Meet TV’s handsomest MDs.
Handsome young doctors have been a TV staple since President Eisenhower was having heart attacks on the White House putting green. These days TV has more medical heartthrobs than aspirins in a bottle, but there was a time when Don Juan docs were a slightly rarer breed.
So roll up your sleeves and let’s scrub down for a very special feature on TV’s old-school Hunky Docs.
RICHARD CHAMBERLAIN kicked off the 1960s as Dr. Kildare, a sensitive young intern learning the ropes in a big Los Angeles hospital. (Los Angeles has always seemed to be the favored locale for hunky doc-dom.) Chamberlain himself had attended LA’s Pomona College intending to be an artist, but he turned out to be so incredibly handsome that he was more or less whisked onto the stage. Kildare ended in 1966; years later Chamberlain resurfaced as a Mature Hunk in 1980s miniseries like Shogun and The Thorn Birds.
Also set in Los Angeles was Medical Center, a show which was plenty popular in its day but somehow has failed to qualify for rerun glory. The star was CHAD EVERETT, a go-getter with a thick head of hair and a mod athleticism. His character’s name was the tuff-est thing since penicillin: Dr. Joe Gannon. The show’s seven-year run (1969-76) made it the longest-running medical drama in prime-time history. His hunky doc days behind him, Everett later carved out a respectable career as a sensibly handsome character actor. He died from lung cancer in 2012.
At the same time that Richard Chamberlain was making hay as Dr. Kildare, VINCE EDWARDS was scoring big as Dr. Ben Casey. Casey was a little less naive and a little more brusque than Kildare, and he was a neurosurgeon into the bargain. Casey and Kildare went head-to-head in the dashing department from 1961-1966, the former on ABC and the latter on NBC.
ALAN ALDA stumbled into the role of a lifetime when he joined the cast of M*A*S*H as Capt. Hawkeye Pierce, the martini-mixing scalawag who was catnip to nurses in Korea. Alda was so popular that he grew to dominate the show, writing and directing episodes as well as playing the lead role from 1972-83. Sad to say, as the years passed Hawkeye slowly faded from fun-loving fox-hunter to preachy do-gooder. But he never stopped getting the girls.
Starting the same year as M*A*S*H, though never growing quite as famous, was Emergency (1972-77). The hunky doc: kinda-heart-throbby RANDOLPH MANTOOTH. Mantooth played John Gage, the young (Los Angeles!) paramedic with a horsey charm the ladies loved. Emergency proudly paid attention to the mundane realities of a paramedic’s life — giving Mantooth a chance to save cats as well as lives.