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Welcome Back, Doogie
A new series clarifies Disney Plus as a streaming service for audiences of different ages.
Now Streaming: Halfway through the first season of a modern remake of a 90s television series, it's finally become apparent to me that the show represents the streaming service's intent to remodel the Disney Plus brand, now targeting adults who may or may not have families of their own.
This may have been happening to some extent on the Disney basic cable channels before the streaming service debuted in November 2019. (To be honest, I never watched the Disney channels when I had cable, and now that I've cut the cable cord once again, I can't imagine seeking out any of those old shows, since Disney Plus probably includes them anyway.)
Since I don't have any children, my primary interest in subscribing to Disney Plus centered around The Mandalorian, which premiered upon the launch of the service. Having all the Star Wars films, along with all the Marvel, Pixar, and classic Disney animated films on the service as well, easily justified the monthly expense for me.
Disney roared to life in the streaming wars, even beyond its own expectations, quickly establishing its audience base here in the U.S., reflecting a hunger among audiences for family-friendly viewing. Disney Plus is a service that families can safely leave in the hands of their children. But what about adults who are not attracted to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its distinctive mixture of eye candy, comic book heroes, and bloated action sequences, nor to Pixar's animated universe, which has become increasingly uneven in its reach and ambitions?
The service features five 'tiles' at its front door that lead directly to their major labels in the U.S.: Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic. The premise is that children can happily watch Disney and Pixar, while teenagers and young adults are meant to gravitate toward Marvel and Star Wars, and older adults can enjoy National Geographic. Six months to sixty-five and infinity!
Of course, within the overall framework of a service that focuses relentlessly upon family-friendly viewing -- films rated G, PG, or PG-13, televisions shows self-assigned six out of seven rating guidelines (everything except TV-MA) -- children and young adults may want to watch titles across different tiles. What is there for adults to watch, besides the bountiful bundles of Marvel movies and Star Wars titles?
In August, I wrote about Turner and Hooch, a series that is based upon the original movie, released in July 1989, about a man and his slobbering dog. Thanks in part to my own low expectations, I have enjoyed watching the series, which has released its episodes weekly and manifests an easy charm, due largely to an appealing cast and often snappy dialogue.
Recently, Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. debuted on the service, a series that is inspired by Doogie Howser, M.D., which debuted in September 1989, about a teenage doctor practicing medicine and dealing with common adolescent trials and emotional tribulations. After watching the first four episodes, I realized how the two series are linked in their joint efforts to appeal to new audiences.
Established by Disney in February 1984, Touchstone Films intended to produce films beyond the family audience that Disney had always pursued, though they were still aiming for a PG rating.. They were looking to expand their reach into broader audiences, beyond expectations for anything labeled "Disney." Splash (1984) was their first big success, followed by their first R-rated offering, Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986). Renamed Touchstone Pictures, the company released the PG-rated Turner and Hooch in July 1989.
In December 2020, Disney announced that Disney Television Studios was currently in production on four live-action series for the streaming service, including Turner and Hooch. Earlier, in April 2020, news broke that a female-led Doogie Howser, M.D. reboot was in development by writer/producer Kourtney Kang (How I Met Your Mother, Fresh Off the Boat), in connection with 20th Century Fox TV.
Drawing inspiration from her own life -- Kang was born in Hawaii and raised in a mixed-race family -- the new series uses the original premise as a stepping-stone to explore common adolescent issues from a fresh perspective. Sure, the new Doogie (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) is a brilliant doctor, respected with awe by her colleagues, but she still has trouble getting and keeping a boyfriend and has to ask her parents for permission to borrow the family car, besides all the sibling conflicts with her two brothers, one older and one younger.
The series is well-written and balances all the troubles that New Doogie -- more commonly called Lahela by her family, friends and colleagues -- experiences with warmth and humor, while also touching on the challenges facing her mother (Kathleen Rose Perkins), a fellow physician, and her father (Jason Scott Lee), a food-truck owner. It's a perfectly fine series that I enjoy watching each week.
Since I didn't watch the original series, I don't know how far the new series compares in its content or themes, but it's the kind of show that could fit in well on one of the broadcast networks. The same is true for Turner and Hooch, which seems to be conscious that it has been made (and developed by Matt Nix) to stream on a family-friendly service.
Any true dangers or adult-skewing sensibilities that were present in the original film have been dumped. One example: in the film, Turner (Tom Hanks) begins a relationship with a veterinarian (Mare Winningham) and they sleep together fairly quickly. That's not depicted, though we see them together in the morning together and the implication is clear.
In the series, Turner (Josh Peck) begins a working relationship with a dog trainer (Vanessa Lengies) who quickly crushes on Turner. In turn, he yearns for his past girlfriend (Becca Tobin) and when their relationship is rekindled, their sleeping arrangements are never depicted, discussed, or even subtly hinted at. Dramatically, the show doesn't need to show any of that, but I thought it was noticeable, in the same way that we don't need to see Daryl Hannah's naked backside in Splash, but changes when that movie and others launched on the streaming service raised legitimate concerns about artistic censorship.
Both Turner and Hooch and Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. are branded as Disney titles under the Disney tile at Disney Plus, yet both might be avoided and/or ignored by older viewers due their branding. In my view, however, both are worthy titles that have earned their place on my watchlist. [Disney Plus]