If you can remember this, you're old. Yes, OLD old. But given how dreadfully hackneyed TV dramas could be in the '60s, this one was fairly memorable. It's hard to forget the chalkboard symbols, with Sam Jaffe intoning those five whatdaya-call'ems, the great fundamental truths of Whatever.
And this startling opening, which they changed after the first season (unfortunately!). It gave the whole show a sense of dynamic tension, of emergency, of things happening, a no-nonsense kind of environment echoed in the snarky cynicism of Vincent Edwards: he of the world-weary pronouncements, hairy forearms, sweaty scrubs and shiny Italian greaser hairdo. And the diagnosis of subdural hematoma which he gave every week, to everyone.
Of course I was far too young to Get It about Ben Casey, or Dr. Kildare either, for that matter. Back then, you were either Casey or Kildare: you couldn't be both. To be both was to be gutless, to be sitting on the fence, to be bisexual, or even asexual, and that simply wouldn't do.
There was no doubt in my mind that I was Casey, though I was just a kid when the series began, maybe not even ten years old. I certainly didn't sit there watching it every week. In fact, I only began to watch it attentively about six years later, when a channel in Detroit began to rerun them after school. Then I began to realize that I'd been right all along, Casey was it, he was The One.
I had some idea by then about the hairy forearms and Easter Island impervious mug and smoldering eyes, how that might appeal to someone sexually. Richard Chamberlain had fallen into some sort of void at that time, only to emerge years later in the '80s in The Thorn Birds. And yes, I fell right into it, even though when I tried to watch the series a few years ago on DVD I could not believe how lame it was.
I must have watched Dr. Kildare at some point, though all I can remember is one episode about a brain-damaged man who could only utter one word: "Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn." This was considered extremely provocative for the era. By the end of the show, he could also mutter, "Wife", which must have placated the censors somewhat.
The Kildare show was just too soft. It wasn't just Chamberlain, it wasn't his fault he was beautiful rather than handsome. Like the hyper-romantic theme song, the one with the strings and the chimes, the show just had no dynamism about it. It was too sentimental by half. Raymond Massey did a good job as his mentor, though he was no Sam Jaffe. Sam Jaffe always charmed me, because he looked like something straight out of Dr. Seuss.
So! Casey and Kildare. They stir strange, disparate, completely meaningless memories. For some reason I remember an odd little song from the schoolyard, something about Dr. Kildare sung to the tune of Take me Out to the Ball Game. A girl named Nancy sang it, because nobody else knew the words. As is always the case with these things, I remember about two lines. "It's boo, boo, boo for Ben Casey. . .And it's one, two, three vaccinations with Dr. Kildare!" I haven't heard a trace of this song since, and I now think that Nancy must've made it up.
There was this other thing, oh this one other dumb thing, and I don't even know who the two singers were, I just remember the ONE line: "With Ben Casey and Kildare, you have a PARADOX." Ay. Paradox indeed.
There's just one more little bit and I'll stop. Bill and I seem completely different on the surface - temperament, interests, etc. etc. But I will tell you that underneath that surface, we are identical.
One day, some 40 years after I married him, I looked at him across the dinner table and asked him the question that would determine whether I had married the right man, or made a big mistake.
"Casey or Kildare?"
He looked at me with a surprised expression on his face and said, "Casey."
I think he was a little hurt that I needed to ask.
POST-BLOG BONUS! The facial expressions of Vincent Edwards. Some sort of knockoff of The Method, obviously, but he missed the class called "emotion".