Monday, August 28, 2006

I'm Tellin' Ya It Was A Murder And I'm Gonna Prove It

You'll have to take 5 or 6 minutes out of your day to watch this video, but I think it's well worth it, at least if you're old enough to remember QUINCY, M.E. No, not MAGNUM, P.I. or C.P.O. SHARKEY, but QUINCY, M.E.

QUINCY starred Jack Klugman as a Los Angeles County coroner who somehow managed to embroil himself in a different murder every week. Most episodes were pretty much the same:
  • A corpse rolls into the morgue
  • The cops/doctors/politicians believe it to be either an accident or natural causes
  • Quincy suspects a murder, even though there's little/no evidence to support his hunch
  • Quincy gets yelled at by cops/hospital administrators to let it lie
  • Quincy shouts. A lot.
  • Quincy defies orders and secretly investigates the possible crime.
  • Quincy's boss bitches about how much money his extracurricular activities are costing the county
  • Quincy gets his sidekick Sam (Robert Ito) to work late/lie about Quincy's activities
  • Quincy is right. Quincy is always right
QUINCY was an extremely popular show for NBC, running seven or eight years, something like that. The format changed slightly along the way. When it premiered in 1976, it was a straight mystery; in fact, it was one of the rotating wheels on THE NBC SUNDAY MYSTERY MOVIE along with COLUMBO, MCCLOUD and MCMILLAN AND WIFE. However, as star Klugman took more creative control, he started firing a shitload of writers and producers until he could find collaborators who were interested in more relevant programming. While there was still an occasional murder for Quincy to solve, the series turned into an "issue of the week," as Quincy got into cases involving child abuse, drugs, venereal disease, etc. And, still, Quincy was always right. He even fought ninjas once!

After all that, you're probably expecting to see a Klugman clip. Instead, it's QUINCY: CARTOON CORONER, one of my favorite SCTV sketches in which Quincy (Joe Flaherty) investigates the death of Sylvester the Cat, who comes into the morgue all smashed like a pancake. Dave Thomas plays Quincy's officious boss, and Tony Rosato is Sam. What really makes this sketch kill is Flaherty's amazing performance as Klugman/Quincy. He really nails the psychosis of Klugman's bellowing (and highly charismatic) performances.


Hal said...

Ah, I feel like this was just for me! :) Thanks Marty!

Flaherty as Klugman also appeared during the Emmys on SCTV later on, when the cast of Hill Street Blues trampled poor "Tattoo" (John Candy). Of course, he's flat as a pancake, it appears to be an open and shut case....but Klugman thinks there's "something more TO this!"

I sincerely hope Universal puts out more seasons of QUINCY M.E. because I'm really waiting on the 1979-1983 seasons, when it really became an outright comedy IMO: Roger Miller playing a freebasing country singer, the hilarious Punk Rock episode, Quincy marching into the local head shop (owned by Simon Oakland!) and destroying it with his bare hands, the "confession by snake"....and perhaps best and funniest of all, Quincy vs. the Airline industry in "Scream to the Skies", where a plane crashes into the ocean, and this sets Quincy off on one of his crusades, all the way to Washington D.C. I won't go into it now, but I probably have to write about a few of these episodes at length over at The Horn Section sometime. That is, if I can stop laughing long enough to type. :)

Ken Begg said...

SCTV! Was there anything they couldn't do?

I remember that stetch, and Flaherty was legendarily great at those kind of voices. Remember his Kirk Douglas on the Brooke Shields talk show? "I'd put across my KNEE and give her a SPANKING!"

Rich D said...

Wow, I can't believe there was an early SCTV sketch that I hadn't seen before! Actually, this reminds me of a time when a friend and I came up with a sketch idea where Quincy just doesn't let go of a death by heartattack and goes to a supermarket and interrogates a poor stockboy about who sold the deceased the butter that produced the chloresterol that clogged his arteries.