Diagnosis: Unknown (1960– )

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Episode Guide

Head pathologist Coffee works at a big-city hospital helping police solve peculiar murders with the assistance of able colleagues Hudson and Mookerji and lab boy/handyman Link.


7/10
5

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Creators:

James A. Bank, Alan Woods

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30 May 2010 | Cheyenne-Bodie
Patrick O'Neal was a detective/doctor way before "Quincy" and "Diagnosis: Murder".
Charming Patrick O'Neal played Dr. Daniel Coffee, the head of pathology at a New York City hospital. O'Neal was 32 years old.

Chester Morris (the great Boston Blackie) played detective Captain Max Ritter, a colleague and close friend of Dr. Coffee.

Sexy and funny Phyllis Newman was lab technician Doris Hudson, who works for Dr. Coffee and seems to have an unrequited crush on him. I remember she scolded Dr. Coffee for messiness when she visited his plush bachelor apartment. I think Doris thought Dr. Coffee needed a wife. Phyllis Newman was also a delightful regular panelist at this time on "To Tell the Truth".

Cal Belini played Dr. Motilal Mookerji, a brilliant young assistant of Coffee from India.

Dr. Daniel Webster Coffee was perhaps television's first medical detective.

These characters all appeared in a novella and series of short stories by Lawrence G. Blochman. Blochman was a graduate of the University of California at Berkely who had a journalism background. He had a certificate in Forensic Pathology. Blochman continued to write Dr. Coffee stories after the series ended. Blochman was an early president of the Mystery Writers of America. He lived from 1900-1975.

One of Blochman's short stories, "Diagnosis: Homicide", had been made into a "Lux Video Theatre" production in 1957. Character actor Frank Albertson played Dr. Coffee, Shirley Mitchell was Doris Hudson, and Arthur Hanson was Max Ritter.

"Diagnosis: Unknown" was a summer replacement series for "The Garry Moore Show" in 1960. It was on Tuesday nights at 10:00 pm eastern time. Nine episodes were made. The producer was Bob Banner ("Warning Shot"), who was also producer of "The Garry Moore Show".

"Diagnois: Unknown" was done on tape rather than film and was made in New York. Guest stars included Zachary Scott, Gretchen Wyler, Beatrice Straight, Michael Tolan, Jeanne Bal, Telly Savalas, Barbara Baxley, Tom Bosley, and Larry Hagman.

Cynthia O'Neal, who was the wife of Patrick O'Neal, was in an episode. Cynthia O'Neal is credited in four Mike Nichols films. I remember seeing Patrick and Cynthia on the game show "He Said, She Said" in 1970. Cynthia was married to Patrick from 1956 until his death in 1994.

"Diagnosis: Unknown" used first rate writers including Ernest Kinoy, Theodore Apstein, and Bill S. Ballinger. Blacklisted writer Arnold Manoff wrote an episode under the pseudonym Joel Carpenter. Three episodes are credited to "Elliot Norman", a writer who has no other listed credits. Perhaps Norman was another blacklisted writer using a pseudonym, or maybe it was Manoff again using another false name. Manoff was married to Lee Grant.

The great Fielder Cook ("Patterns") directed the first episode. The show had a nice light touch. I remember a grinning Dr. Coffee couldn't help checking out seductive Patricia Barry's cleavage even though her evil husband Alexander Scourby was in the same room.

I would be willing to bet Glen Larson was familiar with the Lawrence Blochman characters and perhaps "Diagnosis: Unknown" when he created "Quincy, M.E.".

Patrick O'Neal had a big success on Broadway a year after "Diagnosis: Unknown". He played the defrocked priest in Tennessee Williams "The Night of the Iguana", opposite Bette Davis and Margaret Leighton.

Patrick O'Neal could have been a great series lead with the right role. He might have been a TV Cary Grant. He had great style and humor. Maybe O'Neal could have played "Mr. Lucky". Or he might have been a good Napoleon Solo or Colonel Hogan.

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