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Series / Diagnosis: Murder

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Left to right: Barry Van Dyke as Det. Steve Sloan, Charlie Schlatter as Dr. Jesse Travis, Dick Van Dyke as Dr. Mark Sloan and Victoria Rowell as Dr. Amanda Bentley

Diagnosis: Murder is a mystery/medical/crime drama television series (1993-2001) starring Dick Van Dyke as Dr. Mark Sloan, a medical doctor who solves crimes with the help of his son, a homicide detective played by his real-life son Barry Van Dyke."

That's directly from Wikipedia and is probably one of the best explanations of the show. (The Van Dyke Family roadshow perhaps? Given that Dick's daughter also appears as Mark's daughter and all four of Barry's children turn up in the series and Dick's brother turns up as Mark's brother...)

In between saving people's lives, Mark as the chief of internal medicine also finds time to help the woefully inadequate LAPD find the constant murders that have been going around lately. The whole idea is that a patient will come in comatose under the reasoning that a landslide had knocked them out and caused internal bleeding so they died, yet under closer inspection these "rock bruises" look more like the shape you would expect after been repeatedly hit by heavy books. Steve, this man wasn't killed by rocks on a landslide but by books in a library; my diagnosis, murder.

It's woefully ridiculous but the fact that the show knows it's a stupid idea and pokes a lot of fun at itself just makes it that much more appealing. Mark doesn't solve the crimes by himself; Steve, Mark's son mentioned above, gives him reason to poke around. Also, depending on the season, he has doctors Amanda Bentley (Victoria Rowell), Jack Stewart (Scott Baio) and Jesse Travis (Charlie Schlatter). The latter opens up a BBQ restaurant with the policeman Steve. So Amanda and Jack/Jesse will then get themselves into random danger with the killer while trying to solve the murder because clearly being highly trained doctors with lives to save isn't enough to keep them occupied and they don't have the brains to ask their police friend, Steve, to look into it for them.

It's not commonly known that this was a spinoff of Jake and the Fatman (which in turn was a spinoff of Matlock... which is also linked to Mannix and Murder, She Wrote and Magnum, P.I. by extension... yeah, there's a lot of siblings in this family).

Now with a Recap Page, that will need some work.


Contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Murder:
    • Played with involving Tim Conrad, who was trying to kill Harvey Huckaby but apparently killed Harvey's wife by mistake. It turned out she was killed by somebody else.
    • Subverted in "Rain of Terror" when a woman accidentally kills her boyfriend and spends most of the episode trying to cover it up with her mom. The woman had always intended to kill the boyfriend and made it look like she did it accidentally.
    • Also the case for the older man that dies in "Food Fight". The episode's villain has been sabotaging caterers across Los Angeles, including putting salmonella in the food at one party. Everyone gets sick, but one man in particular dies due to it messing with his potassium levels. The killer didn't mean for this to happen, and the man wasn't even supposed to be at that party, being a last-minute replacement for the date of another guest.
  • Accidental Suicide: In the episode "Murder By Remote Control", a computer expert who had lost his son in a failed operation sought revenge on those he blamed for his son's death by using his computer skills to murder their children. To throw suspicion off himself, he programmed his home computer to fill his bedroom with noxious gas to fake an attempt on his life, expecting his housekeeper to arrive in time to prevent it. Unfortunately, due to an accident on the road, his housekeeper is delayed by an hour and by the time she arrives, it is too late to save him. Since he had already programmed his computer with his remaining targets, his killing spree continues.
  • Adam Westing: Adam West himself cameos as a washed-up actor who was made famous by playing half of a crime-fighting duo, Tuttle and the Mummy.
  • Adopting the Abused: In the episode "Gangland", Amanda Bentley, through her work at Community General Hospital, realizes that a child patient there - Deon - is being abused by his foster family (for example, in this episode he has a broken arm, which we find out in a subsequent episode was the punishment for losing a lunch box). She adopts him at the end of the episode, the beta plot of the episode being about the process she goes through to do this.
  • Advance Notice Crime: In "Down Among the Dead Men", a note is sent to police officer Steve Sloan, before each of a series of crimes, with the official penal code number and text of the crime.
  • Always Murder:
    • Subverted in the episode "Call Me Incontestable", where a woman's ex-husband committed suicide to make sure she wouldn't get the money from his lucrative life insurance policy. She killed two more people in similar ways to make it look like someone was targeting clients of her dating service, so the suicide would look like murder and she'd get the money.
    • Also subverted in the episodes "First Do No Harm" and "Today is the Last Day of the Rest of My Life", in which the deaths are caused by insurance agency bureaucracy and physician-assisted suicide respectively.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Dr. Mark Sloan.
  • Ambiguous Situation: In "Obsession Part 2" It is ultimately never revealed if Sharon Ellingson was a willing accomplice to Carter Sweeny, or if she was an Unwitting Pawn.
  • As Himself: A number of occasions. For example...
    • The episode "Death In the Daytime" has Amanda winning a walk-on part on The Young and the Restless in a contest (Victoria Rowell was doing double-duty as Dr. Amanda Bentley on DM and Druscilla Winters on Y&R). The set-up allowed for several of the popular soap's actors (Lauralee Bell, Eric Braeden, Doug Davidson, Melody Thomas Scott, Jeanne Cooper, J. Eddie Peck, Kristoff St. John and Heather Tom) to make appearances. Several of them call Amanda 'Vicki', which causes the high-strung doctor to freak out.
    • "Murder, Country Style", which is set backstage at a country music special, features Terri Clark, Billy Ray Cyrus, Linda Davis, Billy Dean, Joe Diffie and Eddie Rabbitt as themselves. Barbara Mandrell also appears, but in a character role as the producer of the special.
    • "Slam Dunk Dead", a basketball-based episode, features several then-rookie NBA players as themselves: Brent Barry, Charles O'Bannon, Ed O'Bannon, Pooh Richardson and Malik Sealy.
