Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman falls into the category of a show you kind of want to root for, even if you have no intention ever to watch it. The star, Jane Seymour, is bankable, the format reliable, the values valuable, the production functional. In short, 100% familiar and forgettable. But for that small band of hardy viewers who still mourns CBS' cancellation of Guns of Paradise, this is manna, all right, though not exactly heaven-sent.
Seymour, a cool cucumber of a glamorous actress, is all stoic self-righteousness as ''Dr. Mike'' - Michaela, actually, because her dad wanted a son - who heads to post-Civil War Colorado territory to hang her shingle. That she can't wield a broom or ride a nag is meant to endear her to us, if not inspire trust in the narrow-minded townsfolk.
She may be a tenderfoot, but Dr. Quinn is lead-footed in its moralizing: about the noble Indians nearby, about the outcasts (whores, etc.) who see Mike's real measure; and is always informed by the protofeminism that lurks behind every muddy soapbox.
Friday's two-hour pilot saddles Mike with enough weathered baggage to fill any three Western sagas. She inherits three kids from dirt-honest Diane Ladd (who you'll wish had stayed around for the series), saves lives with limited means, and wins the attention of an Eddie Bauer mountain man with even prettier hair than hers.
One Life to Live's Joe Lando plays this Tarzan of the wolves, speaking softly but swinging a mean little hatchet. Always on hand to provide a little nick-of-time action, he saves Dr. Mike during a flu epidemic in Saturday's hour episode, ladling Indian tea down her throat.
And meanwhile, history marches on. ''Some man named Custer'' is coming to town, we learn. As we mark time until Little Bighorn, let's be thankful for the corny pleasure of this big-little bore called Dr. Quinn.
It may not cure what ails you, but it goes down easy.
Toronto Star - January 1, 1993
Family Viewing Doesn't Get Much Better Than This
BYLINE: BY RICK SHERWOOD SPECIAL TO THE STAR (THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER)
It's filled with drama, suspense, action, humor and insight. It's a western with warmth, a wonderfully unique look at the rough and tumble Old West as seen through the eyes of a woman. And if viewers are ready to sit down with a Saturday night series, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman is the one they'll do it with in a world clamoring for family values.
Thanks to its interesting setup and the splendid performances - especially by star Jane Seymour in her first series effort - it could turn into the surprise hit of the season, a Waltons for the 1990s with contemporary sensibilities and old-fashioned charm.
The new CBS series, arriving tonight (Channel 4 at 8 p.m.) with a two-hour premiere and landing in its regular 8 p.m. Saturday slot the following night, just has so much going for it that if it gets sampled, it's sure to hit. The show is filled with wonderful characters, tender sensibilities and enough action to please the hard-core western fan.
It revolves around a prim and proper Bostonian doctor who heads to Colorado Springs in search of equality and to start her medical practice, only to find a society just as hesitant to trust their health to a female physician. Slowly and not too surely, she wins them over with her determination, courage and a few tricks. Along the way she saves a few lives, helps the Indians, opens a few minds and becomes surrogate mom to a family of orphaned kids as well.
That's right, the kind of stuff that makes you feel good.
Diane Ladd turns in a splendid
performance in tonight's premiere as a tough-as-nails local who befriends the
young doctor. She won't be back for the series, but a lot of the others will.
That's good, because it's a strong cast led by Joe Lando as Byron Sully, a disenfranchised
and very good-looking local who has taken up the ways
of the Indians and helps to protect them from the white man. The kids are well-cast too, and add an interesting dimension to the story.
But it's Seymour who sparks the fine cast, turning in a solid, multilayered performance that combines her miniseries elegance with a rough-and-tumble determination. She gives this project much of its charm, and adds the dimension necessary to make this different enough to stand out.
This is a project that's hard to fault. Fine production values, a wonderful script and just the right mix of reverence and mirth combine to make this a tasty family treat. It's bright, warm and tender, very thoughtful and very true to the period.
Family television doesn't get much better than this on any level.
(Cleveland, Ohio) - January 1, 1993
CBS' Lady Doctor is Bad Medicine
BYLINE: By BOB WISEHART; NEWHOUSE NEWS SERVICE
Jane Seymour's "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" is set in 1860s Colorado, though Iowa might be better because that's one place where corn flourishes. This new CBS series is nothing if not ambitious. It wants to be a family feminist western - not exactly an easy mix - but only gets part way there and struggles to get that far.
The result is a show that might as well be called "Little Doctor on the Prairie."
