Doctor in the House (TV)

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Doctor in the House
Doctor in the House title card.jpg
Title card for the first series
Format comedy
Starring Barry Evans
Robin Nedwell
George Layton
Ernest Clark
Country of origin United Kingdom
Australia
No. of series 10
Production
Running time 30 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel ITV
Channel Seven
BBC1
Original run 1969 – 1991
(including sequel series)

Doctor in the House is the American collective name for seven separate British and Australian television comedy series inspired by a series of cinema films, which in turn were based on and inspired by a series of books by Richard Gordon, about the misadventures of a group of medical students — and their later misadventures as doctors.

The first five series, Doctor in the House, Doctor at Large, Doctor in Charge, Doctor at Sea and Doctor on the Go, were produced by London Weekend Television between 1969 and 1977.

The sixth series, Doctor Down Under, which was filmed and based in Australia, was produced by Australia's Seven Network in 1979-80.

The final series, Doctor at the Top, was produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1991.

The same theme music was played for all of the "Doctor" television series, including the Australian series Doctor Down Under.

Plot[edit]

The plot revolved around the trials of medical students at St Swithin's hospital in London.

Characters[edit]

The major protagonists were:

  • Michael Upton (Barry Evans), an easy-going, serious and somewhat anxious son of a doctor who is essentially following in his father's footsteps.
  • Duncan Waring (Robin Nedwell), Michael's best friend and roommate. He is just as bright as Upton, but far less serious in his studies, although he generally does well. After Barry Evans left the show, Nedwell returned as Waring to become the focus of the show.
  • Paul Collier (George Layton), a less competent student and friend of Upton and Waring.
  • Dick Stuart-Clark (Geoffrey Davies), a thirtyish student who deliberately fails his courses in order to take advantage of his late grandmother's will, which bequeathed him a large sum of money for each year he is in medical school.
  • Lawrence Bingham (Richard O'Sullivan), a brilliant, but arrogant and irritating doctor who believes he is the best of all possible doctors. He marries the equally obnoxious Dr. Mary Parsons (Helen Fraser) in the series Doctor in Charge. His need to continually impress her is the source of much comedy.

The main antagonist is the famous, well-respected and ill-tempered surgeon Professor Geoffrey Loftus (Ernest Clark). Most of the plot lines revolve around the students' attempts to meet his demanding expectations.

Another hospital official with whom the students have contact is the Dean (Ralph Michael), who is more interested in the hospital's Rugby union team than he is in medicine.

Other characters in the early episodes, some of whom later reappeared for single episodes in subsequent series, included:

  • Danny Hooley (Jonathan Lynn), an Irish medical student who is a friend of Waring, Collier, Upton and Stuart-Clark. He later returns as an 'out-of-work doctor' in the Doctor in Charge episode "Should Auld Acquaintance be Forgot?"
  • Huw Evans (Martin Shaw), a Welsh medical student, another friend of the four students. He reappears as a very nervous expectant father in the episode "Mother and Father Doing Well".
  • Dave Briddock (Simon Cuff), another friend of the students. He spends part of the series living with Helga, his Swedish girlfriend.

Guest stars[edit]

Notable guest stars throughout the run of the series and its sequels included:

Hattie Jacques, Mollie Sugden, Roy Kinnear, Maureen Lipman, Patricia Routledge, Graeme Garden, David Jason, John Le Mesurier, Arthur Lowe, Angela Scoular, Tessa Wyatt and John Bluthal.