    • "Trash TV (Part 1)" Randolph Mantooth and the Masked Magician..
  • Asshole Victim: Far too common to list. While plenty of victims are innocent people, in many cases the victim is a thoroughly unpleasant Jerkass, ranging from cheating partners to business rivals all the way to a rapist murdered by a former victim.
    • Subverted in "Till Death Do Us Part", focused on an engaged couple planning to murder the father of the bride on their wedding day and frame her stepmother. In the first act, the father is portrayed as dismissive of the fiancé and overly focused on the cost of the wedding, while the stepmother is snide and self-obsessed. It is then revealed that the first act is in fact the murderers planning the murder before it's pulled off for real the next day. In fact, the father and stepmother are both genial, good natured people, while the murderers are the actual jerkasses.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Jesse displays this a couple of times when dealing with two different young doctors.
    • He stopped a young doctor from giving an elderly woman an injection, telling him if he'd read her chart he would've seen the woman was recently put on blood thinners. Had she been given the injection she would've probably bled to death. Jesse calls out the student doctor for not bothering to read the patient's current chart and instead relied on having read an old version a couple days prior.
    • He once pulled aside one doctor to accurately point out the man's clearly abusing amphetamines due to his aggressiveness, disheveled appearance, and the fact he's been awake for 36 hours.
  • Bait-and-Switch: "Drill for Death" features two murders; Karin Hatcher, a Jerkass head nurse who had been stepping over others to climb up the career ladder, and Art Amador, a homeless schizophrenic artist undergoing cancer treatments. After realizing Karin died in view of Art, Mark presumed that Art was murdered after seeing Karin die. In actually Karin died because she saw Art die; before faking his death years earlier Art was a famous artist named Martin Beckman; the murder's divorce settlement left her with a few of Beckman's paintings, which would plummet in value as soon as people learned he was alive and had been working on his craft the whole time.
  • Banana in the Tailpipe: Used with a wad of cash in the tailpipe.
  • Bed Trick: Narrowly averted in one episode where a man kills his twin brother to steal his life. He would've committed rape-by-fraud on his sister-in-law, only she reveals she could tell who he really was the whole time because what woman doesn't know her own husband?
  • Beleaguered Bureaucrat: Hospital administrator Norman Briggs. Initially depicted as an Obstructive Bureaucrat, he later demonstrates that he genuinely cares for Community General but is caught between the needs of the hospital and the realities of the economy.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Steve toward his little sister Carol; in "Murder in the Family," Mark comments that this has always been their dynamic. Naturally, when Carol is murdered in the movie Town Without Pity, Steve takes it very hard that he couldn't protect her.
  • Birthday Episode: "The Busy Body"
  • Bitter Almonds: Mark identifies a glass of wine as being laced with cyanide by the aroma of almonds in one episode.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Several episodes have Mark using this trick to make the killers incriminate themselves.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: "Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of My Life" has Dr. Sloan trying to stop a doctor who helps terminally ill patients commit suicide. The ending leaves it up to the viewer to decide who they feel is right.
  • Breaking the Fellowship / Putting the Band Back Together: In the two-parter "Obsession," after serial bomber Louis Sweeney, whom Dr. Sloan and his son Steve helped put away, is executed for his crimes, the killer's children pull off a series of copy-cat bombings, causing the police to suspect that they executed the wrong man. At the end of Part 1, facing a public relations nightmare, the board of executives at Community General revoke Dr. Sloan's medical license and fire Amanda Bentley and Jesse Travis, while the LAPD suspends Steve Sloan indefinitely. In Part 2, the four of them reunite after a few weeks to clear their reputations and prove that Louis Sweeney was indeed guilty of the bombings he committed, and that his children were responsible for the copy-cat bombings. By the end of the arc, Dr. Sloan's license is restored and everyone's back on the job. And then Sweeney's daughter blew up the hospital.
  • Brick Joke: In "Malibu Fire," Mark (by a reporter) is mistaken for Peter Graves. Guess who plays the Mark Expy in the Show Within a Show at the end of "Must Kill TV"?
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Dr. Sloan has raised eccentricity to a high art (he's been known to make his rounds on roller skates), but his skills as a doctor and as a consultant to the police more than make up for that.
  • Butt-Monkey: Jack often gets into awkward situations or beaten up, and almost every time someone shows interest in him it turns out they're the murderer or otherwise is using him in some way.
  • Cain and Abel: Played for Laughs between Mark and his sister Dora (played by Betty White), who is pushy, rude, insensitive, and loudmouthed.
  • Chemically-Induced Insanity: Season 6, episode 6 'Alienated': in a possible Shout-Out to The X-Files and its 'Anasazi' episode a doctor is poisoned by a pharmaceutical company inducing paranoia regarding a secret military base to destroy his credibility in respect to a new drug.
  • Christmas Episode: "Murder in the Family," in which Mark is pleasantly surprised by a Christmas visit from his estranged daughter Carol. The cast is trimming a tree and singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" together at the end of the show.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: While there's plenty of lighthearted and cheesy stories to offset them, Season 5 has a select few darker stories which comprise much grittier and tension-filled episodes. Most notable are a considerably grim disaster in "Fatal Impact" with a gigantic body count from a plane disaster and an agonizing description of how everyone was killed before the plane even crashed, and the season finale ends with a massive cliffhanger that carries on into a pulse-pounding season opener. The theme tune itself also becomes darker in Season 6, going from a mischievous saxophone beat to a steelier version of the same theme with a touch of rock.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Delores Mitchell and Norman Briggs.
  • Church of Happyology: Earthonomy, a cult with ridiculous mafia-like connections. They kill a reporter who was investigating them and attempt to kill another reporter. One suspect is even a closeted gay actor obviously based on... a certain actor. It turns out the killer was a hitman hired by the head of Earthonomy, who was having a homosexual affair with the gay actor.
  • Connect the Deaths: A serial bomber wrote the name of her dead father on the city map. The absurdity of this is Lampshaded by Neil Burnside (the man in charge of the investigation, who is also running for District Attorney), who draws a pig in the same pattern, though of course Dr. Sloan is right.
