Quincy, M.E. (also called Quincy) is an American medical mystery-drama television series from Universal Studios that aired from 1976 to 1983 on NBC. Jack Klugman stars in the title role, as a Los Angeles County medical examiner.
Inspired by the book Where Death Delights by Marshall Houts, a former FBI agent, the show also resembled the earlier Canadian television series Wojeck, broadcast by CBC Television. John Vernon, who played the Wojeck title role, later guest starred in the third-season episode “Requiem for the Living”. Quincy’s character is loosely modeled on Los Angeles’ “Coroner to the Stars” Thomas Noguchi.
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 after four episodes of Quincy, M.E. had aired during the 1976–1977 season in the extended format, Quincy was spun off into its own weekly one-hour series without a typical 60-minute pilot. Instead, a two-hour episode kicked off a thirteen-episode shortened run of the series, which concluded the 1976–1977 season, while the Mystery Movie format was discontinued in the spring of 1977.
The Quincy series often used the same actors for different roles in various episodes, a common occurrence on many Glen A. Larson TV programs. Writers Tony Lawrence and Lou Shaw received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1978 for the second-season episode “…The Thigh Bone’s Connected to the Knee Bone…”.
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 colleagues, 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” and in early episodes the name “Dr R. Quincy” appears on his door.) He was called “Winslow” in the episode where he married Anita Gillette.
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). Quincy and Asten would usually tussle 37 minutes into an episode, after which time Quincy would close the case for good. Each usually have their own theories about a particular case and about Quincy’s deductions. In early episodes, Quincy’s relationship with both men is often volatile and nearly adversarial. This changed dramatically in later episodes where Quincy appears to have much closer professional and personal relationships with the two. Quincy is assisted by his 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 a permanent boat slip in Marina Del Rey, California and frequents Danny’s, a restaurant and lounge at the marina 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. In the Mystery Movie installments and earliest hour-long episodes, Quincy has a regular girlfriend named Lee Potter (Lynette Mettey) who sometimes accompanies him on his cases (such as in “…The Thighbone’s Connected to the Knee Bone…”). This is his only steady relationship until near the end of the seventh season, when Quincy remarries (Dr. Emily Hanover, played by Anita Gillette who had previously portrayed Helen in a flashback) and sells the sailboat in the episode “Quincy’s Wedding”. Quincy occasionally drives an antique car (which is shown in Season 4, Episode 1 to be an antique Packard Town Car), but friends sometimes ask why he drives his “work vehicle” (the county coroner’s hearse, a 1976 AMC Matador Station Wagon (reg plate: 999853) in the first 2 seasons and a 1975 Ford LTD Station Wagon for the rest of the series) on his day off. Quincy claims that his car is off being repaired.
Early seasons’ episodes contained elements of mystery and whodunit and 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 rock, 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 first 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.
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 and Det. Harry Trumble, and Dr. Leo Gelber.
A total of 148 episodes were made. Jack Klugman appeared in 147. In the episode “Has Anybody Here Seen Quincy?” (season 2, episode 7), Dr. Asten talks to Quincy twice on the phone, but Quincy’s voice is not heard and he is not seen on screen. The reason Klugman did not take part in the episode is because he disliked the script written by Michael Sloan and Glen A. Larson for the episode; a body brought into the morgue turns out to still be alive. Klugman thought it laughable that a medical examiner of Quincy’s fastidiousness would fail to notice it.
Conversely, Klugman is the only regular cast member who appears in the final episode of the series (“The Cutting Edge”), which was a backdoor pilot for a proposed series about a revolutionary new clinic. NBC did not pick up the new series.
Anita Gillette portrayed both of Quincy’s wives. Until marrying Dr. Emily Hanover near the end of the series, Quincy had been a widower, having lost his first wife, Helen, before the events of the series. Anita Gillette was cast as the late Helen Quincy for the flashback scenes in the episode, “Promises to Keep”, before being hired as Dr. Hanover.
The series was first broadcast nationally in the United Kingdom in 1977 on the ITV network (albeit at differing times due to the then regional structure of the network). Repeats of the full series were initially shown on BBC1 on afternoons in the early 1990s and it had frequently been running daily since the late 1990s on ITV and more recently ITV3 until early 2010, in various time slots (usually 8am, 2pm, and early morning). The show is currently showing on Universal Channel, with episodes on Sunday morning, and one episode at 8am (repeating at 4pm and 5am the following morning) through the week. After a brief appearance on YourTV in the daytime, Quincy ME is now currently being showing as run daily on ITV4 from May 2016 (afternoon and repeated the following morning).
13 episodes were first aired from 1981 through 1983 by the public broadcaster ARD. Then in the early 1990s, 133 episodes were aired by the commercial television station RTL. Since April 2010 kabel eins has aired the first five seasons on weekdays. In 2012 and 2013, the episodes were aired by the RTL partner station RTL Nitro. Since 2015 they are broadcast by Sat.1 Gold, a partner station of kabel eins. All episodes shown on German TV are dubbed into German.
The series appeared in Italy in the mid-Eighties on the TV channel Italia 1. The first four episodes have never been dubbed into Italian, therefore they have never been aired on TV and can only be found (with subtitles) in DVDs. Moreover, many episodes were shortened to about 50 minutes for the Italian version.