Have you ever taken your kid to a child psychologist? In the world of TV land, apparently many parents have. Child psychologists actually have a much longer history on American TV series than you might expect. A long history, perhaps, but maybe not quite as successful a run as psychologists specializing in more adult neuroses. While shrinks for the problems that kids must deal with go back at least as long as shrinks for the problems facing adults, those characters have never quite attained the status of TV legends shared by Bob Hartley and the Brothers Crane.
Dr. Thomas Wilson: Professional Father
Believe it or not, but child psychologists on TV shows can be traced back at least as far as the mid-1950s. This was the era of TV when all the problems that any kid ever faced tended to be solved by a middle-class father overflowing with homegrown wisdom. That 1950s sitcom truism was treated with a surprising amount of irreverence in “Professional Father.” Dr. Thomas Wilson ran a very successful practice as perhaps television’s first child psychologist. In the office, Wilson seemed the very embodiment of 50s sitcom dads who finessed their way through the turmoil of raising kids. Once Dr. Wilson actually got home from the office, however, he seemed to magically turn into the kind of clueless dad incapable of solving any problem that became norm for sitcom dads a few decades later.
Charlie Harrison: Fish
Charlie Harrison was not actually a child psychologist on “Fish” but he was a college student pursuing a career in the field. “Fish” was the ill-conceived spinoff of “Barney Miller” that put the former NYPD detective in charge of a house filled with foster kids. Charlie Harrison was the resident shrink-in-training who very often revealed that all the book learning in the world can’t compare to common sense. Which seems to be a trait shared by TV shows with child psychologists as characters. In fact, the plethora of ineffective child psychologists on TV could cause a viewer to ponder over just how many TV writers were sent to see a child psychologist by their parents.
Dr. Marvin Monroe: The Simpsons
Dr. Marvin Monroe may not necessarily be a child psychologist in name, but he definitely is called upon to dispense his knowledge in the service of improving relations between parents and children. Dr. Marvin Monroe’s Family Therapy Center offers the guarantee of family bliss or double your money back, which is simply too tempting for Homer Simpson to turn down upon the realization that his family has become hopelessly dysfunctional. Dr. Marvin Monroe is a non-traditional type of child psychologist who utilizes creative and some might say extreme measures to treat emotional barriers between parents and their children.
Dr. Ron Aimes: Minor Adjustments
Dr. Ron Aimes is the kind of child psychologist in “Minor Adjustments” who connects with kids and their emotional problems precisely because he is an overgrown kid himself still dealing with emotional problems. If you really want to know what bugs a kid, it probably helps considerably to maintain a strong bond with your own memories of being a child as well as to not rein in that childishness too strongly.