  • Continuity Snarl: In "Hard-Boiled Murder", the crossover episode with Mannix, Joe Mannix finally fulfills his promise to Tina Reynolds by finding out who killed her father: her own mother. The problem is that in the original Mannix episode, her father was clearly killed by a hitman.
    • In one episode after catching himself looking for glasses that were on his head the whole time, Mark recalls seeing his father do the same thing, noting that this was when he realised that his father was an old fogey, suggesting that he had seen his father into his later years. Season 8 however reaveals that Mark's father left his family or so Mark believes, in fact he was murdered when Mark was a child and his father was still a relatively young man.
  • Contractual Purity: invoked One episode had the murder victim (the Executive Head of a PAX-style Christian TV network) given a fatal heart attack by video clips sliced into a show she's reviewing that had images of a lookalike practicing Satanism (which she did in college), something that would ruin anyone's career, let alone hers.
  • Contrasting Replacement Character: Jesse for Jack who both filled the "young, attractive doctor" role. While Jack was more of a "bad boy" archetype, Jesse was a "lovable boy next door". Even their family life was contrasting with Jack's being part of the mob but with Jesse's father being a former CIA agent.
  • Contrived Coincidence: In "Retribution Part 2" Mark is captured by a militia group and later forced to make a video confession about being a member of the global conspiracy that they believe in. This video ultimately reveals mark's location to Steve because he spots the reflection of a sign in Mark's glasses because the milita happens to have set up shop in the closed down camp where Steve had his first kiss.
  • Crime of Passion:
    • "The Busy Body" has Amoral Attorney Lorenzo P. Kotch found dead in the Community General pharmacy with a blow to his head. The killer is revealed to be Ralph McCreedy, the son of Community General's security guard who was being replaced by a security firm. Ralph had been trying to steal drugs from the pharmacy so that the security firm would be made a scapegoat and his father would get his job back.note  Lorenzo ran into the pharmacy hoping to avoid a woman on the hospital accreditation committee whom he had sexually assaulted, and when he stumbled upon Ralph trying to steal the drugs, Ralph panicked and cracked him in the head with a nightstick belonging to his father. Ralph then decided to take some advantage of the murder by taking the body to leave it for the committee to find, giving Community General even more reason to fire the security firm.
    • The episode "Murder, Country Style" ends with the reveal that the woman we've been led to believe is the culprit was actually covering for her daughter. The daughter, a songwriter named Laura Manning, was in a relationship that evolved into an engagement with the victim, a country singer named Mickey McShane. However, Laura saw a groupie leave Mickey’s trailer and realized he was cheating on her. In a fit of rage, she grabbed a lamp and cracked his skull with it, telling her mother what she had done. Her mother, Betty Manning, then took it upon herself to take the fall for her daughter's crime, as she had about six months left to live due to cancer.
  • Criminal Doppelgänger: The two-parter episode "Gangland" centered on a recently paroled mob boss who bore a striking resemblance to Dr. Mark Sloan (both roles played by Dick Van Dyke)
  • Crossover: With Matlock in the two-parter "Murder for Two".
    • "Hard-Boiled Murder" has Mark helping Joe Mannix with an old case he didn't get around to solving in his own show.
  • Darkest Hour: The season 5 finale "Obsession" puts all four main characters through a Trauma Conga Line where all of them lose their jobs (temporarily), become punching bags for the antagonist, a serial bomber, after targeting the wrong suspect, and wind up caught in a massive explosion at the end which serves as a cliffhanger to the season 6 opener.
  • A Day in the Limelight: "Blast From The Past" focuses more on Steve; the episode concerns the release of a man who sent up for killing his wife, who wants revenge on Steve. It's also of a less humorous bent than usual.
  • Death by Origin Story: The episode where Mark remembers how his mother and his wife Kate succumbed to cancer.
  • Death in the Clouds: "Murder in the Air"
  • Defeating the Undefeatable: The final culprit in the "Trash TV" two-parter, Robert Zand, is a GBS executive who secretly organized two murders, one near-fatal accident, and one case of blackmail, to cripple the Thursday night slot programming of rival networks, yet previously won any and all lawsuits, making an arrest seemingly impossible. How does the team achieve this? With the following plan; Robert is secretly drugged by Jack Burley during a meal at a restaurant, while The Amazing Arturo is providing a distraction, later causing what is seemingly cardiac arrest during a board meeting. Then, he is taken to the set of Doctor Danger while unconscious, tries to call people at GBS, only to be blocked by a receptionist and phone operator (actually an actress and Amanda), seemingly foils and witnesses a murder attempt from an assassin sent by GBS to get rid of him (or so he is told, as he is actually an actor), and gets tricked by Steve into confessing his crimes for alleged witness protection. He only learns about this deception when he sees that "Community General" is empty, none of the electronics are working, and he manages to leave the set.
  • Diabolus ex Nihilo: The motive of the culprit in "Rear Windows '98" is never revealed, as he kept quiet.
  • Died in Ignorance: In "Gangland", an elderly patient passes away peacefully with Mark's Criminal Doppelgänger at her side pretending to be him to comfort her in her final moments.
  • Disability Alibi:
    • In "Murder, Country Style", a woman kills her lover in a fit of rage after learning he's been unfaithful, and her mother (who has a terminal illness) attempts to take the fall to spare her daughter from jail. Mark, however, refuses to believe her, as the mother's condition makes her physically incapable of carrying the same kind of murder weapon while it's in a bag, let alone swinging a blunt instrument with enough force to kill.
    • Another episode, "Murder in the Courthouse", has a mafia agent being killed in a car-bombing shortly after a trial against him collapses. The first suspect is an old man with a previous conviction for bomb-making and ties to an Asian crime family that have a rivalry with the mafia, but when questioned he points out that he's blind and has tremors in his hands that would make building a bomb impossible now. However it didn't prevent him from teaching bomb-making to the real murderer: a politician whose lover was killed during a mafia-ordered hit.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • Jesse's father was never there during his childhood, owing to his career as a spy for the government. In "Discards," they finally bury the hatchet and start building a relationship.
