The Psychiatrist

NBC (ended 1971)


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  • Two beautifully directed episodes by Steven Spielberg make this show impossible to forget.

    Executive Producer Norman Felton ("Dr. Kildare", "Man from Uncle") had previously made a show about a psychiatrist and a psychologist called "The Eleventh Hour" (1962-64). Roy Thinnes had co-starred in one episode along with Angela Lansbury, Martin Balsam, and Tuesday Weld. Felton tried to update his old show with this series starring Thinnes as mod, young psychiatrist James Whitman and Luther Adler as his mentor/superior.
    (Luther Adler was a descendant of the great psychiatrist Alfred Adler.)

    Jerrold Freedman was a promising writer/director at Universal who served as line producer of "The Psychiatrist". Steven Spielberg was under contract to Universal at the time and had directed the Joan Crawford section of the "Night Gallery" pilot and a Gene Barry segment of "Name of the Game" called "LA 2017". Neither of Spielberg's first two TV directing experiences had been particularly happy (although the results were far from bad). Producer William Sackheim had to take away the "Night Gallery" from Spielberg because he went way over budget. Freedman asked Speilberg to work on "The Psychiatrist" and to do whatever he wanted with minimum interference. Spielberg rewarded Freedman's faith with two brilliant episodes.

    The first was "The Private War of Martin Dalton" starring Stephen Hudis as rebellious youngster Martin Dalton with Jim Hutton and Kate Woodville as his concerned but somewhat remote parents. Spielberg was already in his element dealing with lonely, angry children.

    The second episode featured superb performances by Clu Gulagher as a golf pro who is dying of cancer and Joan Darling as his wife. Spielberg should have won the Emmy for his sensitive work on this episode (although he wasn't even nominated.) It was clear from this episode that Spielberg had a brilliant future-although not necessarily as an action director.

    "The Psychiatrist" was one of two great limited series in 1970-71. The other was "The Senator" with Hal Holbrook. With the "failure" of "The Senator" and "The Psychiatrist", television completely gave up on serious series drama for the rest of the decade. It took Steven Bochco to bring back ambitous drama with "Hill Street Blues" in the 80's.