6 Memorable Television Pharmacists, Part 5

This is the fifth part of a series on how pharmacy professionals have been depicted on TV, both in a positive and a negative manner.

This article is the fifth part of a series on memorable pharmacists in television history. For part 4, click here.

Pharmacists are generally considered some of the most trusted and highly regarded professionals. In a 2016 Gallup poll, pharmacists were ranked the No. 2 most trusted professionals by American respondents, just below nurses, with 67% rating the honesty and ethical standards of pharmacists 'high' or 'very high.'

Despite this, pharmacists are often portrayed in movies and television in a negative light. In 2015, researchers conducted a study to determine whether pharmacist characters were depicted in a positive, negative, or neutral manner in films and TV shows available in the United States between 1970 and 2013. Their data found that of the 231 pharmacist portrayals identified, 145 (63%) were negative, 56 (24%) were neutral, and 30 (13%) were positive. Additionally, very few pharmacist characters were recurring ones on TV.1

Here is a look at 6 more of the most memorable TV characters who are pharmacists:

25. Simon Marsden in Law & Order: SVU2

Simon Marsden is the half-brother of Olivia Benson who makes four appearances in the Law & Order: SVU series, first in season 8, episode 16. It’s explained that Simon works as a pharmacist in an overnight pharmacy and that Olivia learns about Simon after secretly running her DNA in the police database. When Olivia and Simon meet, she tells him that his father, Joseph, raped her mother and that they are half-siblings.

The two start to bond until Simon is questioned for a potential rape. Simon adamantly asserts his innocence, however the detectives involved in the case don’t believe him. He eventually jumps bail and flees with the help of Olivia. At one point, when he’s found, he grabs the officer’s gun and accidently shoots her. After a series of events, Olivia is ultimately able to prove that Simon was framed, and he is exonerated of all charges.

26. Russell Norton in Grace Under Fire2

Grace Under Fire was an American sitcom that aired for 5 seasons from 1993 to 1998. Created by Chuck Lorre, the series focuses around Grace Kelly, a single mother and recovering alcoholic who struggles with the pressure of raising three children after divorcing her abusive husband. Russell Norton, played by Dave Thomas, co-stars in the series appearing in all 112 episodes.

Russell Norton is a bitter but charismatic, recently divorced pharmacist who is friends with Grace. Throughout the series Russell is an ally and friend to Grace as he deals with struggles in his own love life and work at his pharmacy. In season 3, Russell’s father Floyd starts working with Russell at the pharmacy, which starts to drive Russell crazy.

Russell’s job as a pharmacist plays a role in the story in season 4, episode 16 when Russell becomes frustrated that his friends are not being loyal, by shopping at the new chain store pharmacy that opened nearby. In unrelated events, later that episode, Russell helps stage an intervention for Grace after she starts overusing pain medication for her back problems.

Overall, Russell is a rare example of a pharmacist who has a recurring role in a television series and is not complicit in drug-diversion or other malfeasance.

Thanks to twitter user @sherbear for this suggestion.

27. Keith in American Dad2

In season 1, episode 9 of the comedy series American Dad, Stan Smith injures his crotch and is prescribed a prescription burn ointment. Stan misinterprets the directions for the medication and instead uses it to pleasure himself for the first time in his life. Stan secretly becomes addicted to this new found sensation and starts to neglect his responsibilities at home.

At the local pharmacy, Stan asks the pharmacist Keith for a refill; however he tells Stan that he’s exhausted all 8 refills and he’s unable to help him further. Stan becomes frustrated and threatens Keith with a finger in the shape of a gun, since he previously traded his actual gun to Keith for more refills of the ointment. After being caught and confronted by his son Steve, Stan is ultimately is able to kick the addiction.

28. Timothy Carey in All Saints2

All Saints was an Australian medical drama that aired for 12 seasons from 1998 to 2009. Although there were no recurring pharmacist characters in the series 493 episodes, there is one memorable pharmacist moment in season 11, episode 31.