    • Mark's own father apparently walked out on him and his mother when Mark was still a kid. He'd actually been murdered, and his remains stuffed inside someone's grave. Mark doesn't discover what really happened to his dad until 50 years later in "Sins of the Father."
  • Disposing of a Body: The series finale (which was kind of a ghost story) had Mark discover the exhibit skeleton in his office belonged to a woman who vanished several years back. They discover the murderer was the doctor who had been hitting on Amanda throughout the episode.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In "It Never Entered My Mind", the Jake and the Fatman episode that served as a backdoor pilot for the series, Mark at one point states that he has no children, unlike in the series proper, where he has a son and a daughter.
  • Education Mama: In "The Pressure to Murder", the killer was a successful doctor who kept making excuses for his son's lackluster abilities in the field of medicine, to the point he covertly slipped his son answer sheets to his exams. He killed his son's roommate to prevent him from exposing the cheating.
  • Engineered Heroics: One episode has a former Air Force pilot drugging the flight crew of a commercial airliner, intending to volunteer to fly the plane to safety and get himself the credibility he needs to find work as a pilot again.
  • Epic Fail: In "Till Death Do Us Part", a bride and groom plan out the perfect murder to kill the bride's father and frame her stepmother for it, with the first half shown being them going over the steps and having every piece fall into perfect place. When the actual day comes and the plan is executed for real, the one thing that goes right for them is that their victim winds up dead.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: A plot in "Gangland" involves an Evil Doppelgänger Mafia don impersonating Mark to escape the hospital (It Makes Sense in Context). During his escape he's asked to speak to a dying patient. Despite having no incentive to do so and being in a hurry to escape, the don stops and takes time to comfort and reassure the patient as they pass.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: In "Murder by the Hour", a serial killer is lurking within Community General to target people that cheated death at some point. The problem, as Mark points out to the team, is that the killer could be anyone in the hospital.
  • Evil Twin: "Sleight-Of-Hand" involved a man murdering his twin brother so he can step in and take his seemingly perfect life. The guy's wife goes along with it because he was an asshole, and to keep her husband's money instead of it being bequeathed to his son from a previous marriage.
  • Evil Genius: Hunter Kastov from the episode "Playing God". He outright kills a classmate for fun and keeps his girlfriend from saving the guy's life, then toys with the police who are trying to solve the murder. Every time he's on screen he thinks that the police are idiots and that because he's a genius he should be able to do whatever he wants. He also reacts angrily to his girlfriend's assertion that someone could be smarter than him. Later turns into a Dirty Coward when at the end of the episode, after he knows he's been found out, he tries to commit suicide to avoid prosecution, but they manage to save him.
  • The Exit Is That Way: Happens to a sleep-deprived Jesse in "Misdiagnosis Murder". When Amanda tells him to go home and get some sleep, he angrily says he will and turns and strides dramatically through a door... which turns out to be the broom closet.
  • Femme Fatale: Played straight with Ariel in "Murder, My Suite". She seduces and manipulates three men (a student, a hotel manager, and a doctor) into helping her infect the people in a hotel with a deadly virus, so that she could secretly break into a vault. By the end, it becomes clear that she plans to have all of her partners murdered once they've stopped being useful, and run away abroad with the stolen riches that she keeps for herself.
  • Forgot to Gag Him: Dr. Mark Sloan - when kidnapped by the insane children of a Mad Bomber he got sent to the electric chair, he manages to play them against each other, while secretly sending clues to his partners-in-crimesolving, leading to his inevitable rescue. One of the agents on the case even comments that they really should've shot him right away...
  • Friend on the Force: Mark's son Steve.
  • Gangsta Style: Played with in an episode where Mark Sloan is at a gun range being shown how to use a pistol. He fires off a few rounds normally (with realistic loudness and recoil) and then asks the man who was showing him whether he could fire it sideways "like on TV", twisting it to the side to show him what he meant. While the instructor starts saying why it's a bad idea, Mark fires the gun anyway by accident and the recoil flings it out of his hand with great ease and force - which creates a big enough diversion for another character to sneak past.
  • Gold Digger: The victim in "Open and Shut."
  • Good All Along: One episode featured a woman and her husband's mistress plotting together to kill the husband. The husband and the mistress were actually conspiring to kill her after faking his death, but the wife knew what they had planned all along and was secretly working with Mark to expose them.
  • Happily Adopted: Amanda Bentley was adopted as a child. She later adopted Dion, a child who had been abused by his foster family.
  • Happily Married: In the movie Town Without Pity, Mark and Steve learn that with the murder of her worthless ex-husband behind her, Carol has married a good man and is genuinely happy. Then she and her husband are murdered.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: "Rescue Me" has a comedic subplot involving a new head nurse who turns out to be something of a Battleaxe Nurse barking orders at everyone and driving a couple of women to tears. By the end of the episode, Mark intends to have a talk with her about her attitude. Nurse Hillard then tells Mark how happy she is working at Community General, specifically because the atmosphere is so friendly and everyone's like a big family. It puts her harshness under the light of her doing everything possible to make sure the staff does their best.
  • Hollywood Hacking: "Rear Windows '98" has Charles Colton, a hacker who uses computer programs of the period to perform feats like messing around with traffic lights and shutting down a computer trying to hack him, with surprising ease.
