I'm viewing the first season of Marcus Welby, MD on DVD to reflect on how the early TV doctors practiced (acted). I was surprised to see how angry Dr Welby was on numerous occasions (in sunny California, even). He was totally committed to his patients and to his community reputation of "Doctor", but the amount of anger surprised me.
For some background, in case you don't remember of weren't alive then, in the 1960's and 1970's, patients saw their personal physician, and usually paid for the doctor's services on the way out of the office. Insurance was only used for hospitalization, not for office or outpatient services. Diagnostic support such as CT scans or MRI's were just being invented in the late 1970's. Dr. Welby and his young associate, Dr. Steve Kiley, had to do it all from cradle to grave, sometimes with the help of their local hospital- where they admitted their own patients, delivered their babies, removed their tonsils and maintained professional relationships with other physicians.
In such an era, the "presence" of the physician was a major aspect of treatment. The doctor was committed to your well-being as long as you honored their profession and followed doctor's orders. Just as now, many individuals disagreed with Dr. Welby (even Dr Kiley disagreed at one point or another during most of the shows in the season one DVD that I viewed). "Therapeutic Presence" was important in the world of Welby and Kiley. At times, they had little to offer medically, so the patient-physician relationship was very important as a therapeutic element.
Dr. Welby at times was very possessive of his patients, even demanding and angry when others interfered in their relationship. Anger was a visitor every week from the TV doctor who had just experienced a long run as the fatherly lead in "Father Knows Best", which used the same house front as "Marcus Welby, MD". Dr. Welby compensated with 24/7 willingness to be there for his patients- in their home, in the hospital or at the local "trailer park"- and with the motherly support as office assistant and sometime lunch preparer of Elena Verdugo who played Consuelo Lopez.
Everyone seemed to love Consuelo and most were forgiving of the youthful, geeky bluntness of Dr Kiley who lived in the house with Dr. Welby that doubled as their doctor's office. Only Marcus Welby, MD had to get the full brunt of various angry patients or their relatives. Still, he persisted, and confronted and hugged and argued. He pleaded for an autistic boy to be treated by a research center and basically berated the Medical Director who politely apologized for society's failure to take care of all. He lived in the home of that boy empathizing with his parents about the possible need to institutionalize the boy out of concern for the safety of the new baby in the home. Never fear, Welby taught the boy to feed the horse and colt, suddenly seeing the boy connect with animals and humans at the midnight hour (end of show) as a reward for the good doctor's extra care.
I can't wait to get season two to watch the maturing of the characters and the script. What do you remember about the "Marcus Welby, MD" show?