"Dr. Quinn" kicks off with a two-hour episode tonight at 8 before moving to its regular spot Saturday night at 8.
Michaela Quinn - with that first name, we know there's confusion waiting down the road, don't we? - is a Boston-raised physician and daughter of a physician who, thanks to the script's labored contrivance, winds up trying to start a practice in Colorado. But when she answered the advertisement for a doctor the folks in town thought they were getting "Michael A. Quinn."
Being a gosh-darned "lady doctor" in the Old West is not an easy life. As one of the townsfolk says, "Being a doctor, that's one thing. Being a woman, that's another thing. And being an unmarried lady, that's something else."
So business tends to be a little lean. Nobody wants her to tend their gunshot wounds or anything.
Through another labored script contrivance, she also inherits three kids, plus a new friend, a woodsy gent named Byron Sully (Joe Lando), who lives with the Cheyenne (sometimes) and a wolf (all the time), a longhaired dashing lug who appears to have wandered in from the pages of a really bad romance novel.
He is, apparently, not too
bright. Look at it this way: If you lived in the deepest boondocks and were
suddenly confronted by Jane Seymour, who obviously thinks that you are pretty
neat, how fast do you think that you
could find another home for that wolf? But not our boy. The show's intent is to drag out this relationship, or whatever it is, approximately forever.
For a program that thinks it's touting a feminist perspective, "Dr. Quinn" has some awfully traditional - and awfully tired - moves. It even resorts to the old beautiful-woman-in-pretty-dress-falls-down-in-mud gag, a knee-slapper that was old when Maureen O'Hara was doing it in John Wayne movies.
Finally, "Dr. Quinn" is leavened with a lot of heavy-handed politically correct plotting about the nobility of the Cheyenne and the abject cruelty and racism of the townsfolk.
Seymour's presence means that the show probably will get a substantial tune-in audience for the opener, though the veteran of nearly 30 TV movies and miniseries moves through it all as if she attended the Jaclyn Smith School of Facial Paralysis in Acting. The liveliest part of her work is the narration, done as if she is looking back on events many years later.
Peter Tortorici, the vice president who handles daily programming chores at CBS, declared, "We think 'Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman' is the family show that viewers have been waiting and asking for,' citing "The Waltons" as one example, mostly because it was a CBS show. "Little House" was on NBC.
CBS, remember, is the network that has all but dumped "Brooklyn Bridge," a "family show," and a great one. Don't look for logic. There isn't any. This is network TV.
Chronicle - January 1, 1993
Feminist Western; "Dr. Quinn' is Strong Medicine for Misguided Men
BYLINE: BRUCE WESTBROOK; Staff
"Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,'' premiering at 7 p.m. Friday on Channel 11, isn't about 1860s Colorado so much as 1990s America.
A family western with more foreplay than gunplay, it has enough hand-wringing social concerns to be a champion of current political correctness. American Indians and endangered species get some rousing huzzahs, but the chief champion here is women's rights.
Jane Seymour plays the liberated woman of the title, who arrives in Colorado Springs to become the town's new sawbones. She quickly meets waves of hostility on the grounds that she is female, unmarried, an Easterner and unfit by her sex to be a physician. It's not that the good doc doesn't deserve our sympathy. The problem is that the show has the subtlety and objectivity of a kangaroo court.
Each drama needs conflict, and this one knows precisely where to get it: white males. In fact, CBS could call the show "White Male Atrocities'' and be done with it. From a bitter store manager to murderous cavalry officers to bullying rowdies in saloons, white men are seen as a no-good, no-count, hateful, hurtful plague upon the planet.
The rare sympathetic white males are either too young to know any better or random exceptions governed by the law of chance (every bad batch has at least one good apple).
By contrast, women are uniformly noble, especially Quinn, who's gracious, gorgeous, warm, loving, patient, heroic, resourceful -- like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.
Quinn's only shortcoming is her lack of housekeeping skills (she came from a privileged Boston clan with servants). But in the context, that only makes her seem more ahead of her time.
Soon Quinn acquires an ally in a stout Earth mother played by Diane Ladd, shamelessly aping Anjelica Huston's work in "Lonesome Dove.'' She also finds a friend in Sully (Joe Lando), a gentle brute from the wilds who has a pet wolf, befriends the Cheyenne, is an artistic wood carver and becomes Quinn's ad-hoc protector and potential soul mate.
Lando is no great actor, but he's just the kind of long-haired hunk that's in favor today -- Michael Bolton with a tomahawk.