  • Homage: DM has done episodes that honor TV doctors of the past ("Physician, Murder Thyself" with Chad Everett, Wayne Rogers, Jack Klugman and Bernie Kopell), TV spies of the past ("Discards" with Robert Culp, Barbara Bain [as her Mission: Impossible character of Cinnamon Carter, which suggests...], Robert Vaughn and Patrick Macnee), TV cops of the past ("Murder Blues" with Fred Dryer, Angie Dickinson, Martin Milner, Kent McCord and James Darren), Emergency! ("Malibu Fire" with Emergency regulars Randolph Mantooth and Robert Fuller), M*A*S*H ("Drill For Death", with a number of cast members from both the movie and TV versions, plus Christopher Norris of Trapper John, M.D.), Star Trek ("Alienated", with Trek regulars Walter Koenig, George Takei, Grace Lee Whitney and Majel Barrett, plus Wil Wheaton from TNG and Lost in Space's Bill Mumy) and the Happy Days-Laverne & Shirley-Mork & Mindy universe ("Food Fight" featuring Pat Morita, Don Most, Erin Moran, David L. Lander, Leslie Easterbrook, and Conrad Janis).
  • Hypocritical Humor: When the hospital's computer system is brought to its knees by a virus, Norman asks the computer engineer who fixes the problem to give the staff a lecture on proper computer handling and to remind them that their computer terminals are not toys. The engineer then reveals that the virus on the system is commonly found in a particular computer game - which Norman has installed on his terminal.
  • Identical Stranger: In "Gangland", Doc Sloan turns out to have a Doppelgänger.
  • Imposter Forgot One Detail: In "Dead in the Water" Jessie and Susan are captured by the people of Searidge after they risk exposing the town's secret. To throw Mark and the others off the trail they send two citizens off with Jessie's credit card to lead Mark away from the town, which works until they purchase rice cakes, which they know is all Susan is eating. What they don't know, but Mark does, is that Susan had an entire suitcase full of Rice Cakes, and thus has no reason to buy more, as such the purchase tips Mark off.
  • Inconvenient Hippocratic Oath: In one episode, Dr. Sloan is at a retirement home disguised as a wheelchair-bound senile person in order to investigate corruption. At one point, another character needs emergency medical treatment, so Sloan has to irrevocably blow his cover in front of all the staff and residents to help.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: In "Comedy Is Murder", comedian Tim Conway plays Tim Conrad, a comedian that ineptly keeps trying to murder his rival Harvey Huckaby, played by Harvey Korman. When it looks like someone else died for real because of tampering Tim did to Harvey's pool, it's eventually revealed Tim had nothing to do with the murder because all he did was short the pool's lights.
  • Inheritance Murder: In one episode, there's a millionaire who decides to leave his fortune to a hospital, but who dies before he can change his will. Naturally, suspicion falls on his three awful children.
  • Interdisciplinary Sleuth: Dr. Sloan uses his medical knowledge to solve crimes.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!:
    • In "The Busy Body", Mark and Jack stumble upon a murder victim while giving an accreditation committee a tour of the place. They keep the body out of sight of the group and call Steve, but when he arrives, the body and the murder weapon have vanished. More complication arises as the corpse keeps appearing throughout the hospital and disappears again when Amanda puts it in a morgue freezer.
    • In "Misdiagnosis Murder", Jesse sees a man die of a heart attack in the parking garage. When he returns with aid, the body is gone and another man is faking tachycardia. Jesse spends the rest of the episode trying to persuade people of what he saw.
    • In another episode, "A Mime Is a Terrible Thing to Waste," dogsitter Randy Wolfe finds a murdered mime in her employer's bed. After running across the street to fetch Mark and Steve, she brings them back to the house to find a completely clean bed, and spends a lot of the rest of the episode trying to both solve the murder and convince everyone else that she's not crazy or lying.
  • Jack the Ripoff: The title character of the tie-in novel The Silent Partner is a serial copycat: one copycat each for multiple serial killers.
  • Karma Houdini: In "Rear Windows '98," Susan doesn't even apologise for falsely accusing Jesse of intentionally poisoning her.
  • Kidnapped Doctor: "Murder on the Run" has Mark being kidnapped by a convicted murderer who ended up in Community General following a prison transport crash. Mark is later forced to perform impromptu surgery on the kidnapper when the broken rib he suffered during the crash punctures his lung.
  • Killed Off for Real: Carol Sloan and her husband in the movie Town Without Pity.
  • The Killer Was Left-Handed: Almost used in an episode where the killer must be right handed. This lets the left handed man off, until it's revealed that everyone is innocent. Since someone must be guilty, it turns out the lefty is ambidextrous.
  • Killing for a Tissue Sample: There's an episode in which the killer turns out to be a doctor who specializes in studying genetics, and his intended victim has a unique trait in her genes that he's convinced will further his research.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: The normally calm and by the book Mark and Steve will resort to Jack Bauer Interrogation Techniques if their friends or family are threatened.
  • Locked in a Room: Happens on a number of occasions, notably to Jesse and Steve in the season 6 opener and to Jack and Steve in season 2, where Jack reveals he has Claustrophobia and has a panic attack.
  • Manipulative Bitch: The killer of one episode is a highly manipulative and borderline sociopathic high school student who goes around doing "favors" for people, and then gets them to help her back by doing similar "favors." For instance, a girl wants to get on the cheerleading squad, so someone the squad dies in a freak accident and boom, opening. Anyone who gets in the way of her "help" or shows "ingratitude" will either get blackmailed into helping her or die.
  • Mama Bear: One of the Reverse Whodunnit episodes features a woman shooting her second husband in cold blood. We later find out he'd been sexually abusing her daughter for years.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The ending of "Dead in the Water" has a villainous example; Mark, Amanda and Steve arrive to save Jessie and Susan from the citizens of Searidge, who have captured them and intend to kill them to keep the secret of them having plundered a historic wreck, only for the Sherriff to point out that the 5 of them are still outnumbered... at which point the sound of sirens and helicopters can be heard, at which point Mark smugly reveals that they had tipped off the highway patrol, FBI and IRS, while the citizens are left to realize they are screwed.
  • Money Dumb: Mark is a downplayed example. With his own spending he's rather responsible, but episode show that when he tries his hand at making investments, he's not very good. The Crossover episode with Matlock reveals that part of Ben's money troubles came from him taking Mark's advice to invest in 8-tracks, which obviously did not work out.
