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Friday, April 25, 2014


All right.  So, here's a question for all of you reading this blog entry right now.  How many of you actually like your doctor?

I know it sounds like a really bizarre question to ask, but just think about it for a minute.  How many of you actually like your doctor?

As far as my own experiences go, I actually can't give a recent opinion of my family doctor.  I recently switched doctors about six months ago, and knock on wood, I haven't been sick in those six months.  Therefore, I haven't really been to see my new doctor yet.  Though, I suppose I could book a date to have a physical one of these days. 

Anyway, prior to switching doctors, I always had good relationships with any doctor I have ever dealt with.  But then there are some doctors who certainly don't present themselves in the best light.  In fact, I know some people who have actually dropped their doctors because their bedside manner was not to their liking, or they didn't care to hear about their problems, or worst case scenario, the doctor actually is found guilty of medical malpractice.

And certainly, upon first impressions, it's hard to tell whether your doctor is a person who knows exactly what they are talking about and work miracles to try and make you feel one hundred per cent better, or some quack who doles out placebos and outdated medical treatments in an effort to avoid doing things the right way.

Basically, it's trying to compare the doctors found on ER with Dr. Nick Riviera from "The Simpsons".

Well, today's television topic has to do with a doctor who by all accounts appears to be one of those doctors that seems to be universally hated by everybody around him.  And given his personality, I suppose I can see why that is.  He's surly and grouchy, spreads misery to those who come close to him, and has a low tolerance for people who are a little too cheerful for his liking.

(Okay, I have a confession.  I would very much fit in the definition of 'people this doctor cannot stand'.)

However, there is one redeeming quality that makes this fictional doctor one of the best in the entire city of New York.  And, we'll get to that as this television show discussion draws to a close.

For now, let's take a trip back in time to November 2, 1998.  As that was the day in which the television show "Becker" debuted on CBS.  And, the title of the show comes from the name of the character that Ted Danson played on the show.

Dr. John Becker.  The most obnoxious man in the entire world.  A man who absolutely has no tolerance for people and who get annoyed at almost everything in the world.  But when it comes to his actual skills in medicine, he certainly knows his stuff.

The show ran for six seasons, ending its run in early 2004.  It was the second successful television show for Danson, sandwiched in between his eleven year run on "Cheers" and his current gig on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation", and it was a show that performed very well for CBS...well, at least for the first four seasons, anyway.  After all, the show did follow the ratings blockbuster "Everybody Loves Raymond" for four years.

The change to Sunday nights at the beginning of season five was the death knoll for the show, as the show was often pre-empted or postponed due to sporting events (golf, football), and many viewers didn't even know when the show was even on.  It nearly got cancelled at the end of season five, but a sixth season of thirteen episodes were ordered, and the show nicely wrapped things up with a proper series finale.

Now, Danson was one of four cast members who stayed on the program during the entire six year run.  Would you like to know who the other three were?

Well, first, there's Alex Desert, who played the role of blind newspaper salesman Jake Malinak.  Blinded due to a car accident in his youth, Jake becomes Dr. Becker's best friend - which is quite surprising, given that Jake cannot see and he can only judge people based on their personalities.  Given that Dr. Becker's mood varies from slightly peeved to obsessively angry, I have to wonder how Jake even finds the strength to maintain a friendship with him. 

The other two cast members who have been around all six seasons were Dr. Becker's staff at his office.  There's Dr. Becker's nurse and office manager Margaret Wyborn (Hattie Winston), who could basically be the only person in Becker's life who will actually tell things as they are and not cower to his grouchiness.  She is a tough as nails woman who stands up for herself and often acts as the voice of reason in situations that otherwise would be silly.  But don't let her exterior scare you.  Deep down inside, Margaret is a sweetheart of a character and she has patience for Becker's patients (and Becker himself).  She may very well be the best thing that ever happened to Becker.

And then there's Linda (Shawnee Smith), a young woman who works at Dr. Becker's office as a nurse's aide.  A product of a wealthy upbringing, Linda is determined to show her parents that she can find her way in the world and make an honest living doing something meaningful.  It's just a shame that she's completely scatterbrained and clueless over how exactly to do the job.  She often ends up causing more stress-related headaches for Dr. Becker and Margaret than any of their patients.  However, there are some moments in which Linda has inadvertently helped Dr. Becker.  For instance, when Becker was having trouble diagnosing a patient who had come back to America sick after a vacation, Linda's observation that the patient still had a tan a month and a half later caused Becker to come up with the final diagnosis which helped save the man's life.

