Q & A: Dr. Simon Locke/Police Surgeon

I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me about television shows, made-for-TV movies or miniseries they remember from years or decades past. I try to answer each question as best I can. Every now and then I like to dig through my inbox and pull out a few choice e-mails to answer here at Television Obscurities for everyone to read. Keep reading for today’s questions and answers.

There was a show on television in the early 1970’s, it apparently didn’t last very long. This guy was both a doctor and a cop, I don’t remember the name of the show I just remember seeing it. I was about 5 or 6 years of age at the time. Would you know anything about it, I have looked all over the internet to find info, and can’t.
Charles

I believe the show in question was a syndicated half-hour drama called Dr. Simon Locke. Produced in Canada, the series premiered in September of 1971 on stations throughout the United States. Sam Groom starred as the title character, Dr. Simon Locke (Groom had previously played a doctor on NBC’s soap Another World). Initially, Locke worked in a small rural town and Jack Albertson co-starred as his mentor, Dr. Andrew Sellers, with Len Birman as Dan Palmer, chief of police for the town. The name of the show as changed to Police Surgeon for the 1972-1973 season, which saw Dr. Locke moving to the big city where he worked for the police department. Chief Palmer came along but Dr. Sellers left the show. For the 1973-1974 season, Chief Palmer was replaced by Lt. Jack Gordon (played by Larry D. Mann).

Dr. Simon Locke was panned by critics when it debuted.

John P. Reilly of The Hour called the show a “disaster” and wrote that “it has to be seen to be believed” [1]. He also had this to say:

The program is a low-grade “Marcus Welby, MD.” You know, the wise old country doctor, and the smart young whippersnapper just out of medical school who knows everything. The writers ought to get some sort of an award for being able to assemble so many cliches in one spot during a half-hour show.

Not only is the writing bad, but the sets, the filming, the sound, the props–everything is of equally poor quality. [2]

A review in The Associated Press was kinder, explaining that two episodes were filmed each week at a cost of about $40,000 each, which made for “just another doctor drama, less satisfactory than the hour-long shows because there is little time to develop characters and with scripts that seem threadbare from overuse” 3]. Critics weren’t the only ones not happy Dr. Simon Locke; co-star Jack Albertson also had issues with the show, which is why he left after the first season.

In May of 1972, The Palm Beach Post quoted Albertson as saying the show “was a piece of junk” [4]. He was soon able to rebound, however, with a starring role on NBC’s Chico and the Man, which premiered in September of 1974. In an August 1974 article in The (Montreal) Gazette, Albertson referred to Dr. Simon Locke as “that piece of syndicated rot” [5].

Charles likely remembers watching the Police Surgeon version of the show, when Dr. Locke was involved in solving crime. But its possible he is remembering another show entirely, so if anyone can think of any other early 1970s shows in which there was a character who was both a doctor and a cop, please let me know.

Works Cited:

1 Reilly, John P. “From Simon To ‘Sand Pebbles.” The Hour [Norwalk, CT]. 14 Oct. 1971: 4.
2 Ibid.
3 “‘Dr. Locke’ Is Remedy for Actor’s Rise.” Associated Press. Reading Eagle [Reading, PA]. 15 Dec. 1971: 6.
4 Beck, Marilyn. “Divorce Disturbs Borgnine.” Palm Beach Post. 19 May 1972: B8.
5 Beck, Marilyn. “Shyness was Jack Albertson’s biggest problem.” TV section. The Gazette. [Montreal]. 3 Aug. 1974: 18.

17 Comments

  • pBOB says:

    I hope Jack Albertson was able to level the same critique at the last season of Chico and the Man.

