Quincy, M.E. is a United States television series from Universal Studios that aired from October 3, 1976, to September 5, 1983, on NBC. It stars Jack Klugman in the title role, a Los Angeles County medical examiner. The show resembled the earlier Canadian television series, Wojeck, broadcast by CBC Television and took some inspiration from Los Angeles coroner Thomas Noguchi.
The first half of the first season of Quincy was broadcast as 90-minute telefilms as part of the NBC Sunday Mystery Movie rotation in the fall of 1976 alongside Columbo, McCloud and McMillan (formerly McMillan & Wife). The series proved popular enough that midway through the 1976–1977 season, Quincy was spun off into its own weekly one-hour series. The Mystery Movie format was discontinued in the spring of 1977; Quincy was the only one of the rotating series to continue.
The series starred Jack Klugman as Dr. Quincy, a strong-willed, very principled Medical Examiner (forensic pathologist) for the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office, working to ascertain facts about and reasons for possible suspicious deaths. His collegues, friends and wife all address him by his surname or the shortened "Quince". (The character's first name was never fully given, although in the third-season episode "Accomplice to Murder" his name is shown on a business card as "R. Quincy".)
In his investigations, Quincy frequently comes into conflict with his boss, Dr. Robert Asten (John S. Ragin), and the police, in particular, LAPD Homicide Lieutenant Frank Monahan (Garry Walberg). Each have their own (often flawed) ideas about what's going on and about Quincy's deductions. Quincy is assisted by his faithful lab assistant, Sam Fujiyama (Robert Ito).
It is revealed in the episode "The Last of Leadbottom" Quincy is a retired Captain in the US Navy and remains in the Naval Reserve. In the episode "Crib Job", Quincy notes he originally wanted to be a railroad engineer, after revealing a number of facts about the dangers of the occupation. A well-liked man, Quincy lives on a sailboat in Marina Del Rey, California and frequents "Danny's", a restaurant owned by his friend Danny Tovo (Val Bisoglio).
Quincy is very popular with women. He was married once before but lost his wife Helen to cancer. Near the end of the seventh season Quincy remarries (Dr. Emily Hanover) and sells the sailboat in the episode "Quincy's Wedding". Quincy occasionally drives an antique car, but friends sometimes ask why he drives his "work vehicle" (the county coroner's hearse) on his day off. Quincy claims that his car is off being repaired.
Early seasons' episodes focused on criminal investigation; a typical episode would find Quincy determining the real murderer in a crime or the real cause of an unusual poisoning case. Later seasons' episodes began to introduce themes of social responsibility; Quincy would find himself involved with a police investigation that reveals situations such as a disreputable plastic surgeon and the reasons his poor surgeries are not stopped, flaws in drunk driving laws, problems caused by punk music, airline safety issues, dumping of hazardous waste, the proliferation of handguns, Tourette's syndrome, orphan drugs and anorexia among others.
Quincy, M.E. was one of the earlier dramatic series to use a format like this to further a social agenda. Klugman himself even came to testify before the US Congress about some of these issues, (such as orphan drugs in 1982) describing what he had learned about a difficult or complex social concern as a result of its use in one of the show's episodes.
A quote from one episode gives a snapshot of a typical conflict. When Quincy is hospitalized, Sam takes the reins and finds something fishy about Quincy's condition when everyone else sees no need for suspicion. Hearing this, Lt. Monahan says, "You're pullin' a Quincy on me, and you ain't Quincy!" Although Quincy studies bodies in-depth at his laboratory, he also does plenty of police investigation work technically outside the role of a coroner for the purposes of the show. He could be considered a workaholic. In every episode where he goes on vacation, it is always interrupted by an intrigue that requires his skills. He then provides copious hours of free work to solve the case. He insists on being intensely thorough in all his work.
In 2008, Klugman sued NBC, asserting that the network had concealed profits from the show which were owed to him.
While many detective series had depicted rudimentary physical evidence analysis such as fingerprints and bullet comparisons, Quincy M.E. was the first to regularly present the in-depth forensic investigations which would be the hallmark of later detective shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its spin-offs, NCIS, Diagnosis Murder, Crossing Jordan, inter alia. Klugman himself made guest appearances on the latter two series as, respectively, Dr. Jeff Everden & Det. Harry Trumble, and Dr. Leo Gelber.
Created by Glen A. Larson
John S. Ragin
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 8
No. of episodes 148
Running time 60 to 90 minutes
60 minutes (syndication)
Production company(s) A Glen A. Larson Production and Stephen J. Cannell Productions in association with Universal Television
Original channel NBC
Original run October 3, 1976 – September 4, 1983
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