Question: I may be completely wrong, but I thought on the last episode of Quincy they revealed his first name. Is that true and, if so, what was his first name on the show? Rob, Sheffield, Mass.
Televisionary: Nope, it's not. Matter of fact the first name of Quincy (The Odd Couple's Jack Klugman) the medical examiner who first appeared on The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie before launching the Quincy, M.E. series on its 1976-83 run remains, appropriately enough, a mystery. The only clue ever given appeared in the Feb. 3, 1978 episode "Accomplice to Murder." In it, a glimpse of Quincy's business card revealed his first initial was R.
And I firmly believe, based purely on anecdotal evidence, that if the name wasn't revealed, it's because Klugman wanted it that way. After all, many a person who worked on the show and several who found themselves off it because they butted heads with the star can tell you about his penchant for making his preferences known.
"Jack went through every good writer I know," series producer Glen A. Larson, who went up against Klugman, lost, and subsequently left the show, told TV Guide in 1983. "Tension? Sure. He even fired the guys who wrote Hill Street Blues. Later this flared into a full-scale writer war.... Uh, we parted company after a year. Jack is not very forgiving."
Not true. Klugman forgave the writers he didn't fire, after the show had been cancelled and its seven-year run pretty much proved he knew what he was talking about. "I will put a carpet at their feet," he said then. "I will kiss their ring. The writers we had on Quincy are the best in town. I love them.... That other stuff? That was a long time ago."
But in 1977, the actor's quotes were a little more acidic. "Typists I can get. Writers are harder to find," he said at the time, later stating his series was "manned by incompetents." And though the show was already a hit, Klugman burned through producers with Roseanne-like speed. When Universal, the studio behind it, complained, he pulled a sick-out until the suits shut up.
Thing was, though, he was probably right on many things and his battling ways most likely extended the show's lifespan. When the character was conceived, Larson and crew intended it for Robert Wagner, aiming to make Quincy a smooth sleuth who just happened to call the morgue his home base. It was Klugman who argued for procedural authenticity and attention to detail. Back in 1977, for example, a TV Guide reporter on the show's set witnessed a classic Klugman rant. "This script is ridiculous," he yelled. "We talk all through the show about this giant guy with super-human strength who breaks people's necks with his fingers, and then in the climax, a 54-year-old character like me gives him one crack on the head and takes him out. I'm supposed to be a doctor, right? What kind of doctor goes around hitting people, anyway?"
Not the Klugman kind, certainly. And if the star couldn't bring expertise to his show himself, he made sure there was someone around who could: 32-year-old technical adviser Marc Scott Taylor, a forensic scientist who'd compiled quite a record for himself while working at the Los Angeles County coroner's office. (In 1974, for example, he devised a method to prove that Symbionese Liberation Army leader Donald DeFreeze, kidnapper of Patty Hearst, was killed in a gun battle by a SWAT team member's shot. And he did that using only a microscopic fragment of the fatal bullet.)
When the Quincy people stopped by the morgue to witness an autopsy, Taylor volunteered his services. They began calling him to check on details and soon enough, he signed on to augment the efforts of the pathologist already working on the show, providing insider information on forensic lab equipment and how it's used. ("Marc, come work for us full time! The shows have been garbage!" Klugman said with his usual sugar-coating.)
Furthermore, in 1978, when an episode called for Quincy's assistant, Sam (Robert Ito), to be put out of commission and an expert hand was needed to work the expensive equipment on camera, Taylor landed a regular role. (His character's name was Marc some stretch, huh?) After all, the set was loaded with a fully operational scanning electron microscope, a gas chromatography/mass spectrometer and an estimated $2 million in other equipment (early '80s dollars, remember), all on loan from various manufacturers. So it's not like producers wanted some meathead off the street knocking it around.
Did Klugman's bare-knuckled approach and all that attention to detail pay off? Well, as I pointed out, the series ran for seven seasons. And I'd say a little show called CSI and its growing number of clones back him up, too.