I remember watching Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, when it aired originally, in the mid 1990s on Saturday nights on CBS. At the time I was a child, and while I enjoyed the show’s historical story lines, and the handsome eldest brother Matthew (played by Chad Allen), it is only now, as an adult in my mid 20s, watching a marathon of re-runs over the course of a weekend, that the real reasons to love this show, over a decade since it went off the air, have become clear.
– The Kitsch: The show features an ongoing struggle between soldiers and Cherokee Indians in the late 1800s, wherein Army leaders actually say things like, “there is no fraternizing with the enemy.”
– Mountain men never looked so good: I failed to appreciate just how often male lead character Sully (played by Joe Lando) found himself shirtless, but I suspect that it would be easy to craft a drinking game based on it. If it was based on how often both Sully and Matthew found themselves shirtless, players would find themselves drunk before the show as half over.
– British = Boston: Jane Seymour’s British accent was magically re-purposed by the show’s director into a high society Boston dialect for her character, Dr. Quinn.
– Prostitutes actually have a heart of gold: The show managed to maintain its family friendly vibe – and 8 p.m. time slot – by portraying the “saloon girls” as being kind hearted and slightly downtrodden. They were not, of course, so down trodden that the saloon owner, Hank, was made unlikeable. Most shocking is that despite coming dangerously close to the type of preach-y patronizing tone used by Secret Life of the American Teenager, both the women working at the saloon and Hank are reasonably believable characters.
– Soap Opera Romance: It was not nearly as … lascivious, as afternoon soap operas, but the number of partner switches, broken hearts, heated looks and proclamations of love is head spinning, even though main character Dr. Michaela Quinn remained with leading man Sully for much of the series.
– The Scenery: Though it is doubtful that the Dr. Quinn set was absolutely true to history, the sweeping Colorado scenery, classic Old West saloon and wooden sidewalk, picturesque one room schoolhouse, and plethora of horses and wagons makes it clear that this story takes place in a different time and place than we will ever know – which adds to the escapist enjoyment of the show.
The next time you are channel surfing, tune into a re-run of Dr. Quinn, and enjoy an hour in the 1860s … or at least the 1990s.