Now, as far as the other cast members went, some of them began with the show and left, while others joined the show later on.  Case in point, Bob (Saverio Guerra).  He began as a recurring character during the first couple of seasons as a comic relief type character who chases after women despite the fact that he is married.  During the second season, Bob's wife leaves him and he is nearly penniless as a result, and he ends up taking a job as the superintendent of Becker's apartment building - which greatly annoys Becker as Bob very rarely responds to any of Becker's complaints.  Though, given that Becker is usually complaining 99.9% of the time anyway, I suppose it might explain why Bob stays away.  And, by the end of the fifth season, Bob moved away.

This set the stage for the appearance of Hector Lopez (Jorge Garcia), who appeared as a friend of Jake's during the show's final season.  When the show wrapped up, Jake was moving away and Hector took over control of Jake's newsstand.

And then there's the two love interests in Becker's life - even though Becker never really did have much "romance" at all on the show at all.  Interestingly enough, the way that the love interests were introduced on Becker paralleled his role on "Cheers" in a sense.

I'm sure that everyone has their own opinions about "Cheers" regarding who Sam Malone should have ended up with at the end of the series in 1993.  Did you like Shelley Long's Diane or Kirstie Alley's Rebecca? 

Well, the same thing happened in Becker, with one woman obviously set to be Becker's love interest during the first four seasons, and then when she left, another woman stepped in.

Well, the first woman was Reggie Kostas (Terry Farrell), the owner of the diner that houses Jake's newsstand.  And, Reggie certainly had an interesting back story.  In her youth she pursued a career as a fashion model, but somehow her career derailed big time, and she found herself taking over the family business. 

A career she HATES.

But despite this setback, she does seem to have an instant repoire with her regulars...well, all except Bob who has annoyed her since high school.  She gets along with Jake, she even allows Becker to use the register to purchase his own cigarettes!  Now, that's trust! 

Truth be told, Reggie and Becker always seemed to flirt with the idea of seeing each other on a romantic level.  They just seemed to have this chemistry with each other and at the end of season four, it appeared as though both Becker and Reggie would live happily ever after.

Well, unfortunately, producers decided to take the show in a different direction, and at the beginning of season five, they fired Terry Farrell and decided to replace her with the fairly new, previously recurring character of Chris Connor (Nancy Travis).  To Farrell's credit, she held no animosity over being let go from the series, though she admitted that she was completely gobsmacked when she first got the news.

Anyway, when Reggie vacated the show, Chris took over the diner, moved into Becker's apartment, and the show picked up where Becker and Reggie left off...with Becker and Chris having a love-hate relationship of their own.  In fact, I still remember that one episode where Chris had her appendix taken out and she told Becker she loved him...but the only reason she said it was because she was doped up on painkillers.

Anyway, I suppose you had to watch it.

So, we've already deduced that Dr. John Becker is not very pleasant with people.  He snaps at people at a moment's notice.  He seems angry with everyone.  So, how does he keep patients?

Simple.  For all his flaws, Becker is one fantastic doctor.  He pinpoints what is wrong with his patients, does follow up care on them (no matter how much they annoy him), and makes sure that his patients recover from their illnesses.  For a crabby guy, he certainly does know his stuff. 

I guess perhaps the reason why Becker is so grouchy is because he focuses so much on work that he had no time for play.  At least, that's how I saw it.  But if I ever needed to heal fast from an illness or injury, he'd be the guy that I'd want on my side.

Okay, since I've ended this blog on Becker, why don't we watch an episode (or at least a PARTIAL one)?

And, why don't I share some interesting facts about the behind the scenes action while we're here?

1 - Ted Danson dyed his hair brown during the whole run of the series.  His hair had gone white since leaving "Cheers".  Makes sense, given that Danson was a month shy of turning 51 when "Becker" debuted.

2 - Alex Desert is not really blind.  He just plays blind well.

3 - Look closely at Shawnee Smith during the first season of the show (which is available on DVD but hard to find since it's out of print).  She is wearing a lab coat to conceal a pregnancy.

4 - Nancy Travis was only supposed to be on "Becker" for four episodes.  She ended up staying for two and a half seasons.

5 - Three former co-stars from Danson's "Cheers" days made guest appearances on "Becker" - Kelsey Grammar, Rhea Perlman, and George Wendt.

6 - During seasons, Shawnee Smith toured with her punk-rock band "Fydolla Ho" (pronounced exactly as it is written).  Every cast member went to at least one show to support Smith, including Ted Danson.

7 - One of the show's writers was Matthew Weiner.  He would later create the successful series "Mad Men" - the pilot of which Weiner wrote while he was working on "Becker" - a full eight years before "Mad Men" premiered!

8 - The cast may have appeared to get along both on and off stage, but before season five began taping, every actor on the show (except Ted Danson) staged a protest over their salaries by refusing to show up for work!  Lawsuits were launched, but in the end the suit was settled (though Terry Farrell would be fired anyway).

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