Warner Archive's mega 9-disc 2-volume 34-episode DVD release of the 1962-63 second season of the uber-classic medical drama "Dr. Kildare" makes a nice companion to the recently reviewed 9-film DVD set "Dr. Kildare Movie Collection."
Including the unaired 1960 pilot of the "Kildare" series, which vastly differs from the series, in the movie collection provides a nice bridge between the two sets.
The offerings in each set consistently portray the titular character as a medical intern who you would want on your case if you were hospitalized. The both also share the characteristic of having crusty mentor Dr. Gillespie guide this young doctor.
The following photo of dreamy "Kildare" series star Richard Chamberlain partially explains both the above sentiment why the series so successfully launches his career.
The second season opens with an unintentionally amusing episode in which Kildare tries to help a very difficult woman deal with intense anxiety regarding the impending birth of her first child. The inadvertent humor relates to Kildare expressing mild annoyance regarding the mother-to-be drinking in her hospital bed but not objecting to her smoking in said bed in the hours before the birth of the baby.
The next episode is a truly awesome treat in this black-and-white season. It is one of 17 programs that NBC aired the first week of October 1962 as part of a "Color Week" promotion to encourage people to purchase color television sets.
This episode titled "The Burning Sky" has Kildare and a soon-to-graduate medical student played by Robert Redford, who also plays an intern in the "Kildare pilot," treating victims at a ranger facility near a forest fire. The primary conflict relates to Redford's character receiving harsh lessons regarding the realities of practicing medicine.
Having Archie Bunker portrayor Carroll O'Connor play a ranger supervisor adds to the fun of this episode.
Another episode is notable both for the guest star and the personal nature of the story. Having Carolyn Jones, who is best known for playing Morticia on the later '60s sitcom "The Addams Family," play a timid "Plain Jane" friend of Kildare's who considers plastic surgery to improve her looks and related self-esteem is a hoot.
Further, seeing Kildare relax and socialize with his quasi-hip circle is a fun change of pace. This variation also provides a nice break from the more serious medical issues that dominate a typical "Kildare" episode.
John Cassavetes of "Rosemary's Baby" and many other classic film and television productions gets the award for "Best Guest Star" for the sampling of episodes watched for this review. He plays an heir to the leadership of a small country who is hospitalized after becoming ill during a visit to the United States.
Cassavetes' character being such a hard-core communist that it is surprising that he does not show up as crimson even in his black-and-white episode presents only a portion of the problem facing Kildare; propaganda problems related to providing the necessary treatment hinder the efforts of Kildare to restore his patient to the pink of health, rather than said ill indvidual becoming a dead red.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, is of another great second-season episode that is being saved for a literally rainy day. This one casts screen legend Gloria Swanson of "Sunset Boulevard" fame as the patient of the week.
The season finale casts the uber-talented and exceptionally versatile Martin Balsam, whose credits range from classic film dramas such as "Psycho" and "12 Angry Men" to the '80s sitcom "Archie Bunker's Place," as a blue-collar baker whose need to care for his mentally challenged brother conflicts with his need to receive treatment for a serious medical condition.
Balsam's performance and Kildare taking an even more social-worker style role in the life of his patient make this offering a particularly good one on which to end a great season.
The final diagnosis for this season of "Kildare" is that it is the perfect prescription for lovers of good medical dramas who miss fare of this genre that offers compelling stories and genuine Hollywood royalty as guest stars.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Kildare" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.