I was an avid watcher of “Doogie Howser, M.D.” back in the day. So, I really didn’t see the need for a reboot. But then, as I was watching “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.,” I heard that familiar Mike Post theme, and I got all sentimental. And once I discovered that the show is solid, entertaining family fare, I realized that maybe we do need a new Doogie in our lives after all.
Peyton Elizabeth Lee is Dr. Lahela Kamealoha, a 16-year-old prodigy balancing her medical career with being a teenager. Her colleagues call her Doogie, because she reminds them of the doctor they watched on the “Doogie Howser, M.D.” TV show. Her fiercely protective mother, Dr. Clara Hannon (Kathleen Rose Perkins), is also her supervisor at the hospital. One minute, they’re arguing about how to treat one of Doogie’s patients, the next they’re arguing about her dance moves on social media. Her doting dad, Benny (Jason Scott Lee), often ends up running interference between the two. Just like in the original, Doogie’s best friend (Emma Meisel) helps her navigate her teenage issues, including her crush (Alex Aiono). And at the end of each episode, she shares the lessons she’s learned, not on a computer diary, but through a TikTok video.
In the premiere, Doogie clashes with a colleague regarding the care of a longtime patient (an outstanding Barry Bostwick) and clashes with her mother over her curfew on the night of the big dance. Meanwhile, she must also deal with her best friend’s crush on her older brother (Matthew Sato) and getting her driver’s license.
In order for this show to work, you have to have an engaging lead who works as both a doctor and as a teenager. Peyton Elizabeth Lee fills the bill on all counts. She plays with equal skill both Doogie’s compassion for her patients and her giddiness for her crush. I’m a big fan of Perkins from her days on “Episodes,” and she’s solid again here. Clara could easily be an unlikeable character, but Perkins gives her such heart that you feel for her dilemma of balancing her roles in Doogie’s life. The rest of the cast is solid as well, led by Jason Scott Lee, who adds an important dash of fun to all the drama.
Just like with the original, you have to have a slight suspension of disbelief for some of the show’s moments. But if you’re willing to make that leap, you’ll be rewarded with an enjoyable hour that you can share with the entire family.
Adding to the nostalgia of “Doogie” for me was the familiar Steven Bochco Productions title card at the end of the premiere. Bochco co-created and executive produced the original, and his widow and son are executive producers of this version. Not going to lie, I got a little teary at the sight of that iconic name, a talent gone way too soon. Thankfully, this “Doogie” carries on the Bochco tradition beautifully.
“Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.” is streaming now on Disney+.