‘Doogie Howser, M.D.’: When Did Doogie Lose His Virginity?
Neil Patrick Harris will forever be remembered as the child prodigy doctor he portrayed on the ’90s sitcom Doogie Howser, M.D. The story of a doctor who was licensed at 16 years old, navigating the world as a physician and a teenager that wants to do normal teenage things, like date and hang out with friends. The coming-of-age comedy medical genre handled a number of difficult and rarely discussed topics, and Doogie losing his virginity had an impact on more than just the character.
‘Doogie Howser, M.D.’
The highly-rated sitcom aired on ABC from 1989 to 1993. The premise revolved around a young surgeon, who graduated from Princeton at the age of 10 and became a doctor at the ripe age of 16. Howser faces the challenges of being a teenager, combined with the struggles of practicing medicine.
Created by David E. Kelley and Steven Bochco, the cast included the young doctor’s best friend, Vinnie Delpino (Max Casella). His parents, David and Katherine, were played by James Sikking and Belinda Montgomery. The role of his long-time love interest, Wanda Plenn, was portrayed by Lisa Dean Ryan.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Disney+ is developing a reboot of Doogie Howser, M.D. This time around, the original series will feature a 16-year-old Asian girl as the central character. Expected to be titled Doogie Kamealoha, M.D., the series will focus on the young teenager working as a doctor in Hawaii.
Paving the way for teenage sexuality on television
At the height of the ABC sitcom’s success, television was a bit more conservative than today when dealing with topics such as teenage sex. In September 1991, fans and television critics went wild when the 18-year-old doctor lost his virginity, according to The New York Times.
Up until that point, most sexual relations occurred between older consenting adults. It was practically unheard of for a teenager to have had sex where it was talked about. Sitcoms such as Roseanne and Beverly Hills 90210 teased at the idea, but it wasn’t until Doogie lost his virginity that television history changed forever.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, an executive producer on the show said, “Having sex seemed the most honest thing for him to do. He’s 18. He’s been in love with the same girl for two years. He’s much more sophisticated and emotionally developed than the average 18-year-old. He is a doctor, after all.”
The critically acclaimed episode “The Summer of ’91” paved the way for popular shows of the early ’90s, such as Dawson’s Creek and Boy Meets World, to explore the topic more frequently and in greater detail.
‘Doogie Does It!’
After the controversial episode aired, headlines the next morning read, “Doogie Does It.” In Season 3, Episode 53, the young doctor’s girlfriend of two years prepares to leave for college. Howser feels it is the time for them to have sex before she goes. Producers are quick to make sure a condom is presented and no actual nudity is exhibited.
At the time, Harris commented that the sexual encounter was meant to have “a lot of meaning.” According to Deseret, he said, “I think that’s the key. I mean, if you’re going to send a message, not just when you turn 18 you have to have sex, but that it’s a situation that you’ve thought about, that has a lot of care and love involved …”
Some critics were outraged at the promiscuity being portrayed by two teenagers. Others felt it was an acceptable way to present a healthy relationship between two consenting partners, and a way for families to better approach the topic of sex and sexual safety with their teenagers. Regardless of the outcry for right or wrong, the show was the first of many to conquer the often taboo topic of teenage sex.