  • The Movie: Diagnosis of Murder, The House on Sycamore Street, and A Twist of the Knife before the series took off, alongside Town Without Pity and Without Warning after the series ended.
  • Murder by Remote Control Vehicle: In "Inheritance of Death", remote control is used to send an elderly millionaire's electric wheelchair crashing down a flight of stairs.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Jesse is sometimes shown to desperately want a cup of coffee. Justified, as he's a doctor who frequently works long shifts.
  • Naked People Are Funny: In the episode "The Last Laugh (Part 1)" a man storms out of a hotel room after taking a shower (It Makes Sense in Context) and his Modesty Towel gets trapped in the door. Mark notes he "won't get far" and there is a comedy scream and musical laugh sting plays.
  • Nepotism: One episode has Jesse trying to coach a student doctor who is obviously not cut out to be a medical professional, and who is only trying to get into medicine because his father, also a doctor, is insistent that his son should follow in his footsteps.
  • Never a Runaway: This is the fate of Mark Sloan's father in the episode "Sins of the Father." Mark had always thought he had run out on the family. He had actually been sealed in a tomb while investigating a case.
  • Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon: "Talked to Death" featured a morning show staging a shooting between the hosts as a publicity stunt. Someone switched the blanks for real bullets and the co-host gets shot.
  • Obfuscating Disability: The culprit in "Slam Dunk Dead", who spends most of the episode claiming and acting that he has cerebral palsy.
  • Older Than They Look: Jesse Travis got this on occasion. How gracefully he reacted depended on how snotty the other person acted.
  • Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending: This kind of resolution occasionally happens, but "Death by Design" has a particularly sobering one. While Mark and Steve have managed to solve yet another case, Roger is left to mourn over his dead wife Lana once the murder charges pressed against him get dropped, Beverly's lover Jake has been killed simply so that she could cover her tracks in their murder scheme, the real Kendra has been killed in Beverly's staged car crash suicide, and Beverly's paralyzed father is left alone at the care center, as he's forced to watch his daughter being arrested for three murders. By comparison, Amanda and Steve get off relatively light, since they only get to put up with Mark's recent obsession with redecorating his office.
  • Orgy of Evidence: Discussed in the episode "Talked To Death", While the killers are trying to plant evidence of the first murder on the victim of the second murder, one of them wonders if they should plant more to be safe. Another points out that if they plant too much evidence, the cops would know it was a set up.
  • Paranormal Episode:
    • The thirteenth episode of the second season, and it's a shocker. "The Bela Lugosi Blues" has a real female vampire as the murderess behind a string of killings. She's in cahoots with a mortal villain. He gets the money from her crimes. She gets the blood, and help getting a new ID papers (her last passport expired in 1938).
    • The next season has an episode involving a psychic woman, and no explanation is found for her powers, so it seems she is the real deal.
  • Parent-Child Team: Mark has a regular team who helps him get evidence for his cases. All but one are hospital employees; the one is his son Steve.
  • Parents as People: Steve's friend Chuck Greer may love his daughter Barbara, but his greedy habits keep getting in the way of properly taking care of her. It's reached a point when Barbara and Mark are hold hostage by loan sharks after Chuck, Barbara genuinely does not believe her father will choose her over money. She breaks down in tears when Chuck does show up to save her, but then also reveals the coins she's been wearing around her neck are the fortune the loan sharks have been after. Now thinking Chuck only came back for the coins, Barbara's anger finally makes Chuck realize how badly he's been neglecting her feelings and makes an honest attempt to reconcile.
  • The Perfect Crime: Nicely played with in an episode where a killer details his "perfect" plan for a murder. That's followed by the crime where nothing goes to plan. Still, he pulls it off only to be tripped up not because of any of his mistakes but because his attempt to frame an innocent person for the crime is too good. Mark notes that it's the first case where the suspect is so incredibly obvious from the start and thus got suspicious of the "evidence" to find out the truth.
  • Phone-Trace Race: In one episode, the killer who had previously dodged phone traces allows the call to be traced to a pay phone to distract the police.
  • Phoney Call: In "Blood Will Out", Mark calls Steve to tell him where he and the missing patient are. Being in a room with a rogue NSA agent, Steve pretends to be having a conversation with his wife about a dinner. In a twist, the NSA had been tapping Steve's phone and got a recording of the full conversation. Steve, however, expected the them to be tapping his phone and arranged to have a squad of police waiting for them when they followed him.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: Several episodes featured possible pilots:
    • "Retribution," a two-part episode was intended to be a pilot for "The Chief." Fred Dryer starred at the hard-nosed Los Angeles chief of police who played various political games to provide law and order. Neal McDonough would co-star as Ross Canin, a mob boss who was actually an undercover policeman acting as Masters' ultimate inside man.
    • "Sister Michael Wants You" had Delta Burke as a nun solving murders.
    • "A Mime is a Terrible Thing to Waste" featured Rachel York as Randy Wolfe, an eccentric woman with various jobs who gets involved in murder cases.
    • "Blood Ties" was to be a pilot for a series called "Whistlers" with rule-bending detective Amy Devlin (Kathy Evison) and her more outrageous partner Taylor Lucas (Zoe McLellan).
    • "How to Murder Your Lawyer" featuring Mitchell Whitfield as Arnold Baskin, a bumbling tax attorney by day and (Steve's) law course professor at evening, and Leah Remini as his wisecracking student Agnes Benedetto who happens to work as an assistant at his law firm. Together they would have sold crimes - if the series had been made.
  • Pregnant Hostage: In "Baby Boom."
  • The Rashomon: In "Too Many Cooks", several separate incidents are told by the crew and chefs of the Cuisine Channel cooking network, all surrounding over their history with recently-murdered star chef and notorious womanizer René Fontenot. All of them contradict each other to some degree, to the point that Mark and Steve draw a relationship chart to make sense of it all. As it turns out, the most relevant of these involves Keith Dunn's supposed partnership with René at a successful New Orleans eatery (Keith's version), which is revealed to be actually uneven with Keith as René's slave driver boss (René's version)...And even that further obfuscates the truth: the eatery was actually struggling, then deliberately burned down by Keith to collect the insurance money and start up Cuisine Channel, but René was the key witness to this arson and planned to blackmail Keith over it, until his secret spice was poisoned by Keith.