  • Mike S. says:

    According to historians Tim Brooks and Earl Marsh (see “The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows,”) “DR. SIMON LOCKE” was actually born from the 1971 Prime Time Access Rule, which required network-affiliated TV stations to air original programs between 7:30 and 8:00 PM. The show was actually funded by Colgate-Palmolive (which was sponsor of the NBC daytime serial “THE DOCTORS” at the time). Colgate paid for the production costs and essentially gave the show away to stations, but keeping two minutes of commercial time to plug C-P products.
    The arrangement meant that production costs had to be as low as possible. That’s why production was done in Toronto.
    Incidently, according to Brooks & Marsh, the show’s title WAS changed to “POLICE SURGEON” in the final season; by this time, Locke as a doctor for the police emergency unit. Colgate-Palmolive ended its funding of the show after 78 episodes. It lived because of economics, and died for the same reason.

  • ejp says:

    And soon, most stations realized it was much cheaper to air syndicated nighttime versions of daytime game show in the Prime Access spot, since I can’t remember any other original syndicated programs comedy or drama in the 70s of note. But the 70s was the heyday for nighttime game shows especially starting about 1974 when Police Surgeon went off.

  • Chuck Collins says:

    Ten years earlier, another version of “POLICE SURGEON” was semi-popular in England. However, it was cancelled. Within a month, the producers added a character and remade the series from a crime drama to a crime thriller and retitled it “THE AVENGERS”!

    Somehow I don’t see Frank Albertson wearing a bowler and carrying an umbrella working out quite the same way.

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    General Motors’ Chevrolet division had a similar deal with a number of first-run weekly “prime-time” syndicated series between 1971 and 1974; they put up most of the production funding, while retaining two out of the six minutes of ad time in each series for their (and sometimes, other GM) commercials- local stations “kept” the rest, and made money from their local advertisers for those minutes, while getting those shows FREE [known as "barter" in the industry]. Eventually, Chevy sustained four nights of “syndie” series every week, which most stations aired in a “checkerboard” pattern {a different show in the same time period each weeknight- say, 7:30pm}. The series were “JOHNNY MANN’S STAND UP AND CHEER”, “THE WACKY WORLD OF JONATHAN WINTERS”, “THE GOLDDIGGERS”, and Hanna-Barbera’s “WAIT ‘TIL YOUR FATHER GETS HOME”. In New York, three of those aired on WCBS-TV (Channel 2), while “WAIT” aired on WNBC-TV (Channel 4). By 1974, like Colgate-Palmolive, General Motors decided to end their arrangment with those shows, and they disappeared.

  • DuMont says:

    One of the popular timeslots for ‘Dr. Simon Locke / Police Surgeon’ was Sundays at 10:30 pm, where over the course of its 1971-74 run, all three networks gave over the half-hour to local affiliates. I remember seeing syndicated ratings roll-ups where ‘Dr. Simon Locke / Police Surgeon’ was quite highly rated, benefiting in a big way from the Sunday network lead-ins. The death knell for the series may have been the decision by the FCC to give back the Sunday 7-8 pm hour to the networks for family-oriented programming, which commenced in the fall of 1974. The nets went to four hour Sundays, and I don’t think ‘Dr. Simon Locke / Police Surgeon’ ever had decent clearances in the Monday-Friday 7-8 pm Prime Access hour which was dominated by gameshows and off-network sitcom strips.

    Another step-child of the 1971 Prime Time Access Rule that I would like to see again on DVD would be the syndicated series ‘Ozzie’s Girls’, a spin-off/continuation of the long-running ‘The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet’ that lasted one season of 24 episodes. Has anyone heard whether whoever owns the Filmways library has plans to release this series, perhaps once they’ve completed releasing all the seasons of ‘The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet’.

    • Jim says:

      “Police Surgeon” was on our local NBC affiliate on Sundays at 10:30. Sam Groom and Larry D. Mann were both good in it, but it was an incredibly cheaply produced series, and it showed. Putting it on after three and a half hours of expensively-produced network shows didn’t make it look any better.

