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  • There were two fine drama series on during the 1970-71 season. One was "The Senator" with Hal Holbrook. The other was this show.

    Roy Thinnes was excellent as psychiatrist Dr. James Whitman. The 32-year old Thinnes had already given two fine series performances: as Ben Quick in "The Long, Hot Summer" and as David Vincent in "The Invaders".

    Executive producer Norman Felton ("Dr. Kildare", "The Man From UNCLE") was doing an update of his previous superb psychiatry series "The Eleventh Hour" (1962-64). Roy Thinnes had given strong support on an "Eleventh Hour" episode about family therapy, in which Angela Lansbury and Martin Balsam played his parents, Tuesday Weld was his sister and Don Grady was his younger brother.

    Twenty-eight year old Jerrold Freedman was the ambitious producer of "The Psychiatrist". Freedman asked his young friend Steven Spielberg to direct two episodes. Spielberg wasn't too happy at the time as a Universal contract director, but Freedman offered him almost total freedom to do what he wanted. Spielberg obliged with two superb, adult television dramas.

    One Spielberg episode was about a troubled 12-year old boy whose parents may be on the verge of divorce. Jim Hutton and Kate Woodville played the remote parents. The boy tries to escape into a dream world.

    Spielberg's other episode was about a young golfer who is dying of cancer (Clu Gulager in a virtuoso performance). Joan Darling played Gulager's wife. The episode was titled "Par for the Course."

    Spielberg's direction of both episodes was extraordinary. This was the point where I learned who Spielberg was and became a big fan. At 24, Spielberg was amazingly the most interesting director working in TV. When I heard Spielberg was the director of "Duel", I could hardly wait for it to air.

    Joe Alves, Jr. was the art director of "The Psychiatrist". Alves went on to be art director of "The Sugarland Express" and production designer of "Jaws" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".

    Producer Jerrold Freedman was also a boy wonder. He had brilliantly directed an episode of "The Senator" called "Power Play", and he had written another episode of "The Senator" for which John Badham received a directing Emmy nomination. Freedman also wrote and directed the first episode of "The Psychiatrist" (with guest star Pete Duel) and received an Emmy nomination for the writing. There was a lot of ambitious young talent on the Universal lot at this point.

    Jerrold Freedman now writes novels under the name J. F. Freedman.

    The creators of "The Psychiatrist" were Richard Levinson and William Link ("Columbo", "Ellery Queen", "That Certain Summer").

    Other talented episode directors were actor Jeff Corey (who taught acting to James Dean and Jack Nicholson, among others), Douglas Day Stewart (who wrote "An Officer and a Gentleman") and Emmy winner Daryl Duke ("The Senator", "Payday", "The Silent Partner", "The Thorn Birds").

    "The Psychiatrist" was one of four shows making up "Four-in-One". The other shows were "McCloud" with Dennis Weaver, "San Francisco International Airport" with Lloyd Bridges and Rod Serling's "Night Gallery". Six hour-long episodes were produced of each series. The shows played in order: first six episodes of "McCloud", then six episodes of "San Francisco International Airport", then six episodes of "Night Gallery" and finally six episodes of "The Psychiatrist". In reruns, the shows alternated from week to week.
  • artzau27 January 2009
    As one who's familiar with psychiatry and the psychiatric interview, I remember seeing this short-live by excellent series with Roy Thinnes back in the days when TV was actually presenting some good theater, instead of parading a queue of wannabe pop artists or "reality" based jamokes in outlandish situations. Thinnes was excellent as the psychiatrist and the writing and directing was likewise superb. The plot lines of the stories had substance and dealt with real issues, like death, hopelessness and the feeling of irrelevant. Interestingly enough too, the interventions were completely consistent with what a psychiatrist would do and devoid of overly dramatic whiz-bang cures. I could moan all day about the departure of thoughtful drama from TV but I'll just suggest that you keep your eye peeled and if this little series ever pops up on your screen, watch it. You'll be glad you did.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The opening scene of "The Psychiatrist" shows two teenagers in the town of San Sebastian, Teddy Keller (John Rubenstein) and his girlfriend, Kendall Scofield (Joy Bang) racing toward a teen hangout, the local sawmill. Once inside, Keller pulls out a hypodermic needle and shoots up, then injects his girlfriend in her leg.

    A friend, Fritz Greenfield (Barry Brown) joins them and tells them about "Apple", another friend, with whom Fritz has been doing drugs on the beach. Just then, an ambulance pulls up and the blankly-staring "Apple" is loaded inside.

    At the hospital the doctor tells "Apple's" mother that his catatonia is due to a bad amphetamine reaction.

