Ben Casey is the one of American TV's earliest medical drama series, running from 1961 to 1966. This show is noteworthy for its exceptional quality, in both content and writing. The quality of writing and the topical importance of the stories were not accidental; this show was Hollywood's specific response to a call from then Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Newton Minnow for better television programming.

'What the hell are you using for brains?'

This line, spoken by Dr. Ben Casey, succinctly reveals his character as a sharp, caustic, no-nonsense personality that does not hesitate to call a fool a fool or throw acidic criticism at incompetents, either above him or below him. Casey is a brilliant neurosurgeon, and a symbol of the best and brightest, the 'new breed' of professional. Dark, surly, demanding, impatient, focused and hairy-armed, he is in strong contrast with the typical TV leading man of his time, and particulary with the Dr. Kildare character played by Richard Chamberlain in a competing program of the time. People skills and the sensitivities of others were not high on his priority list. Even your Dr. House, M.D. would shrivel in his company.

Man, Woman, Birth, Death, Infinity

Each episode began with a hand drawing five powerful symbols in a vertical line with chalk on a black chalkboard as a disembodied voice spoke their meaning: Man, Woman, Birth, Death, Infinity. That rather stark opening warned the viewer that profound issues were to be dealt with and that symbolism would be the vehicle. The episode titles often included poetic or biblical references or quotes.

County General Hospital, the setting for the show, was a microcosm for presenting and dealing with major social and human issues. The patients' illnesses, mostly brain tumors, were basically an excuse to bring a cross-section of society into the hospital microcosm to display their broader predicaments, which were generally symbolic of the illnesses of society itself. Euthanasia, child abuse, racial tension, immigrant problems, medical ethics, the medical establishment, the limits of medicine, death and more, all right there on TV in the early 60s.

Character development was important in making the point of each story; it involved both Casey's effect on the patients and their family or friends and their effect on him and the others in the cast. Counterpoint to Casey's strong and blunt character was provided by Dr. Zorba, his calm and wise elder mentor (who had a distinctively wild hair style), and Dr. Maggie Graham, who tried her best to civilize and humanize her firebrand colleague.


The show was created by James E. Moser, who also wrote and directed along with several others. It was presented in a 60 minute black and white format. Much attention was given to technical accuracy in the medical content, on the basis of advice from the American Medical Association. A lot of money was spent for actual medical equipment to be used as props. It was broadcast by the ABC network at 10:00 pm (9:00 pm in some seasons). There were 153 episodes shown over a five-year span. The show achieved a place in the top 20 TV shows for the first two years, indicating a rather narrow popularity among viewers. That achievement is more impressive if the late, non-prime-time airing time is considered. Vince Edwards, the actor that played Casey, was a heartthob for some time in the early 1960s, though. In the final two years, the show was changed from a strictly episodal form to serial story line.

Regular Cast of Characters
Dr. Ben Casey       Vince Edwards
Dr. Zorba           Sam Jaffe
Dr. Maggie Graham   Betty Ackerman (Mrs. Sam Jaffe)
Dr. Ted Hoffman     Harry Landers
Nick Kanavaras      Nick Dennis
Nurse Wills         Jeanne Bates

Notable cast guests
Leo Penn (Sean's dad; He also directed many of the episodes.)
Robert Culp
Suzanne Pleshette
Anne Francis
Peter Falk
Jack Klugman
Leslie Nielsen
George C. Scott
Rod Steiger
James Caan
Jerry Lewis
Robert Blake
Patty Duke
James Franciscus
Lee Marvin
Nick Adams
Pippa Scott
Tuesday Weld
Telly Savalas
Bill Bixby
Eddie Albert
Jack Elam
Burgess Meredith
Steven Hill
Melvin Douglas
Robert Loggia
Suzanne Somers
Beau Bridges
Ricardo Montalban
Darren McGavin
George Hamilton
Hans Conried
Gloria Swanson
Carroll O'Conner
Red Buttons
Cesar Romero
Richard Dreyfuss
Dick Clark
Davy Jones (before he was a Monkee)

Season 1 1961
To the Pure-
But Linda Only Smiled
The Insolent Heart
I Remember a Lemon Tree
An Expensive Glass of Water
The Sound of Laughter
A Few Brief Lines for Dave
Pavane for a Gentle Lady
My Good Friend Krikor
The Sweet Kiss of Madness
A Certain Time, a Certain Darkness
A Dark Night for Billy Harris
And If I Die
A Memory of Candy Stripes
Imagine a Long, Bright Corridor
A Story to Be Told Softly
The Big Trouble with Charlie
Give My Hands an Epitaph
Victory Wears a Cruel Smile
Odyssey of a Proud Suitcase
Behold a Pale Horse
For the Ladybug, One Dozen Roses
To a Grand and Natural Finale
Monument to an Aged Hunter
All the Clocks are Ticking
Among Others a Girl Named Abilene
A Pleasant Thing for the Eyes
And Eve Wore a Veil of Tears
Preferably, the Less-Used Arm
An Uncommonly Innocent Killing
So Oft It Chances in Particular Men
When You See an Evil Man