The episode features an older man named Timothy who presents to the emergency room agitated and confused. He explains that he’s a pharmacist with his own pharmacy but recently chose to become homeless to better live his own life. Dr. Jack Quade and nurse Dan Goldman attend to Timothy, who initially assumes he has a urinary tract infection.

Throughout the episode, he progresses to develop crackles, short term memory loss, tachycardia, and tremor, despite initial treatment. Timothy reveals to Jack and Dan that he was regularly taking mercury to try help with his depression after his son died in a car accident. He explains he was inspired by Abraham Lincoln, who he believed took a mercury cocktail to help with melancholy and depression.

Jack assumes Timothy’s symptoms are a result of mercury poising but with the lab results unavailable he is unable to confirm the degree of mercury in the patient’s body. Despite some initial resistance from Dan to wait for the lab results, Jack treats Timothy with chelation therapy to serve as an antidote. Timothy initially shows some progress but then goes into cardiac arrest and dies. It’s later revealed that Jack gave Timothy too high of a dose based on his actual lab results which results in Jack blaming himself for Timothy’s death. Several weeks later Timothy’s wife shows up to the hospital and accuses the hospital of covering up her husband’s death.

29. Ellie Walker in The Andy Griffith Show2

Ellie Walker was a regular character in the first season of the 1960 sitcom The Andy Griffith Show. She was notable for being the first girlfriend of the show’s star, Sheriff Andy Taylor, played by Andy Griffith. She was also noted for being the first female pharmacist in the town of Mayberry, where the series takes place, and possibly one of the first depictions of a female pharmacist in all of television.

Ellie’s first appearance occurs in season 1, episode 4 when she arrives to her uncle’s pharmacy and meets Andy already in the store. Emma, a town resident, later comes in the pharmacy looking for her medication despite not having a prescription. Ellie initially refuses until she learns her uncle was giving Emma sugar pills to calm her nerves. In a later episode Ellie runs for town council and although the men are resistant to elect a women to the position, Andy changes their minds and she wins the election.

After 12 appearances in the first season, Ellie disappears without any clear explanation to the audience. Elinor Donahue, who played Ellie, later revealed that she asked to be released early from her 3 year contract with the network due to a lack of chemistry between her and Griffith.

Thanks to twitter user @tiggerbongo for this suggestion.

30. Owen McCloskey in Monk2

In season 7, episode 9 of the popular comedy-drama detective series, Monk, the lead character Adrian Monk is solicited by 3 homeless men to investigate the death of their friend Willy. Although the police ruled the death as an accident, the 3 men suspect murder.

Monk agrees to take the case and his investigation leads him to a local monastery, which boasts a miracle fountain said to have healing powers for those who drink from it. Monk is skeptical and discovers that many of the so-called healed patients have discarded pill bottles from one particular pharmacy.

Monk soon discovers that several years ago, a local pharmacist named Owen McCloskey killed his business partner after he learned he was embezzling money and buried him on the monastery's grounds where the fountain was located. When Owen learned the monastery was planning to remove the fountain as part of a major renovation he became afraid that the body would be found. As a result, Owen started changing the prescriptions of his patients by giving them placebos to make them sicker and then encouraged them to visit the monastery’s fountain. After drinking from the fountain, Owen would readjust their medications so they would feel better in hopes his plan would make the fountain appear miraculous and the monastery would never remove it.

Willy had inadvertently caught Owen in the act so he had to kill him to keep his plan alive. Not long after Monk’s discovery, the police arrest Owen.

What TV pharmacists are missing from the list? Tweet them to me at @toshea125.

References

  • Yanicak A, Mohorn PL, Monterroyo P, Furgiuele G, Waddington L, Bookstaver PB. Public perception of pharmacists: film and television portrayals from 1970 to 2013. J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2015;55(6):578-86. doi: 10.1331/JAPhA.2015.15028.
  • The Internet Movie Database. imdb.com. Accessed March 12, 2018.