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Doogie Howser, M.D. was an unexpected success when it first began airing in 1989. Four years later, however, the show was abruptly canceled, and fans never got to find out what happened to the title character as he moved into adulthood. As it turns out, the show’s creator always had a vision for the end of the series, but there was no time to allow the planned ending to play out.

What was Doogie Howser, M.D. about?

Neil Patrick Harris might be known to many as Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother. Years before that, Harris was a child actor on Doogie Howser, M.D., a show that told the story of a child prodigy turned teenaged doctor. On the show, Harris portrayed Doogie, a doctor at Eastman Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Neil Patrick Harris as Douglas "Doogie" Howser, a second-year resident at Eastman Medical Center
Neil Patrick Harris as Douglas “Doogie” Howser in Doogie Howser, M.D.| Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

The coming-of-age series followed Doogie as he figured out how to juggle life as both a normal teen and a professional doctor. To make sense of his complicated and busy life, Doogie spent every evening jotting down his thoughts in a diary entry on his computer. Those diary entries weren’t just for fun, they were supposed to lead to something, but an abrupt cancellation never allowed the plan to come to fruition.

Doogie’s journal entries would have been foreshadowing if the show hadn’t been abruptly canceled?

Doogie’s journal entries were a way for him to process his life and everything that was happening. Sometimes he wrote about work, sometimes he wrote about life, and sometimes he mused about normal teenage complications. Those journal entries were supposed to serve as Doogie’s introduction to an all-new career plan.

According to Mental Floss, series creator Steven Bochco initially intended to have Doogie become disillusioned with medicine. The plan was to have the medical prodigy turn everything completely upside down and pursue a writing career. He was supposed to choose writing because of how much he enjoyed writing his journal entries. There just wasn’t’ time to tie up that storyline, though.

Why was Doogie Howser, M.D. canceled?

Doogie Howser, M.D. was an unlikely success during its first three seasons. The show even outperformed Seinfeld. Once executives at ABC saw Seinfeld becoming a success, they moved the show to a different timeslot. The goal was to retain its audience. The exact opposite happened. The fourth season earned exceptionally low ratings.

The cast of 'Doogie Howser, M.D.'
The cast of ‘Doogie Howser, M.D.’ | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

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ABC, which was never a massive fan of the show’s concept, decided to ax the program after its poor season 4 performance. The sudden cancelation meant the team behind the show didn’t have the chance to wrap up the series the way they intended. Instead of sending Doogie off into a completely different career path, the show ended with Doogie heading off to Europe with an unclear future. What became of the child prodigy was never explained. Now a reboot of the series involving a female lead is planned for Disney+. It doesn’t seem like the reboot will revisit the original Doogie’s storyline.