He's also as much of a knight in shining armor as Daniel Day-Lewis in "Last of the Mohicans'' or Kevin Costner in "The Bodyguard,'' which goes to show women can have their progressive cake and eat it too -- at least in dramatic fiction.
Still, for all its preachy manipulation, the show's two-hour premiere is entertaining. ""Dr.Quinn'' spins a good yarn -- and takes some tender tugs on our heartstrings. Well, some aren't so tender. But the emotional wallow of a Christmas Eve finale is impossible to resist.
Seymour is as appealing as ever, combining inspirational strength and touching vulnerability. She's sharp in a pinch but tender when she can afford to be -- a woman who is as likely to weep or fall down as to solve an instant crisis. And crises are many in the two-hour debut, as Colorado Springs starts to look like Ben Taub's emergency room on Saturday night. Making faster diagnoses than the high-tech docs of "Star Trek,'' Dr.Quinn kicks butt as a frontier medicine woman.
Unfortunately, primitive procedures are excruciating, as she treats snake bites, sets broken bones, digs bullets out of necks, administers a tracheotomy, delivers a C-section child and has her own tooth pulled -- without anesthetic -- as an unlikely way to win over the town's barber and unofficial doctor, played by Colm Meaney.
He and others gradually warm to Quinn, who also acquires three orphaned kids. Thus does she become a 19th-century superwoman who has it all -- except a loving man, though Sully clearly is headed that way.
Production values are strong, from sets and costumes to the lovely scenery, and Seymour's voice-over narration is a nice touch. In the context of TV's wasteland, a feminist western is a fresh approach, even if the familial "Waltons'' and "Little House'' slant is not.
As "Dr.Quinn'' assumes its normal time slot Saturday at 7 p.m., its heroine will need new challenges beyond overcoming mindless prejudice. But like the misguided menfolk of Colorado Springs, we should at least give her a chance.
Sun-Times - January 1, 1993
Frontier Feminist ; Elegant Seymour Gets Her Hems Dirty as Old West Doctor
BYLINE: Lon Grahnke
DR. QUINN, MEDICINE WOMAN, 7 to 9 tonight.
Starring in her first prime-time series, Jane Seymour brings feminist notions to the American frontier as the resourceful title character in "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman."
The elegant British actress isn't afraid to get muddy or meddlesome as Michaela "Mike" Quinn, whose Boston patients desert her family practice when her father/ partner/mentor dies. Proper society frowned on female physicians in the late 1860s.
The CBS drama, premiering
at 7 tonight on WBBM-Channel 2, follows Quinn as she heads west to become the
town doctor of Colorado Springs. Expecting a man to answer the newspaper ad
he placed in the Globe, the
Rev. Timothy Johnson (Geoffrey Lower) is shocked when the stagecoach unloads Mike.
"There are no respectable single women in Colorado Springs," sputters the stuffy, patronizing minister.
"That's a shame, Reverend," Quinn replies with a smile. "Every town should have at least one."
Seymour, often cast as chilly, aloof heroines, seems to enjoy getting her hems dirty as Mike. A stubborn and capable woman with the freedom to be herself, she forms an alliance with local midwife Charlotte Cooper (Diane Ladd). But most of the townsfolk won't accept the Eastern liberal as a neighbor, much less a doctor, and her independent nature adds to their discomfort.
After setting up an interesting Western premise, series creator Beth Sullivan lets "Dr. Quinn" slip into some predictable situations. Mike becomes the caretaker of three orphans; a mysterious widower lets her use his log cabin as her home and office; she saves a mother's life during a difficult childbirth; the politically correct newcomer defies a genocidal cavalry colonel by protecting her peaceful Cheyenne friends, and she stands up to saloon bullies after treating a young prostitute for venereal disease.
"I don't approve of male hypocrisy," Mike says.
Dr. Quinn isn't perfect, however. In a concession to frontier reality, some of her patients die. And she's still not totally welcome by the end of tonight's episode.
Despite her spirit and conviction, Seymour's Mike appears too prim and dainty to be a pioneer. Writer-producer Sullivan further softens the character by setting up a potential romance with the protective Byron Sully, a rugged loner with a fear of horses. "If you're gonna survive, you'd better learn to make it on your own," Sully tells her, knowing he will keep her safe.
A part-time miner whose wife and baby died for want of a doctor, Sully could be called Ambles with Wolf by the Cheyenne because he walks everywhere with his canine companion. As Mike's blue-eyed beau-to-be, Joe Lando looks more like a rock star than a 19th century mountain man.