  • Red Herring: The majority of the plot of "A Mime is a Terrible Thing to Waste" sees Mark, Steve and guest protagonist Randy investigate an entire criminal conspiracy involving Sonny Burnett, Duke Fallon and stolen car parts, believing that Duke had killed the episode's murder victim (the titular mime) and left him in the house Randy was house-sitting as a message to back off, mistaking it for Burnett's due to damage to the house numbers. After arresting Duke, it is revealed that he had no connection to the murder at all, with the real killer being Randy's client.
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: Steve Sloan's 9mm service weapon jams up on him during a firefight, prompting his opponent to say something to the effect of "those nine millimeters really are a piece of crap." For the remainder of the episode (and the series) he carries a revolver as a sidearm instead.
  • Rescue Romance: Subverted in one episode, the murderer is a woman who becomes obsessively in love with men who "save" her, and then manipulate the next one into killing them when they are already in relationships and want nothing to do with her. Unfortunately one of these "saviors" is Jessie.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: Used a few different ways in an episode where the murderer makes the death look like a suicide-by-pill-overdose. The murderer takes care to wipe their fingerprints off the pill bottle, but the victim's prints aren't on the bottle either. Also, when Mark tells the killer that it's unusual for there to not be a suicide note, the killer forges one using the victim's laptop; Mark checks the laptop's directory and finds that the note is date-stamped about 20 hours after the death, confirming that it's murder rather than suicide.
  • Reverse Whodunnit: A few episodes, such as "Hot House," show the killer going through with their plans at the beginning with Mark and Steve spending the rest of the episode figuring out who did it.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: One episode featured a militia group trying to separate the US West Coast into a state for whites, complete with the We Are Everywhere threat and a stolen nuke.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The stabbing of a figure skater in "Murder on Thin Ice" was based on the attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, only in that case the weapon was a police baton and in the episode the figure skater staged the attack on herself to frame her rival.
  • Secret Other Family: The victim in "Left Handed Murder" is revealed at the will reading to have three wives in different states who are unaware of each other's existence.
  • Self-Surgery: In "Blood Will Out", the man who wakes up in the morgue with a bullet in his head steals medical supplies and uses a deserted operating theatre to operate on himself and remove the slug.
  • Shock Jock: "FMurder" features a vile, foul mouthed shock-jock type trying to get a squeaky-clean TV host on his show who turns out to be the mother of his child. She kills him instead, of course.
  • Shoe Phone: One episode has an assassin being hired to kill someone at the hospital, using a gun concealed inside the handle of a crutch.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: As an early sign of later seasons getting more serious stories in an overall sense, Delores and Norman, who are purely Comedic Relief Characters, are respectively phased out after Season 2 and Season 4. Additionally, Jack is replaced with Jesse, who isn't subjected to the butt of gags as much.
  • Shout-Out: The villain in the episode "Deadly Games" is named Frank Waldeck, after one of DM's Assistant Directors.
    • The mobster who's the murder victim in "Retribution (Part 1)" is named Gordon Ganza, after producers Howard Gordon and Alex Ganza (The X-Files, among other shows), who were good friends of then-Executive Producers Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin.
  • Show Within a Show: Type 1, when Amanda wins the chance to be on her favorite show, and when they film a TV show in the hospital.
    • The episode "Trash TV" deals with the Troubled Production of a series based on Mark Sloan's exploits, filmed on location in Community General and initially starring Peter Graves as Doctor Sloan. After a rework, Steve "Sloane" is about thirty years younger, packs a Magnum, and sleeps with his female patients. Meanwhile, Doctor Jessie Travis is a sexy martial artist with Healing Hands. Then people start dying on set.
      • In that same episode, Jesse turns on the TV, only to discover a series of lurid TV specials like America's Most Gruesome Autopsies (hosted by former Quincy, M.E. co-star Robert Ito).
    • "Hot House" is about a murder on the set of a Big Brother-type reality show. Mark goes undercover as the new housemate to try to figure out who killed the Asshole Victim.
    • The episode "Frontier Dad" finds the gang visiting the set of the titular TV show featured in this episode, only to discover sabotage that leads to the 'accidental' death of a stuntman.
  • Shown Their Work: In "Delusions of Murder," it's correctly pointed out that a person under hypnosis cannot be commanded to do something they normally wouldn't.
  • Spiteful Suicide: This proves to be the catalyst for the killings in "Call Me Incontestable". Tonya Gilpin was still the beneficiary of her ex-husband's life insurance policy, which had an incontestable clause that after two years on the policy, the company would have to pay out to Tonya, even if the death was suicide. The ex waited exactly one year and eleven months, then hanged himself so Tonya wouldn't get a cent. Thus, she arranged the murders of some of her clients and staged them as suspicious suicides so people would think her ex-husband's was murder, thus getting the payout.
  • Springtime for Hitler: In the episode "Murder at the Finish Line", a race car owner oversells her shares to backers, figuring that with the loser race car driver she has, they'll never expect any returns. However, the driver suddenly goes on a major winning streak and thus pushes the owner to murder.
  • Stalker Shrine: One suspect had a shrine to his ex-wife, which coupled with his tendency to assault his ex's dates made him the prime suspect in three murders. The shrine and assaults are all on him, but he's not the killer.
  • Stalker with a Crush: The above mentioned Stalker Shrine entry features a guy who stalked his ex-wife and even assaulted the guys she dated. It turned out he wasn't the episode's killer. The actual killer, knowing about this guy, murdered two of the men his ex dated to set him up as a scapegoat. He's still arrested at the end for assault and trying to shoot Steve.
