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CBS Doctor Series Backs Down From Alternative Medicine Slant

Times Staff Writer

Richard Chamberlain’s new series for CBS has been given both a new title and a new look, according to Chamberlain and his co-executive producers, Nigel and Carol McKeand.

The new fall medical series, which had been announced in the spring under the working title “The Hawaiian,” is now called “Island Son,” and is one of several fall series--including NBC’s “Nutt House” and ABC’s “Living Dolls"--which are being re-tooled or undergoing some casting changes before making their debut in September.

In this case, at the request of the network, “Island Son,” about a heroic doctor (Chamberlain) practicing in Hawaii, will tone down its original bent toward the ancient Hawaiian traditions of holistic medicine in favor of more conservative medical techniques.

Chamberlain and the show’s two other executive producers, Nigel and Carol McKeand, told journalists gathered at the Century Plaza for the TV industry’s annual summer press tour that “Island Son” would stress less of the “mystical side of healing” than it did in the first scenes produced and shown to the network.

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“We’re taking it easy on that stuff for the general public,” Chamberlain said.

Chamberlain and the McKeands were responding to questions prompted by reports that CBS was dissatisfied with the original concept of the show, which was sold to the network with only a description of the concept and without a pilot. Nigel McKeand said that he and the network had come to an agreement months ago that the American public might be less receptive to ancient Hawaiian medical practices than to the antiseptic hospital techniques Chamberlain used 20 years ago when he portrayed Dr. Kildare. “I agreed with them, I agreed that we should cool it in that area,” he said.

McKeand also said that the producers were still looking for an actress to portray Dr. Caitlin McKenna. They said they would make their decision this week; shooting on the series starts filming today in Hawaii.

Chamberlain said that one of the original scenes the network found questionable was one in which a Hawaiian healer transferred some of the pain of childbirth from a woman in labor to her husband when the pain became too severe for her to take. Chamberlain called the practice “not uncommon” among such healers.

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“It was a good scene,” Chamberlain said. “But I think we lost our way a little bit there. I don’t think you can expect an audience to accept that as easily as we did.”


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