11 Doctor-Recommended Facts About Doogie Howser, M.D.

Before Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and How I Met Your Mother, Neil Patrick Harris was a child star, playing a precocious kid with a medical degree on the show Doogie Howser, M.D. It was a silly premise, but the show was quite popular. If you were a fan, or even if you weren’t, you might want to know some trivia from behind the scenes.

1. THE NETWORK DIDN’T LIKE NEIL PATRICK HARRIS. OR THE SHOW.

Doogie Howser, M.D. was brought to ABC by Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law), a producer with an impressive track record. Despite his reputation, the network wasn’t pleased with his choice of Neil Patrick Harris in the title role. But Bochco was undeterred: He went ahead and shot the pilot episode (which was written by series co-creator David E. Kelley) since he had a crucial clause in his contract that paid him a significant penalty if executives chose to bury the project. ABC didn’t like the pilot, either—but test audiences did. "It tests a high number, and it’s put on the air because of how it tested—not because anybody at the network believed in it," Kelley told Vulture. "And the rest is history.”

4. REAL DOCTORS GAVE IT A POOR DIAGNOSIS.

When Doogie premiered in the fall of 1989, it left audiences wondering if a 16-year-old could really operate as a surgical resident. To find out, TV Guide asked Harvard Medical School admissions officer Helen Rakin. "Doogie Howser would have had to graduate from college at nine, start medical school at 10, graduate from medical school at 14, then, after one year of internship and one year of residency, obtain his license to practice at 16," she said. "I don't think so." The Los Angeles Times also chimed in, quoting the then-dean of students at Johns Hopkins as saying he would never admit someone of Howser’s age.  

Did it really matter that the show’s gimmick was totally unbelievable? It didn’t stop Mr. Ed or The Walking Dead. And it didn’t stop Doogie Howser, either. Read the rest of the trivia list at mental_floss.


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