. Despite Quincy's job as a medical examiner, the dead bodies he autopsies are never shown. Young children and/or teens are sometimes endangered or injured, on at least one episode, by the child's abusive parents.
What's the story?
Jack Klugman is the titular Quincy of QUINCY, M.E., the Los Angeles medical examiner whose first name we never know. A lot of bodies come into his office, and sometimes, the facts about how they died don't seem to add up. That's when Quincy swings into action, investigating the murders while faithful lab assistant Sam (Robert Ito) takes care of the routine work back in the office. Quincy's investigations often lead him into exotic territory, like punk rock clubs, ritzy Hollywood parties, or diamond-smuggling rings; and he's often in danger. But he'll stop at nothing to find the answers, even if that means fighting the authorities at the LAPD, who despise Quincy's maverick ways. At the end of the day the crime is solved, the bad guys are punished, and Quincy's off the clock to spend some time lingering over cocktails at his favorite restaurant before retiring to his houseboat with some lucky lady.
Is it any good?
Groundbreaking for its time, Quincy, M.E. both popularized the concept of a show built around forensic investigation (a trend still going strong today) and delved into timely social issues. But for a show over three decades old, it holds up surprisingly well, with brisk and rather intricate plots, believable and appealing actors (particularly the matchless Jack Klugman), and pretty things to look at onscreen like tropical islands and stretches of the California coast. The crime investigations seem relatably modern, too, though you'll giggle anytime anachronisms pop up onscreen, like a poster of the metric system or the humongous and clunky computer the LAPD uses to match fingerprints.
Not as modern: The heavy-handed social messages, which were particularly strident in the show's final season. In contrast, the sexism and near-constant objectification of women, particularly evident in the show's early seasons, largely disappeared by the end of the series. The first part of the series is the era of Farrah Fawcett clones cooing to 30-years-older Klugman; the last part is the era of message shows about punk rock music, alcoholism, unethical doctors, and other issues. No matter. The science is smart and interesting, the locations are pretty, Jack Klugman is fun to watch and the plots are immersive. Queue this one up to watch with the teens and Grandpa.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Quincy, M.E. compares to modern criminal investigation shows, like Law & Order and CSI. How are these shows different from or alike Quincy, M.E.? Are the crimes portrayed different? Is the cast different? Is the level of violence different, or the standards about how much gore and violence are shown?
Why do you suppose you never see the dead bodies on which Quincy works? Is it somehow more horrifying to see a supposedly dead body than a live person with an injury, which Quincy, M.E. does show? Or are there other reasons the bodies are not shown?
Watching Quincy, M.E. may reveal differences in the way people used to think about things vs. the way they do now. Are women ever treated in ways that make you uncomfortable to watch on Quincy, M.E.? What about people of color? Seniors? Teenagers?
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