Tomorrow, CBS moves "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" into its regular slot at 7 p.m. Saturdays on Channel 2. Viewers who watch this weekend's second episode - in which Mike battles an influenza epidemic - may notice that the roles of storekeeper Loren Bray, barber Jake Slicker and blacksmith Robert E. have been recast. Gail Strickland joins the ensemble as ornery Olive Davis.
It's good to see a new Western series suitable for family audiences, even if its vision of the wilderness is too refined and romantic. "Dr. Quinn" needs a stronger dose of scruffiness.
Commercial Appeal (Memphis) - January 1, 1993
Wild West is No Match for Jane Seymour
BYLINE: Tom Walter
The premise of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman is so deliciously stupid that the entire series becomes irresistible. Imagine Jane Seymour as a frontier doctor in Colorado Springs, circa 1866, battling disease, mistreatment of Indians and sexism in equal measure.
This should be titled Little House Call on the Prairie, since Seymour as Dr. Michaela Quinn ends up adopting three orphans as well.
Quinn's dad, a Boston doctor,
wanted a boy, which is why she's named Michaela. The name confuses the dodos
in Colorado Springs, who thought they had hired a man to be the town doc. But
business is lousy in Boston after her father dies, and she needs a gig. The
good burghers of Colorado Springs don't want her, but by gum, she's
going to show them they're wrong.
Things don't start too auspiciously for Dr. Quinn (Jane Seymour), who falls face first into mud as her first unofficial act in town. But boy, she's game. The local dentist is the local barber, and to show she's as hard-bitten as the next person, the doc lets him pull a perfectly healthy tooth as the entire town looks on with increasing admiration for this down-home woman (Jane Seymour).
In the course of the two-hour pilot, Dr. Quinn (Jane Seymour) faces down the cavalry, hides a wounded Indian, performs a tracheotomy with a bird feather, adopts the kids after their mother is bitten by a rattlesnake and dies, befriends a mountain man with a fondness for wolves, lectures a black man on the need for tolerance, slips medication to a woman whose husband doesn't want her treated by a woman doctor (Jane Seymour), treats a hooker for a ''female problem'' and cures a sick pig.
Whew! In the second episode, which airs in the series' normal time slot of 7 p.m. Saturday, Dr. Quinn (Jane Seymour) fights a flu epidemic even as she is stricken herself!
Despite all the hokum, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, a name bestowed upon her by a grateful Indian chief, is charming. This is a series the entire family can watch. It might be a little - or a lot - ahead of its time in its attitude toward social problems, but Seymour is ingratiating as a gritty, determined frontier woman, as improbable as that might seem. There's adventure and peril and good works and touching moments that might seem maudlin to some, but many others will find the combination heartwarming.
POST-INTELLIGENCER - January 1, 1993
Just an Old Country Doctor - But 'Mike' is a Woman
SOURCE: P-I Staff and news services
Originally set to air as part of CBS' fall lineup, "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" finally gets her shot at curing the network's ailing Saturday nights. "Dr. Quinn" has a two-hour introduction Friday night, then moves to its regular slot Saturday night.
"Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" - nicknamed "Little Doc on the Prairie" by some wags - stars miniseries queen Jane Seymour as Dr. Michaela Quinn, a 19th-century Boston woman who becomes a doctor, just like her father. But after he dies, his patients are less than enthusiastic about a woman treating them. She departs for points west, figuring frontier folk will be less picky.
She is mistaken. When residents learn the "Dr. Mike" who answered their ad for a doctor is really Dr. Michaela, they are aghast. Folks in rustic but photogenic Colorado Springs (to their credit, the producers managed to find a very realistic-looking set not far from Los Angeles) don't rightly cotton to a female, steadfastly depending on their traditional source of medical help, the local barber.
Dr. Quinn finds only one friend, the influential Charlotte (Diane Ladd), who promptly dies, bequeathing her three children to the doctor's care. It's an instant family for Dr. Quinn, and the three kids (Chad Allen of "St. Elsewhere," Shawn Toovey and Erika Flores) will, as you'll see in Saturday's episode, become an asset.
"Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" has a real romance-novel feel to it, so the obligatory, impossibly handsome male hero is a blue-eyed semi-Indian named Sully, a steely, long-haired loner whose only friend is his pet wolf. Sully, played by Joe Lando (Jake on "One Life to Live"), frequently appears from nowhere to bail Dr. Quinn out of a jam.
