Psychiatrists and psychologists are not the same thing. In real life, anyway. When it comes to TV shows, however, one is sometimes hard-pressed to tell the difference. A number of psychologists have entered into the TV Hall of Fame such as Dr. Bob Hartley and Dr. Frasier Crane. The success of psychologists on TV has to do with their ability to interact in the lives of patients in a more emotionally satisfying way than psychiatrist. Do not be alarmed, however, as psychiatrists have had their fair share of success on TV as well.
The Eleventh Hour
As far back as 1962, NBC took a chance on an hour long drama about how psychiatry could help people cope with the daily travails of their lives. Many of the cases which involved Dr. Bassett and Dr. Graham dealt with the psychiatric problems associated with criminal behavior. Not just that, but the title of the show referred to psychiatric help as a sort of court of last resort. The two psychiatrists at the center of the show were brought in to provide help at “The Eleventh Hour” before the patients were sucked down the vortex of an emotional breakdown.
I Dream of Jeannie
If any character needed a psychiatrist, it may well have been Major Tony Nelson. I mean, the guy believe he found an actual genie in a bottle, for crying out loud. Of course, the reality is that he did. And the result was that a lot of very weird things happened around Maj. Nelson and he discovered himself at the center of many strange circumstances. Unfortunately for him, the explanation would make him sound crazier than any lie. Or so he thought. Which is why “I Dream of Jeannie” featured constant friction between Nelson and NASA psychiatrist, Dr. Bellows. Making the situation even worse was Dr. Bellows’s wife who qualifies as one of the repulsively nosy characters in TV history. Why Dr. Bellows could not see that his wife required psychiatric care herself is one of those great mysteries of TV land.
Dr. Sidney Freedman was a recurring character on “MASH” who was occasionally called upon to provide psychiatric care. The pointlessness of psychiatric care in the midst of the craziness known as war was forever canonized in Joseph Heller’s novel “Catch-22” and Dr. Freedman’s assessments pretty much cemented that perspective. Freedman’s most important appearance was on the much-ballyhooed series finale in which he was vital in penetrating to the horrifying memory that Hawkeye repressed in a subconscious attempt to hold onto the remaining remnants of his sanity.
The star of “Matt Lincoln” was Vince Edwards. Edwards most definitely qualifies as an actor who playing one the most memorable doctors in TV history. But Ben Casey was no psychiatrist. Some years after his run as Ben Casey ended, Edwards returned to TV to play “Matt Lincoln.” It was the early 70s and CBS was about to cancel nearly every show with a tree on the set. The name of the game was being relevant to the youth culture poised to take over the world. In the spirit was young psychiatrist Matt Lincoln who was dedicated to providing his service to the young and disenfranchised living in the inner city. It is probably worth noting that “Ben Casey” ran for five years while “Matt Lincoln” failed to make it to five months.