Diagnosis: Murder doesn't get the same recognition as other mystery shows, and that's a real shame. It ran for an impressive 178 episodes, along with five TV movies.
Throughout its long run, viewers watched Dick Van Dyke as Dr. Mark Sloan, a doctor who solves crimes. Van Dyke had already established himself as a great comedian, but he proved he had real range on this show.
Here are 11 surprising facts about the series:
1. It was a family affair
Regular viewers will remember that Van Dyke's real-life son Barry played Dr. Sloan's son, Steve, on the show. But they weren't the only Van Dyke family members who appeared on the show. In total, seven Van Dykes acted in the series. Van Dyke's grandson, Carey, had small roles in a few episodes, and so did his brother Shane.
Then, Barry's children Wes and Taryn had guest spot's too. Jerry Van Dyke, Dick's younger brother, had a small role, and so did Dick's daughter Stacy. Did you get all that? Me neither.
2. Dick Tracy Won Van Dyke His Part
By the time Diagnosis: Murder started filming the first season, Van Dyke was 67 years old. He was also best known for lighthearted roles on his comedy series, so he wasn't exactly a shoe-in to play the lead in a "whodoneit" show.
It was his part as the wily D.A. Fletcher in the Dick Tracy movie that convinced producers otherwise. We'd say they made the right choice, because it's hard to imagine anyone else as Dr. Sloan.
3. Reunion Shows
Diagnosis: Murder was famous for featuring characters from other classic TV shows (more on that later) but it also reunited groups of TV stars for some very fun episodes. The episode "Alienated," about an alien abduction and coverup, featured a string of Star Trek actors including Walter Koenig, George Takei, Majel Barrett and Wil Wheaton.
A similar episode called "Discards" was a sort of reunion of TV spies. Patrick Macnee from Avengers, Robert Vaughn from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Phil Morris from Mission: Impossible all appeared together (but not as their original characters).
Eric Dane's character on Grey's Anatomy was best-known as "McSteamy," but his actual name is Dr. Mark Sloan. The name was a tribute to Van Dyke's character. How do you think they measure up?
5. The Sloans Reunited...Kind Of
After the series was canceled in 2001, Dick Van Dyke returned to play Dr. Sloan in a few TV movies, then said goodbye to the role. But if you're itching for more of Dr. Sloan and Steve solving mysteries, you can get your fix with Mystery 101.
The Hallmark movie series is sort of a wink and a nod to Diagnosis: Murder, with the Van Dykes playing another father-son mystery solving team. The pair starred in four TV movies in the series, and they're still being rerun to this day.
Keep reading to find out how Dick Van Dyke pulled off a dangerous motorcycle stunt...
6. Double Spin-Off
Remember Jake and the Fatman? It followed a private investigator and prosecutor duo as they solved crimes. Most people don't remember that the show was actually a spin-off of the much-loved legal drama Matlock. In fact, that makes Diagnosis: Murder a spin-off of a spin-off, since Dr. Sloan was a character on Fatman before getting his own show.
Speaking of spin-offs, one of the show's producers got a little spin-off crazy...
7. Lawyers, Nuns And P.I.s, Oh My!
Every seasons of the show included at least one "nested pilot" for a new spin-off show, supposedly at the request of producer Fred Silverman. Fans think there may be even more pilots disguised as regular episodes, but we know there are at least seven.
Here are some of the ideas that almost got their own shows, we'll let you decide if they deserved a chance.
- Sister Michael Wants You - Delta Burke played the titular nun, who would solve crimes.
- How To Murder Your Lawyer - Leah Remini was one of the stars of this concept about a team of crime solving lawyers.
- Georgia On My Mind - Daphne Ashbrook played a female P.I. named Georgia in an episode that was probably a disguised spin-off.
8. Old Friends
One of the best parts of Diagnosis: Murder was the many cameo appearances by other TV stars. They usually returned playing the actual characters from their most famous shows. Mike Connors appeared as Mannix in a sequel to one of the show's episodes, and Andy Griffith returned as Matlock.
Other special appearances include Barbara Bain as Cinnamon Carter from Mission Impossible and the crew of Emergency!. Dr. Sloan even bumped into Rob Petrie, Van Dyke's character from The Dick Van Dyke Show, in a mind-melting CGI cameo.
9. Even More Crossovers
Yes, even after the show ended it remained crossover crazy. Dr. Sloan's fans could follow his continuing adventures in a series of books by Lee Goldberg, one of the show's writers. Goldberg went on to write the novel adaptations for the show Monk, and some of his characters appear in both books.
This show was the original interconnected TV universe!
10. Hazard Pay
While the show became a cult hit, it was always running low on cash while filming new episodes. Once, the script called for a motorcycle stunt that was out of the show's budget, but Dick Van Dyke had a solution.
It turns out he's a real computer buff, and he animated the jump at home using his own computer and editing software. The producers paid him an extra $200 for "pulling off" the dangerous stunt himself.
11. Change Of Scenery
Fans will remember that the show is filmed and set in sunny California. So why do some episodes look so drab and grey? Viacom taped the first few episodes in Denver, Colorado, the same place they were filming the Perry Mason TV movies.
To cut costs, filming was later moved to Los Angeles. But the fact that every character on the show decided to move to the same town on the coast all at once never came up in any of the show's episodes.
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