Neil Patrick Harris wasn’t always known as Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother. From 1989 to 1993, Harris was known as Doogie Howser M.D., and he will never live it down.
Doogie was a child doctor (no, not a pediatrician) who was dealing with patients and puberty. What a combo.
But there are some things about Doogie Howser you probably didn’t read about on his blog.
1. The Network Hated Harris and the Show
ABC was not pleased with Neil Patrick Harris as the lead, and they also didn’t care for the show in general. But producer Steven Bochco didn’t really have a choice other than to keep going. He shot the pilot, as his contract had a clause that would force him to pay a large sum of money if executives nixed the project. Test audiences took to it better than the network did.
“It tests a high number, and it’s put on the air because of how it tested—not because anybody at the network believed in it,” co-creator David E. Kelley told Vulture. “And the rest is history.”
2. Toilet Time Brought Us Doogie
Bochco was reading New York magazine while on the toilet when he read an article about child prodigies.
“The idea right then and there was, well, if you can be a musical prodigy or a mathematical prodigy, under the right kind of circumstances, why couldn’t you be any other kind of prodigy?” Bochco said to Archive of American Television.
3. More Popular Than Seinfeld
During the 1991-1992 season, both Doogie Howser and Seinfeld aired at 9pm on Wednesdays. Seinfeld hadn’t yet gained its big following, and Doogie delivered a ratings beating week after week. Eventually, ABC realized Seinfeld was about to get really popular so they bumped Doogie to an earlier time slot and put Home Improvement against Seinfeld.
4. Not A Doctor, Just Play One On TV
Doogie may have been a hit with fans, but not so much with real doctors. Harvard Medical School admissions officer Helen Rakin says she would never have accepted someone of Howser’s age.
“Doogie Howser would have had to graduate from college at nine, start medical school at 10, graduate from medical school at 14, then, after one year of internship and one year of residency, obtain his license to practice at 16,” she said. “I don’t think so.”
5. Doogie Met Doc Brown
In 1990, as a special for Earth Day, ABC filmed a segment with Doogie and Back To The Future’s Doc Brown. Oh ya, Bette Middler is in it too. Doc gives a big lecture on the danger of global warming, and it’s actually pretty serious.
6. Must Love Shoes
When the show started filming, Neil Patrick Harris was 16 years old and still growing like a week. His shoe size changed five times over the course of eight months.
7. Doogie Is A Mouse
Doctors at Princeton University were able to alter a gene in mice that would influence the formation of memories. Essentially, these mice became “smarter” than your typical rodent. Dr. Joe Z. Tsien, who led the study, named the new strain “Doogie.” Unfortunately, these mice were also found to be more susceptible to pain.
8. Vinnie Was A Reverse Doogie
While Doogie was a young kid in the role of an older person, Vinnie was kid of the opposite. Max Casella, who played Doogie’s best friend Vinnie, was 21 years when season one was filmed. Casella says he would get stopped by police who thought he was joy-riding in his parents’ car.
9. Chicken, Anyone?
In order to practice doing stitches, Harris and his co-stars had to go to the local supermarket and get raw chicken. At some points in the show, what was supposed to be human skin was actually chicken skin surrounded by gauze.
10. Dr. Doogie No More.
The whole point of Doogie’s blog entries were supposed to be foreshadowing for the end of the series, where Doogie was going to leave medicine and become a writer. However, the show was cancelled abruptly late in the fourth season, so all they could do was send Doogie off to Europe.
11. Neil Patrick Harris Still Watches It
Harris was on The Late Late Show with James Corden when he revealed that he still catches some episodes of Doogie Howser when it appears on his TV via re-runs. He says it’s weird to hear his voice sound so high, though.
“I sound like I was in TheWizard of Oz,” he said.