Dr. Mark Sloan first appeared in The It Never Entered My Mind episode of Jake And The Fat Man. In that episode Sloan was accused of a murder, and it was up to Jake and Jason to prove his innocence. The character had a certain charm that appeared to carry with audiences, and two years later Sloan had his own show, Diagnosis Murder. Dick Van Dyke did for doctors what his good friend Andy Griffith did for lawyers as Matlock. Both traded on their earlier careers in trademark comedies to reimagine dramatic roles in their twilight years. For Dick Van Dyke, Diagnosis Murder was more like a family affair. Almost every member of the Van Dyke clan arrived to play characters on the show that mirrored their real life connections. Jerry Van Dyke made numerous appearances as Sloan’s brother, while all of his children at one time or another played children of Sloan’s. Most notable, of course, was Barry Van Dyke, who costarred along with father. He played an L.A. Detective who often went to his father with his vast medical knowledge to solve crimes. Dr. Sloan had his own group of helpers who often either helped solve the crime or got themselves into danger, requiring doctor and son to rescue them, of course, just in the nick of time. Charlie Schlatter played Dr. Jesse Travis. Travis was a young ambitious resident who looked up to Sloan and would do almost anything for him. Victoria Rowell was Dr. Amanda Bentley who played the hospital’s real-life Quincy. She was the resident medical examiner and an important cog in Sloan’s crime fighting machine. Sloan was a combination Quincy and Columbo. Like Quincy, he had a knack for making medical discoveries no one else could find. His Columbo personality was brought out in his innocent simple nature that he relied on to lure criminals into a false sense of security.
Season three was pretty much business as usual at the fictional Community General Hospital. While there were few standout episodes, this show was usually pretty consistent. The problem was that it often repeated itself, and the formula ran thin at times. What made it work was the lighter atmosphere for a murder mystery. There were usually plenty of laughs, often found in the sometimes wacky characters at Community General. The show often had a flair for the warm-hearted stuff. In Witness To Murder, Sloan takes in a young girl to protect her from a killer. While not usually the most action packed drama (after all Dick Van Dyke was hardly a spring chicken) there were some nice suspenseful moments. In the two-part episode Murder On The Run, Sloan is held hostage by a man accused of murder. The desperate man forces Sloan to prove his innocence. Son Steve often blundered into trouble himself. In Love Is Murder, Steve discovers his girlfriend might be the elusive killer he’s been searching for. The Murder Trade is a Strangers On A Train affair when another doctor kills for Sloan and now expects him to return the favor.
Each episode of Diagnosis Murder is presented in its original broadcast full frame format. There’s not a lot to love in this transfer. The picture is almost always grainy. There are too many overt instances of compression artifact. In general this was not a carefully prepared transfer. I’m sure Paramount expects the fans to take it as it is. Colors are fair, but there is a subdued overall tone to the entire presentation. Black levels suffer the most and are quite poor.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track delivers exactly what you are looking for and nothing more. The dialog is clear, and that’s all you’re going to get out of this minimalist presentation. If you’re looking for the nostalgia of watching a ten year old television show, Paramount decided to make the experience authentic by delivering a ten year old sound.
While I did not regularly watch the show, I would catch it from time to time. I almost always enjoyed it but never fell in love with it. The characters were always interesting, and who doesn’t love Dick Van Dyke? He was obviously having fun, but I would have liked to see more variety from time to time. After all: “There’s a lot of ways to kill someone.”