Series[edit]

  • Doctor in the House — (1969–1970) — London Weekend Television (LWT)
    • First series (13 episodes) broadcast from 12 July to 4 October 1969
    • Second series (13 episodes) broadcast from 10 April to 3 July 1970
  • Doctor at Large — (1971) — LWT
    • Third series (29 episodes) broadcast from 28 February to 12 September 1971
  • Doctor in Charge — (1972–1973) — LWT
    • Fourth series (27 episodes) broadcast from 9 April to 8 October 1972
    • Fifth series (16 episodes) broadcast from 15 September to 29 December 1973
  • Doctor at Sea — (1974) — LWT
    • Sixth series (13 episodes) broadcast from 21 April to 14 July 1974
  • Doctor on the Go — (1975–1977) — LWT
    • Seventh series (13 episodes) broadcast from 27 April to 20 July 1975
    • Eighth series (13 episodes) broadcast from 16 January to 10 April 1977
  • Doctor Down Under — (1979–80) — Seven Network (Australia)
    • (13 episodes) broadcast from 12 February 1979
  • Doctor at the Top — (1991) — BBC
    • (7 episodes) broadcast from 21 February 1991

Writers[edit]

Unusually for a British situation comedy series Doctor in the House did not depend on a single writer or partnership to write the scripts. The writers who worked on the series are often better known for their other work. Monty Python's Graham Chapman and John Cleese and The Goodies Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie were among the regular writers. Chapman and Garden both trained as doctors. Graeme Garden also appeared as a "Television Presenter" in the episode "Doctor on the Box".

While keeping mostly to the conventions of the situation comedy genre, the shows occasionally stretched the boundaries of what was seen on television. One script by Cleese called for Michael Upton to rip away a woman's dress in a single movement (she was hiding a key he needed in her cleavage). A script by Garden and Oddie included a scene played out using cartoon drawings of the performers, in the style of a teenage romance magazine, while the actors voiced their lines.

Title of series
Number of
episodes
Writers
'Doctor in the House'
26
Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Barry Cryer, Graeme Garden, Bernard McKenna and Bill Oddie
'Doctor at Large'
29
Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Barry Cryer, Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie, Jonathan Lynn, Bernard McKenna,
David Yallop, George Layton (under the pseudonym of "Oliver Fry"), Geoff Rowley and Andy Baker.
'Doctor in Charge'
43
David Askey, Graham Chapman, Graeme Garden, George Layton, Jonathan Lynn, Bernard McKenna,
Bill Oddie, Phil Redmond and Gail Renard
'Doctor at Sea'
13
Richard Laing, George Layton, Jonathan Lynn, Bernard McKenna, Gail Renard and Phil Redmond
'Doctor on the Go'
26
Douglas Adams, Rob Buckman, Richard Laing, George Layton, Jonathan Lynn, Bernard McKenna,
Steve Thorn and Paul Wolfson
'Doctor Down Under'
13
Bernard McKenna, Bernie Sharp and Jon Watkins
'Doctor at the Top'
7
George Layton and Bill Oddie

Location of St. Swithin's Hospital[edit]

The building used as the fictional St. Swithin's Hospital is, in fact, the old Wanstead Hospital (based in Wanstead, London, E11). A number of years ago it was converted into a residential building and is now called Clock Court. It is a listed building based on Hermon Hill, within the London Borough of Redbridge. Before becoming a hospital it was an orphanage for children whose parents were lost at sea, and the architecture of the building depicts images of boats carved into the intricate stone. A number of celebrities are rumoured to have lived there over the years including the actor Gary Lucy (The Bill), and Heart FM radio DJ Paul Hollins.

International telecasts[edit]

Australia[edit]

The show proved to be very popular in Australia, where the series Doctor Down Under was filmed and based.

North America[edit]

From about 1971 to 1974 the program was syndicated in the United States and Canada by Group W Productions. The umbrella title Doctor in the House was used for all shows, and episodes from different series were sometimes shown out of sequence. The program briefly reappeared in US syndication in the 1980s, airing both episodes seen in its original US run and ones from later series.

Notes[edit]

British doctors study medicine at the undergraduate level, so the characters were new to independent living and university life.

Ernest Clark, who played the part of Professor Loftus in the television series, also appeared in the original film version of Doctor in the House.

External links[edit]