Diagnosis: Murder was a mystery/medical/crime drama featuring 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. The series began as a spin-off of Jake and the Fatman (Dr. Mark Sloan made his first appearance in episode 4.19 "It Never Entered My Mind"), became a series of three TV movies, and then a weekly television series that debuted on CBS late in 1993. The series struggled at first and was almost canceled at the end of the second season, it returned as a midseason replacement in the third season, and was regularly renewed thereafter. 178 episodes were made and aired in the show's eight seasons on the CBS network in the United States and two more TV movies aired after the series' cancellation on May 11, 2001. Since 1997, the show aired in reruns on ABC Family (formerly The Family Channel), ION Television (formerly PAX-TV) and on the Hallmark Channel in America, weekdays on the Hallmark Channel (UK), Alibi and Channel 5 (UK) in the United Kingdom and weekdays on Foxtel's TV1 channel in Australia. The show was produced by The Fred Silverman Company and Dean Hargrove Productions in association with Viacom Productions and Paramount Network Television (Season 2 only) and is currently distributed by CBS Television Distribution.
In the Jake and the Fatman episode, Dr. Mark Sloan was a widower with no sons. Dr. Amanda Bentley is played by Cynthia Gibb in the TV movies and, finally, Victoria Rowell in the TV series. Stephen Caffrey played Dr. Jack Parker in the movies, a role that went to Scott Baio as Dr. Jack Stewart in the weekly series.
The first three TV movies were shot in Vancouver, British Columbia. The first few episodes of the series were shot (and set) in Denver, Colorado, before quickly (and without explanation) shifting to Los Angeles for the remainder of the show's run.
The plot centered around Dr. Mark Sloan (Dick Van Dyke), a renowned physician who occasionally worked for the local police department as a consultant, and who could not resist a good mystery or a friend in need. Those cases often involved his son, Detective Steve Sloan (played by Barry Van Dyke). Helping him was his friend Norman Briggs (played by Michael Tucci in seasons in 1-4), a hospital administrator. Also assisting Dr. Sloan were his colleagues, medical examiner/pathologist Dr. Amanda Bentley (played by Victoria Rowell) and Dr. Jack Stewart (played by Scott Baio in the first two seasons), who later left and was replaced by a new resident, Dr. Jesse Travis (played by Charlie Schlatter from season 3 on).
Dr. Mark Sloan (played by Dick Van Dyke), Chief of Internal Medicine at Community General Hospital, and protagonist of the series. Son of a cop and father of another, in whose cases he often gets involved. He is a medical consultant to the LAPD. Dick Van Dyke was considered for the lead role after the positive reviews he received from his dramatic role in the 1990 movie Dick Tracy (although the character he played in the movie was villainous and very different from the role of Mark Sloan). In the pilot the character had interests in tap dance and clarinet playing; however, these were considered distracting and were toned down and eventually removed from the character as the series developed.
Lieutenant Detective Steve Sloan (played by Barry Van Dyke), a police detective (later lieutenant) in the Robbery/Homicide Division of the LAPD and Dr. Mark Sloan's son. After an earthquake destroyed his apartment, he lived in a separate apartment in his father's beach house in Malibu. Steve often uses his "patented" dive to apprehend criminals.
Dr. Amanda Bentley (played by Cynthia Gibb in the TV Movies set before the series), later Bentley-Livingston (played there by Victoria Rowell), resident Pathologist at Community General Hospital and assistant County Medical Examiner, who is also Dr. Mark Sloan's straightwoman and medical partner, involving in each of Mark's & Steve's cases, after the accident. As a favorable character of the show, she also dated Jack and was later Jesse's best friend. During the series, she married a military man, and had a son named C.J. Depending on the episode, she divorced him or he was killed in an airplane crash. Later in the series, she adopted another boy, Deon.
Dr. Jack Stewart (played by Stephen Caffrey in the TV movies, Scott Baio in the series from 1993 to 1995, seasons 1–2), a doctor at Community General Hospital and Steve's best friend, whom he often helped in his cases. He left to open his own practice in Colorado. Jack Stewart does reappear in a couple of Lee Goldberg's Diagnosis Murder books they are, "The Silent Partner" and "The Last Word". In the first three TV Movies his name was Jack Parker.
Dr. Jesse Travis (played by Charlie Schlatter, 1995–2001, seasons 3–8), a resident and handsome student at Community General Hospital who Mark took under his wing and who became best friends with Amanda. Another favorable/breakout character of the series, he often got involved in Mark and Steve's cases, with good intentions but not always good results. During the series, he himself became the prime suspect of the stuntwoman's killing, hence, he badgered Mark to call his old friend Ben Matlock (played by Dick's real-life best friend Andy Griffith) for help. The Hospital staff thought he wrote the tell all book "Big City Hospital" as Dr. Anonymous but was later found out to be somebody else. Jason Tucker was a character in the book and he sounded exactly like Jesse and that's why the hospital thought it was him.
Norman Briggs (played by Michael Tucci, 1993–1997, seasons 1–4), administrator at Community General Hospital and a close friend of Dr. Mark Sloan, even though he is often exasperated by him.
Delores Mitchell (played by Delores Hall, 1993–1995, seasons 1–2), Dr. Sloan's lively secretary.