Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman is the prime example that a strong female character can lead a TV show set in the wild west. Dr. Michaela 'Mike' Quinn is not only a doctor herself, but the daughter of a prominent doctor in Boston. After her father's death, she decides she needs an adventure and sets out to Colorado Springs to open up her own medical practice in a frontier town. The story of Dr. Michaela Quinn aired on CBS for six seasons from 1993-1998.
Mike gets help adjusting to life on the frontier from mountain man, Byron Sully, her rugged love interest who she goes on to marry. In the pilot, Mike connects with a midwife named Charlotte Cooper when she is new in town. Charlotte gets bitten by a rattlesnake and asks Mike on her deathbed to look after her three children -- Matthew Cooper, Colleen Cooper, and Brian Cooper, played by Chad Allen, Erika Flores (replaced by Jessica Bowman in season 3), and Shawn Toovey, respectively. Mike has to not only adjust to her rustic surroundings but virtually became a mother overnight while also trying to become a trusted doctor amongst the townspeople. She and Sully also welcome a baby, Katie, in later seasons.
Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, which aired on CBS on Saturday nights, was one of the last great TV westerns. The show was incredibly successful until the network decided to change the tone in season 6 to attract more male viewers, which ultimately led to its cancelation. Longtime fans of the show went wild, so two TV films were released to continue Dr. Quinn's story, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: The Movie and Dr. Quinn: The Heart Within.
Here are some things you might not have known about the beloved series.
1. Jane Seymour was a last-minute choice
Seymour received the script literally the day before production started for the show. She had a day to decide if she wanted to join the series and sign a five-year contract. The following day she showed up for fittings. Her real-life husband, James Keach, directed many of the episodes and even appeared in season 5.
2. The show was created from a simple idea
Beth Sullivan created the CBS show centered around the idea of focusing it during the post Civil War-Wild West. She asked CBS if she could make the lead of her show a woman, but didn't realize that there were female doctors during that time period when she first thought up Dr. Mike Quinn.
3. Byron Sully was the first person cast
Joe Lando was the very first cast member to join what turned out to be a pretty perfectly cast show.
4. Joe Lando wanted to keep things authentic on set
Lando really wanted to take advantage of his character's action shots and did the majority of his own stunts. He ate worms, he ran on a moving train and made Sully as authentic as possible.
5. The show wasn't filmed in Colorado
Despite taking place in Colorado Springs, the show didn't film anywhere near Colorado. The majority of filming actually took place at the Paramount Ranch in California.
6. Fans were able to visit the set
Dr. Quinn was one of the last shows to create a unique relationship between its cast and fans. Fans were able to visit the set, interact with the actors between takes and even watch the filming take place.
7. Sully was almost killed off
Lando was getting frustrated with his character and was seriously considering leaving the show after the fifth season. Producers decided on a strategy. Sully would get thrown off a cliff at the end of the season for a literal cliffhanger...if he wanted to come back for the sixth season, he would have survived the fall. If not, he wouldn't.
In the end, Lando decided to come back but it was only in a part-time role, which potentially led to the show's decline in ratings and ultimately its cancelation.
8. The show had some huge guest stars
9. A reboot may be in the works
In 2019 Seymour told ET that she is trying to bring Dr. Quinn back to the silver screen. #bringbackdrquinn!
"We're trying right now, [series creator] Beth Sullivan has come up with the most amazing concept of what it would be," Seymour shared. "It'd be 26 years later, Joe [Lando] is on board, William [Shockley] is on board. We all want to do it. We are actively, right now, trying to get the rights to do it! I think it belongs on Netflix, don't you?!"
10. The cast has kept busy since the show wrapped
Here's what the cast has been up to since:
Seymour has continued acting appearing in Wedding Crashers, How I Met Your Mother, Castle and even Dancing with the Stars.
Sadly Joe Lando doesn't have his long Sully hair anymore but continued appearing on television in Guiding Light, Higher Ground, The Secret Circle, and The Bold and the Beautiful. He even appeared in a Dr. Quinn parody, Dr. Quinn, Morphine Woman.
Since his days as a teen idol playing the eldest Cooper-Quinn child, Chad Allen has been a champion for the LGBT movement and appeared in some daytime soaps before retiring from acting in 2015.
Following her time playing Colleen, Jessica Bowman appeared in a few films including Joy Ride, 50 First Dates, and Derailed, but hasn't done any acting work since the early 2000s.
Shawn Toovey, the youngest Cooper-Quinn child, hasn't appeared in anything after the second Dr. Quinn TV film. He's incredibly active in charity work though and is a member of the Children's Board of the Audrey Hepburn Hollywood for Children Foundation.
This article was originally published in 2020.
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