    In Los Angeles, Casey Poe (Peter Duel) is wandering the tenderloin district. Seeing a drug dealer, Casey scores a "red" (secobarbital) capsule for a "dime" ($10).

    Paranoid, Casey scrambles wildly through the streets, into a ghetto church. Dashing into a restroom, he cooks the drug and starts to shoot up until interrupted by a small boy, who flees.

    Poe smashes the needle, lurches out into a phone booth and fumblingly tries to dial a number. The little boy's mother(knowing Casey's a junkie) makes the call for him.

    A group therapy session of psychiatrist Dr. James Whitman (Roy Thinnes) is interrupted by Casey's frantic call, begging Whitman to pick him up. Whitman retrieves Casey, takes him home and castigates him about his unresponsiveness to therapy.

    The doctor tells Poe that if he does not continue with him (as a condition of Poe's parole), Casey's next sojourn will be in a state hospital. Frightened, Casey capitulates.

    Whitman meets a colleague, Dr. Bernard Altman ((Luther Adler) who is enraged over the San Sebastian parents refusing to believe that drug abuse is rampant in their community. Altman asks Whitman to accompany him there for a town meeting.

    At the meeting, the sheriff (Norman Alden) expresses helplessness about curbing the drug problem; the townsfolk (fearing higher taxes) vote down funds for a drug task force.

    In a local café, Drs. Whitman and Altman observe the drug-fueled antics of Teddy and Fritz, who smear Kendall's face and hamburger with condiments. The teenagers leave unsteadily before they are thrown out, and Dr. Altman growls about the local parents' denial of the problem.

    In Los Angeles at a therapy session, a prostitute rants over the junkie boyfriend who had her street walking for his drug money. Poe attacks her as a hypocrite, and the two have to be separated before they kill each other.

    Back in San Sebastian, Kendall visits the still-unresponsive "Apple" and plays him a haunting tune on her flute.

    Later that night, an exuberant Fritz (on LSD) leaps from the sawmill to his death.

    The tragic news spurs Dr. Whitman to return to San Sebastian. Making Casey Poe his "technical assistant", they arrive in San Sebastian that evening.

    Casey Poe has staked out Teddy and Kendall, and follows them to their sanctuary. He finds a needle in Keller's shirt pocket and seizes it.

    Next day, while attending Fritz's funeral, Whitman and Poe hear Keller deliver an impassioned eulogy for his dead friend, Fritz. Fritz's mother angrily interrupts Keller's peroration and denounces him and the others for having murdered her son with drugs.

    After the funeral, Poe accosts Kendall and takes her to the beach to enlist her help. He shows her the scars on his arms (a legacy of 8 years' drug addiction), and Kendall agrees to set up a meeting for Casey and her friends.

    Poe meets at the sawmill with the teenagers and their leader, Teddy Keller - a mouthy, self-important teenager who torpedoes the discussion by spouting 60's psychobabble about "power trips" to justify his own drug abuse. Keller ends his diatribe by challenging Casey to deliver him a "perfect world", which will change his mind. Casey, disgusted at the boy's callowness, storms out.

    Disconsolately, Casey Poe meets Kendall on the beach and collapses. Kendall attempts to seduce Casey, who, repelled by the under-aged girl's promiscuity, chases her onto the highway. A patrol car happens on the scene, and Poe is seized and arrested.

    Dr. Whitman (out of town on an emergency) returns and bails Poe out of jail. Then, the police chief receives a call that Kendall is missing, and Poe urges Whitman to go to the sawmill.

    Kendall (strung out on LSD) wanders around, hallucinating the dead Fritz, laid out among an elaborate arrangement of candelabra.

    As Whitman and Poe pull up, Kendall is dancing precariously upon an outside conveyor belt, high above the ground. Poe rushes upstairs and pursues the terrified Kendall, grabbing her just in time to keep her from falling.

    The final scene shows Casey Poe back in Los Angeles, in Whitman's therapy group. Poe now admits that he is an ex-addict, and had turned his own dead wife into a streetwalker to pay for his drug habit. The movie ends, just as the story begins...

    This movie is a cautionary tale about twin evils: the evil of drug abuse, and the evil of deliberate denial of this serious problem.

    Ironically, this movie featured two promising young actors, one at the end of his career (Peter Duel) and one at the beginning (Barry Brown).

    Both were alcoholic, and both committed suicide by shooting themselves (Duel in 1971, Brown in 1978.) Hollywood lost two great talents.

    While dated, the timeless moral lesson of "The Psychiatrist" makes it a "must-see" picture.