    • mike says:

      news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1734&dat=19740405&id

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    And by the way, ‘ejp’, there were several half-hour “first-run” syndicated series in the early ’70s that WEREN’T game shows that flourished for a time: “THE PROTECTORS”, filmed in England and starring Robert Vaughn (sustained nationally by Faberge’s “Brut”), “THE DAVID FROST REVUE” [that aired in New York on WCBS-TV on late Sunday evenings at 10:30, eventually replaced by "THE PROTECTORS"]; Allen Funt’s revival of “CANDID CAMERA” (with John Bartholomew Tucker as his co-host in the earlier seasons); “OZZIE’S GIRLS”, a short-lived revival of “THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE & HARRIET”, with Mr. and Mrs. Nelson and two “new daughters”; “ORSON WELLES’ GREAT MYSTERIES” {also short-lived, from England}; “HALF THE GEORGE KIRBY COMEDY HOUR”, a one-season variety show starring comedian George Kirby; and “THE EVIL TOUCH”, an Australian horror/suspense anthology hosted by Anthony Quayle (also one season).

    • Jim says:

      I never saw “The Protectors” but I remember Johnny Carson making fun of it. He said it looked like they had turned Robert Vaughn’s home movies into a TV show. A couple of other syndicated shows I remember from that period were one that featured the Amazing Kreskin and one called “Towards the Year 2000″ which was a kind of quasi-documentary about futuristic stuff. The latter aired in our town on Tuesdays at 10:30, which was a local-access time during the first year that the FCC scaled back network prime time.

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    Actually, ‘DuMont’, the networks began programming Sundays from 7-8pm(et) again in the fall of 1975. They ALMOST did in 1974, but the FCC ruled they couldn’t at virtually the last minute [see 'RGJ's article on this]. 1974, however, was the year that most local stations decided to schedule more game shows (and the revival of “CANDID CAMERA”) than continue with other types of series [drama, variety, et. al.]. Of course, some half-hour syndicated variety shows DID flourish by mid-decade: “THE BOBBY VINTON SHOW”, “THE MUPPET SHOW”, and later, “SHA NA NA”.

  • Jacob Gilbert says:

    I remember Dr. Simon Locke/Police Surgeon pretty well. IIRC, it aired on Mondays, and I believe Sam Groom was still working on Another World at the same time. I didn’t watch too many episodes, but I wonder why it hasn’t been picked up by any cable network to fill time instead of all the tiresome marathon blocks we’re stuck with these days.

  • ejp says:

    To Barry. I was thinking more of how by the *mid-70s* was when the game shows took over because in 1971 the game show medium was only just coming out of a comatose state. Weekly nighttime versions of “Hollywood Square” and “The Price Is Right” debuted in 1971 and 1972 but only in 1974 did things really take off with the Bill Cullen hosted “$25,000 Pyramid” and “Name That Tune” with Tom Kennedy. “Match Game” the #1 daytime game show entered the prime access ranks with “Match Game PM”. So, 74-75 which is my earliest frame of reference would have been at the time these entertainment shows were mostly fading from the scene. (I remember “Candid Camera” on WCBS on Saturday nights, but only with JoAnn Pflug as the co-host).

  • John Murphy says:

    “(I remember “Candid Camera” on WCBS on Saturday nights, but only with JoAnn Pflug as the co-host).”

    Besides Tucker and Pflug, Dorothy Collins, Betsy Palmer, Fannie Flagg and Phyllis George were also co-hosts throughout the years.

  • W.B. says:

    WNBC-TV in New York aired “Dr. Simon Locke” / “Police Surgeon” for the entire three years it was in first-run syndication. After production ceased, the episodes went over to WNEW-TV for a short while.

    As for “The New Candid Camera” . . . Betsy Palmer was the second former panelist from the 1952-67 CBS network run of “I’ve Got a Secret” to have been a co-host with Allen Funt; Bess Myerson was his co-host on the final (1966-67) network season of “Candid Camera.”

  • mike says:

    …WNBC TV channel 4 in New York every Tuesday night at 7:30 PM from 1972-1974. it even made the papers when the station aired the same episode 2 weeks in a row.

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