In Saturday's episode, Gail Strickland ("What a Country") joins the cast as Olive, a wealthy rancher, who was out of town when her close friend Charlotte died, and is resentful that Dr. Quinn, and not her, got Charlotte's kids. Unfortunately, one of Olive's cowhands shows up sick with the flu, and the virus soon infects the town. When even the barber gets sick and asks Dr. Quinn for help, you know she's arrived, provided she lives through her own infection.
It sounds hokey, but "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" is surprisingly easy to watch. It's unfortunate that the writers persist in having Dr. Quinn spout present-tense 20th-century women's rights viewpoints; there are more subtle and accurate ways of making the point without having her sound like the "Cagney & Lacey" writers are creating her lines.
CBS likely has modest hopes for "Dr. Quinn," particularly given the miserable time slot. But this is the sort of show that an audience, given enough time, might find and embrace.
York Times - February 4, 1993
It's Jane Seymour, M.D., In the Wild and Woolly West
BYLINE: By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
One recipe for a successful series: take a contrived concept, sprinkle with homespun truisms updated for political correctness and mix well with tired plot devices. Process and serve. And out comes "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," CBS's new hit on Saturdays at 8 P.M. Possible subtitle: "Little Shtick on the Prairie," and very little, at that.
Allegedly inspired by the ratings and artistic triumph of the Glenn Close television movie "Sarah, Plain and Tall," "Dr. Quinn" bears no resemblance to that intensely lean story, based on an award-winning children's book by Patricia MacLachlan (a two-hour sequel, "Skylark," also starring Ms. Close and Christopher Walken, will be broadcast Sunday on CBS). Developed by Beth Sullivan with CBS Entertainment, "Dr. Quinn" is a television construct, its every nuance calculated out of lowest-common-denominator concerns. Art, or even craft, decidedly takes a back seat to commerce.
Played by the British actress Jane Seymour, once queen of mini-series, Dr. Quinn is Michaela Quinn, one of the first women to become an M.D. in America. She calls herself Mike. Educated in the East, she has settled in Colorado, where she quickly becomes the mother of three orphaned children. The year is 1867. You couldn't tell by the coiffures, which, especially in the opening credits, suggest a shampoo commercial in the making, even as Mike informs us: "I'm not alone anymore. I've inherited a family, and that might be the biggest challenge of all."
One recent episode probably set a record in its opening minutes for multi-cultural sensitivity. Mike informed one of her young 'uns: "We're all immigrants. Some of us just came to America sooner than others." Then the camera panned to the village smithy, who happened to be black. "Robert E. did not come here willingly," Mike added. Then, spotting some American Indians, she conceded: "I was wrong. We are not all immigrants."
Subtlety is not a strong suit. You want local color? Get the store owner to announce to the kids, "We're still out of jawbreakers." Or, at a picnic, have someone sit on a gorgeous patchwork quilt and shout gleefully, "Hey, let's pitch some horseshoes!" Then it's quickly back to the uninspired business at hand.
There are, of course, elements of conflict and sexism, but nothing that Mike can't handle. When influenza breaks out, the townsfolk are suspicious of a doctor who urges isolating the sick from the healthy and who explains that the flu is caused by a germ. "What the hell is a germ?" one man snarls. Undismayed, Mike even accepts the help of a town whore in tending to the sick. When the quinine medication starts to run out, a stud in suede, who turns out to be a kind of new-age loner named Byron Sully (Joe Lando), suggests trying a certain kind of tea brewed by the Cheyenne Indians. And when Mike herself falls sick, Sully goes to fetch the tribe's medicine man, who just barely escapes detection by a determined United States soldier named George Custer.
In another episode, crotchety Loren Bray (Orson Bean) gets tetchy about having Mike treat his hernia. "Don't you go touching me," he warns, adding that "I won't have you messing with my innards." As it happens, Loren's daughter, now dead, was married to Sully, and the old codger is determined to take back land she meant to leave to her husband. When Loren finally undergoes hernia surgery, it turns out that he'll need a blood transfusion. Sully nobly steps forward as donor, with warm smiles all around.
Meanwhile, Mike's daughter, Colleen (Erika Flores), is crying about not receiving a birthday-party invitation: "Nobody likes me just because I always know the answer." Mom does her best to console the girl: "People who are very popular when they're young often grow up to lead very dull lives." Of course, this being just after the Civil War, Mom has had no opportunity to meet Madonna.
When tears aren't welling, Ms. Seymour walks with a stride that is never less than purposeful, pausing now and then to say "Trust me."
Not this time around, I'm afraid. Certainly not unless and until "Dr. Quinn" can come up with a prescription to counteract drivel.