Season 2
Mrs. McBroom and the Cloud Watcher
The Night That Nothing Happened
In the Name of Love, a Small Corruption
Legacy from a Stranger
Go Not Gently into the Night
Behold! They Walk an Ancient Road
Of All Save Pain Bereft
And Even Death Shall Die
The Fireman Who Raised Rabbits
Between Summer and Winter, the Glorious Season
I Hear America Singing
Pack Up All My Cares and Woes
Saturday, Surgery and Stanley Shultz
I'll Be Alright in the Morning
A Cardinal Act of Mercy (1)
A Cardinal Act of Mercy (2)
Use Neon for My Epitaph
He Thought He Saw an Albatross
A Short Biographical Sketch of James Tuttle Peabody, M.D.
A Hundred More Pipers
Suffer the Little Children
Rigadoon for Three Pianos
The White Ones are Dolphins
Will Everyone who Believes in Terry Dunne Please Applaud?
For I Will Plait Thy Hair with Gold
Father Was an Intern
Rage Against the Dying Light
La Vie, La Vie IntÈrieure
My Enemy is a Bright Green Sparrow
Lullaby for Billy Dignan
Hang No Hats on Dreams
For This Relief, Much Thanks

Season 3
Justice to a Microbe
With the Rich and Mighty, Always a Little Patience
If There Were Dreams to Sell
The Echo of a Silent Cheer (1)
The Echo of a Silent Cheer (2)
Little Drops of Water, Little Grains of Sand
Light Up the Dark Corners
Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Fire in a Sacred Fruit Tree
Dispel the Black Cyclone That Shakes the Throne
My Love, My Love
From Too Much Love of Living
It Is Getting Dark... and We Are Lost
The Last Splintered Spoke on the Old Burlesque Wheel
The Light that Loses, the Night that Wins
I'll Get on My Ice Floe and Wave Goodbye
The Only Place Where They Know My Name
There Was Once a Man in the Land of Uz
One Nation Indivisible
Goodbye to Blue Elephants and Such
The Bark of a Three-Headed Hound
The Sound of One Hand Clapping
A Falcon's Eye, a Lion's Heart, and a Girl's Hand
The Lonely Ones
Keep Out of Reach of Adults
Dress My Doll Pretty
Onions and Mustard Seed Will Make Her Weep
Make Me the First American
Heap Logs and Let the Blaze Laugh Out
For a Just Man Falleth Seven Times
Evidence of Things Not Seen

Season 4
August is the Month Before Christmas
A Bird in the Solitude Singing
But Who Shall Beat the Drums?
Autumn Without Red Leaves
You Fish or You Cut Bait
For Jimmy, the Best of Everything
Woods Full of Question Marks
A Thousand Words are Mute
Money, a Horse, and a Knowledge of Latin
A Disease of the Heart Called Love
Kill the Dream, but Spare the Dreamer
Courage at 3 A.M.
This Wild, Wild, Wild Waltzing World
A Boy is Standing Outside the Door
Where Does the Boomerang Go?
Pas de Deux
Every Other Minute, It's the End of the World
A Rambling Discourse on Egyptian Water Clocks
When I am Grown to Man's Estate
A Man, a Maid, and a Marionette
A Dipperful of Water from a Poisoned Well
A Little Fun to Match the Sorrow
Minus That Rusty Old Hacksaw
Eulogy in Four Flats
Three Li'l Lambs
A Slave is On the Throne
Journeys End in Lovers Meeting
The Day They Stole County General
Did Your Mother Come From Ireland, Ben Casey?
From Sutter's Crick...and Beyond Farewell
A Horse Named Stravinsky

Season 5
War of Nerves
O the Big Wheel Turns by Faith
A Nightingale Named Nathan
Run For Your Lives, Dr. Galanos Practices Here
Because of the Needle, the Haystack was Lost
What to Her is Plato?
Francini? Who is Francini?
Then I, and You, and All of Us Fall Down
No More, Cried the Rooster?There Will Be Truth
The Importance of Being 65937
When Givers Prove Unkind
The Man from Quasilia
Why Did the Day Go Backwards?
If You Really Want to Know What Goes On In a Hospital...
If You Play Your Cards Right, You Too Can Be a Loser
In Case of Emergency, Cry Havoc
Meantime, We Shall Express our Darker Purpose
For San Diego, You Need a Different Bus
Smile, Baby, Smile, It's Only Twenty Dols of Pain
Fun and Games and Other Tragic Things
Weave Nets To Catch The Wind
Lullaby for a Wind-Up Toy
Where Did All the Roses Go?
Twenty-Six Ways to Spell Heartbreak, A, B, C, D ...
Pull The Wool Over Your Eyes, Here Comes The Cold Wind Of Truth
Then, Suddenly, Panic

'Man, woman, ..' (video)
Opening credits (video)
Music from 1965 episode reportedly scored by John Williams (video)
Verbal battle, Ben vs. Gloria Swanson

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