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Remember Doctor Ben Casey

November 12, 2010

Airing on ABC-TV from October 2, 1961 until 1966, Vince Edwards (1928-1996) starred as the brooding neurosurgeon on the popular adult drama medical series, BEN CASEY. Co-stars included Sam Jaffe as Dr. Zorba, Bettye Ackerman as Dr. Maggie Graham, Jeanne Bates as Nurse Wills and John Zaremba as Dr. Harold Jensen. 153 episodes were televised, leading to two Emmy awards.

The series spawned a comic strip series by Neal Adams. The daily began November 26, 1962 and the Sunday page began September 20, 1964. Both ended July 31, 1966 but Neal Adams would go on to a highly successful career as a comic book artist. Vince Edwards also had a successful recording career, releasing six albums and a few singles on the Decca label.

The show was known for its opening titles, which consisted of a hand drawing the symbols "?, ?, *, , 8" on a chalkboard, as cast member Sam Jaffe intoned, "Man, woman, birth, death, infinity." Neurosurgeon Joseph Ransohoff was a medical consultant for the show and may have influenced the personality of the title character.

At the beginning of the 1965 season, Jaffe left the show and Franchot Tone replaced Zorba as new Chief of Surgery, Doctor Daniel Niles Freeland. The show began running multi-episode stories and Casey developed a romantic relationship with Jane Hancock (Stella Stevens), who had just emerged from a coma after thirteen years.

In its early run, Ben Casey dominated its time slot. In the 1962-1963 season, it swamped Loretta Young's return to weekly television in her family sitcom The New Loretta Young Show on CBS. In 1963, it moved to Wednesdays as the preceding program for ABC's drama about college life, Channing.

However, due to the combination of CBS' The Beverly Hillbillies and The Dick Van Dyke Show, Ben Casey returned to its original Monday night time slot in the fall of 1964, remaining there until its cancellation in March 1966. Daytime repeats of the series also aired on ABC's weekday schedule from 1965 through 1967.

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