A drama series on the Fox network, premiered September 20, 2002.

The lead character doesn't know who he his, and thus adopts the "John Doe" moniker. He woke up naked on an island near Seattle and has no memories of himself, his life, his personal identity. He has only an odd brand on his right breast to provide clues.

He does, however, seem to know just about everything else. No, really, everything. He apparently is channeling E2, Google, the Encyclopedia Britannica, and Ghu only knows what else. (The character has been shown to have instant access, via only his brain, to DMV records, advanced chemistry texts, and the White Pages.)

Casting info and other boring cut'n'paste stuff is at http://www.fox.com/johndoe/. More details as the show progresses.

John Doe: Punk, Musician, Actor, and hot dude of intrigue.

I first knew him as Liz's dad on Roswell, Jeff Parker. He seemed vaguely familiar--like someone I had seen in a bit part before, and I just couldn't place him. IMDB'd him and that rang a few bells. He’s been in a bunch of films I’d seen: Salvador, Boogie Nights, Brokedown Palace.

Fast forward about a year and a half. Roswell’s been cancelled. . . boo! I now have the Documentary film channel, which seems rather irrelevant, except for the fact that they aired a film on the Punk movement. Interviews with various now old and lame-looking ex-punk rockers included John Lydon, Jello Biafra, Debbie Harry, Joe Strummer and . . . John Doe.
Huh? Whaa? Hey! Look! It’s Liz’s dad from Roswell on some Punk Documentary! Holy Shit! What’s this band he was in? X? What kind of band name is X? Those crazy punk kids. Hmmm. I like the Punk music. Maybe I’ll download some X.
Album Downloaded: Los Angeles
Wow. This is really fucking good. Wow.
Hey! I know that song! It’s the first track on the Suburbia soundtrack!
Okay. This is really weird. Liz’s dad was a punk. A hot, sexy punk boy. I’m having some trouble with the whole TV/reality thing, I know.
Fully into the whole X thing now, I fork out the cash- or my boyfriend does for me, anyway- for the actual album. Am pleased with all the pretty, shiny pictures in the booklet.

Further John Doe sightings occur while watching Law and Order, and The Good Girl—in which he plays some kid’s dad again. Man. Why don’t they give him a part where he can play, like, some really cool bartender who arm wrestles, and fixes motorcycles, but is hiding a dark secret from his past? John Doe himself, had this to say about the weirdness of going from pretty punk boy to lame old guy:

“Two years ago, I was Claire Danes’ dad in ‘Brokedown Palace,’ and it was a little weird. We were hanging around, and I was thinking, ‘She’s so smart and cool, so pretty.’ Then I thought, ‘Oh, man, I really could be her dad!’”

He got into acting because of Allison Anders, the indie film director, who invited him to act in her student film, Border Radio.

He is a native hailer of Decatur, Illinois. His birthday is February 25, 1954. Send him a card!

Here is something else that he said that I thought was cool:

I think it's too bad somehow the media is doing a job to deny people of their culture, so that they don't even know who X was, or who the Ramones were, Patti Smith was or Iggy Pop. I mean I'm talking about someone who is 17 or 18 years old, and has 20 CDs where every record is Smashing Pumpkins. They probably don't know where any of that shit came from, or where tattoos came from, who started making tattoos, and who started jumping off stages and they should, because it's part of their culture. I guess that's up to people like me to spread the word. Stage diving started with Tony Alva and his skateboard crowd, and they would jump on stage and spin around and miss everything. They wouldn't even touch a beer on the stage. Now you see it on Pepsi commercials. It's very strange. Makes you wonder what year it is. Now I've noticed there's a resurgence of slam dancing and pogoing instead of crowd surfing. Give it a fucking rest, man. What year is this? 1981?"
(from the Michigan Daily, Interview with Brian A. Gnatt: http://www.pub.umich.edu/daily/1995/10-19-95/arts/john.doe.html)



An unidentified or anonymous person

"Any mere imaginary persons, or men of straw. John Doe, Richard Roe, John o'Noakes, and Tom Styles are the four sons of "Mrs. Harris", all bound apprentices to the legal profession."
 - Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

We see it on the television, we read it in the newpaper and hear it on the radio. "Unidentified man dies in bizarre train accident". As a society, we hate a mystery of this sort. We need names. Our family and friends have names, and it's inconvenient to call them by anything else. So equally, for those anonymous folk, we adopt a custom which dates back hundreds of years, at least to the time of Edward III, and we give them a name.

A legal John Doe

In the fourteenth century there were many debates over title to land, and many legal cases wrangled. In one of these, over the Acts of Evictment, a hypothetical person leased land to another man, who subsequently evicted him from his own land. To enable satisfactory discussion, the two were allotted names. The landowner was John Doe, the lessee became known as Richard Roe. Whilst the names meant nothing of themselves, both "doe" and "roe" had reference to deer, possibly indicating the origins of the legal argument (i.e. who was allowed to hunt on the debatable land).

Some sources state that it dates back to 1215, the Magna Carta, which required that two witnesses be named in every legal action. There were apparently occasions where two witnesses were not available, hence Messrs. Doe and Roe would be used.¹

In legal terms, John Doe is "a party to legal proceedings (as a suspect) whose true name is unknown or withheld", presumably for protection. The female equivalent (Jane Doe or Mary Roe), is also used in this setting.

Joe Bloggs, and Co.

So where does that leave us? The legal tradition having been set, it became practice for any unidentified person or body to become known by one of these anonymous names. so someone turning up in a hospital or a police station who is dead on arrival, unconscious or suffering from memory loss becomes John Doe. It's easier to think of them as people once they have names.

The name is also used in a similar way to John Q. Public (or in England "Joe Bloggs"), to refer to "Everyman". Of course, all of this leaves the real John Does and Mary Roes of this world in a pickle. As with anyone who has the same name as a popular figure, they may be the subject of teasing. But at least they know they aren't truly anonymous.

¹ Unable to confirm this - even Encyclopædia Britannica let me down


John Doe. (Law)

The fictitious lessee acting as plaintiff in the common-law action of ejectment, the fictitious defendant being usually denominated Richard Roe. Hence, a fictitious name for a party, real or fictitious, to any action or proceeding.


© Webster 1913.

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