  • "Strangers on a Train"-Plot Murder: In "The Murder Trade", after a new hospital administrator announces that she plans to have Dr. Sloan fired from Community General when he protests her short-sighted budget cuts, the new administrator turns up dead, and a sociopath calls up Dr. Sloan and says, "Now you owe me a favor." Dr. Sloan refuses to play along, obviously.
  • Stylistic Suck:
    • The tidbits we see of the "Doctor Danger" TV show, before and after its Darker and Edgier reworking, are ludicrously bad, and clearly meant to show us what the actual show would be like if it didn't have any self-awareness.
    • Similarly, the tidbits we see of Kay Ludlow's latest novel are woefully ridiculous and hammy to the max, especially with Victoria Rowell's portrayal of the novel's lead character Dr. Danielle Slade.
  • Suicide by Cop: Subverted: the bad guy in one episode has a degenerative disease not covered by insurance (pre-existing condition), and spends the entire episode goading Steve into killing him. It is implied that part of Steve's refusal to do so is because the villain went a bit too far. Good Is Not Nice, perhaps?
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Dr. Jesse Travis replacing Dr. Jack Stewart from 1995 onward.
  • Synthetic Plague: A genetically-altered strain of smallpox referred to as RZ1765 serves as a MacGuffin in one episode.
  • Terminally-Ill Criminal:
    • One episode combines this with Suicide by Cop. A person learns he has an incurable disease and goes on an escalated crime spree so Steve Sloan can kill him and leave a mark much like other famous criminals.
    • Murder, Country Style, has a country singer murder her lover in a rage after finding out he has cheated on her. When she goes to her mother, the mother attempts to take the blame for the murder, as she is dying of a disease and only has about 6 months left anyway. The plan is ultimately for naught, as Mark finds this out and realizes the mother can barely lift her own bags, let alone swing the murder weapon with enough force to kill a man, and the daughter is found out.
    • The trope is exploited in Murder X 4, in which a string of murders is committed by people with seemingly no connection to their victims, a pattern only being found later that the killers are terminally ill. It is revealed that a computer consultant for Community General runs a sort of assassination service out of a company of his known as Montana Mutual Insurance. He travels around different hospitals finding people who need someone dead, then find terminally ill patients to kill the target, promising full benefits to their families for the job.
  • Theme Naming: In "Inheritance of Death," murdered millionaire Jonathan Nash has three children whose names also begin with the letter J (Julian, J. Edison and Judith).
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: In "Voices Carry", an infamous serial killer is revealed to be a seemingly ordinary family man with a good job.
  • Tinkle in the Eye: The characters discuss how this always happens on TV before it actually happens.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: "Dead in the Water", when Jesse and girlfriend Susan travel to such a town. This happens again in the movie Town Without Pity. Unsurprisingly, Jesse's previous experience is never mentioned at all in the movie.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Carol Sloan, as indicated by her father and brother in "Murder in the Family." By the end of the episode, she seems to finally be turning her life around. Sadly, she gets murdered in the movie "Town Without Pity".
  • Twin Switch: A man murders his twin, then takes over his twin's life. It doesn't fool the twin's wife (because what sort of spouse couldn't tell a switch was made), but she's ultimately cool with it because she didn't like her husband much.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Justified, since Mark and Steve are real-life father and son; Mark's daughter Carol is also Dick Van Dyke's real-life daughter Stacy.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: In "All American Murder", the victim was a post-op trans woman, and Steve had been flirting with her before she was killed. To the show's credit, the victim was portrayed as a sympathetic character and none of the main characters freaked out about the reveal.
    • The killer turns out to be the victim's heterosexual ex-girlfriend, who couldn't accept that she transitioned.
  • Video Wills: In "Left Handed Murder", the victim has left a video to be played at the will reading, in which he introduces the gathered legatees to each other; an important task, since most of them haven't met before and three of them come into the room believing they're his widow.
  • Waking Up at the Morgue: In "Blood Will Out", Amanda is preparing for an autopsy when the body on her slab wakes up and chokes her into unconsciousness before escaping.
  • We Can Rule Together: Oddly invoked and lampshaded in the episode "Blood Ties" (a backdoor pilot for a cop drama involving two female police officers). A team of renegade cops, who have taken to murdering known felons and placing "organ donor" stickers on their drivers licenses so their organs can be harvested for transplants, tries to convince the two protagonist cops to join them. One of the officers comments that this reminds her of a James Bond scene, where the villain tries to convince Bond to join him in taking over the world. She says, "All Bond had to do was say 'yes', and he could buy enough time for his fellow agents to rescue him and save the day. I never understood why he never said 'yes'... until now. The answer is 'no'."
  • We Would Have Told You, But...: In "The Last Resort", Steve and his partner are put under involuntary lockdown for threatening suspects. Turns out it's all a ploy to get the partner to admit to murders he'd committed and blanked from his memory a year before.
  • Weight Woe: "Dead in the Water" has a minor case of this, as Susan goes on a rice cookie-based diet at the time she and Jesse go on vacation, and she insists on not having any desserts. It ends up being the least of her problems, as the two find themselves in a Town with a Dark Secret...
  • What Have We Ear?: Mark is an amateur sleight-of-hand magician as well as a doctor, and occasionally pulls this trick.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole: "Hot House's" victim was the titular house's resident bad boy, who was already on the verge of being kicked off the show. He's murdered by the Nice Girl roommate, the one person who voted for him to stay on.
  • Writing About Your Crime: "Write, She Murdered" has a novelist with writer's block snap under pressure from her belligerent publisher, kill him and use the subsequent police investigation as inspiration for her next crime novel.
  • You Owe Me: In "The Murder Trade", a psychotherapist murders a downsizing expert who was threatening Mark's job, then tries to blackmail Mark into carrying out a murder for him.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: In "Rear Windows '98", almost anytime the investigators seem to be getting close to the culprit, he usually has left the premises and left a computer with an active webcam, to force Amanda into witnessing yet another murder.

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