Medical Center (1969-1976)
Reviewed by Bruce Kogan
The Fourth Sex: Part I -
Television has loved medical shows from Richard Boone in Medic to George Clooney in ER. You can't name one that never had a decent run on television or gave us some top drama.
One of the very best was the two part season opener of the 1975 fall season. One of the hospital staff, married with a wife and teenage son, has decided to no longer submerge his true self. Robert Reed, a closeted gay man in real life ironically enough, plays the doctor. Needless to say his decision to have Sexual Reassignment Surgery causes a jolt among family, friends, and colleagues.
Gay/Lesbian issues were rarely talked about in those days, gay rights as an issue was finally getting introduced in various legislative arenas in the country during the Seventies. Transgender people were totally off everyone's radar.
I remember the episode to this day, but I've told any number of transgender friends who've in fact never heard of it. For myself I keep hoping that the TV Guide Channel will pick up Medical Center so that people can see this episode and the following one.
Maybe they will some day.
The Fourth Sex: Part 2 - (1975)
This episode was a continuation of the season opener in 1975 of Medical Center where Robert Reed, a doctor himself, announces he's going to have Sexual Reassignment Surgery which news comes as a jolt to all around him.
The news has now settled in with Reed's family and friends. They're all taking it in their various degrees of acceptance. One in particular though has become totally unhinged with the news. That would be Gary Frank who plays Reed's teenage son.
Primarily the second part of the episode deals with the dynamic of the relationship between Reed and Frank. It was really dangerous territory the writers tread on, but it was done with tenderness and sensitivity and the final scene with both of them would move a Medusa to tears.
The final scene shows Reed in female attire looking to make her way into a world he's not sure will accept his change. He does know that his body is at peace with his soul now.
Let's hope that TV Guide Channel or some other cable network gets Medical Center and starts running these episodes. I also hope that at some point the greater transgender community finds out about this and gets copies made. Even over 30 years after its broadcast, The Fourth Sex Parts 1 and 2 is a tremendous educational tool.