HeartBeat title card
GenreMedical drama
Created bySara Davidson
Theme music composerBill Conti
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes18
Executive producers
ProducerGeorge Eckstein
Running time48 mins.
Production companyAaron Spelling Productions
Original release
ReleaseMarch 23, 1988 (1988-03-23) –
March 30, 1989 (1989-03-30)

HeartBeat is an American medical drama television series that premiered on ABC on March 23, 1988, and ran for two seasons.[1]


HeartBeat follows the staff of Women's Medical Arts, a medical center founded by three women who are frustrated with how women's health concerns are addressed in the male-dominated medical field.

Cast and characters



Development and production

The fictional Women's Medical Arts clinic was based on the Santa Monica Women's Clinic in Santa Monica, California. Dr. Karen Blanchard (OBGYN), the clinic's founder, served as a model for the character played by Kate Mulgrew.[3]

Groundbreaking lesbian content

HeartBeat was the first prime time television series in the United States to feature a recurring lesbian couple on prime-time, and a lesbian as a main character, Marilyn McGrath; she had a partner Patty, in a long-term lesbian relationship.[4][5][6] The show won GLAAD’s first Media Award for Outstanding Drama Series in 1990, which it shared with L.A. Law.[6] However, in his autobiography, Aaron Spelling stated that ABC demanded a scene in which Marilyn dances with Patty be cut.[7]



HeartBeat debuted on Wednesday, March 23, 1988, at 9 p.m. (Eastern) as a special two-hour pilot; moving to its regular broadcast time of 10 p.m. the following week. For the second season, the schedule was changed to Thursday at 10:00 p.m. This programming made it compete with L.A. Law, one of the most popular series at the time. HeartBeat did not perform well in the ratings and was canceled at the end of its second season. The series finale aired on April 6, 1989.[1]


Series overview

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
17March 23, 1988 (1988-03-23)April 21, 1988 (1988-04-21)
212January 3, 1989 (1989-01-03)March 30, 1989 (1989-03-30)

Season 1 (1988)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateRating/share
11"Pilot"Harry WinerSara DavidsonMarch 23, 1988 (1988-03-23)14.7/25[8]
33"Where's Solomon When You Need Him?"Gene ReynoldsWilliam A. SchwartzMarch 30, 1988 (1988-03-30)14.0/23[9]
44"Two Out of Six"Gene ReynoldsWilliam A. SchwartzApril 6, 1988 (1988-04-06)12.3/22[10]
55"Cory's Loss"Gene ReynoldsSara Davidson & William A. SchwartzApril 13, 1988 (1988-04-13)12.3/21[11]
66"To Heal a Doctor"Dale WhiteWilliam A. Schwartz & Sara DavidsonApril 20, 1988 (1988-04-20)12.4/22[12]
77"The Wedding"Gene ReynoldsDan WakefieldApril 21, 1988 (1988-04-21)8.8/15[12]

Season 2 (1989)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateU.S. viewers
71"Paradise Lost"Bill DukeSara Davidson & Frederick RappaportJanuary 3, 1989 (1989-01-03)17.3[13]12.7/21[13]
82"Bivouac Babies"Michael FrescoSara Davidson, Frederick Rappaport, William A. Schwartz, Doug Steinberg, Joe ViolaJanuary 5, 1989 (1989-01-05)8.3[13]6.7/11[13]
93"Critical Overload"Reza BadiyiSara Davidson & Carol MendelsohnJanuary 12, 1989 (1989-01-12)9.4[14]7.0/11[14]
104"Stress"Nancy MaloneSara Davidson & Robert HardersJanuary 19, 1989 (1989-01-19)10.1[15]7.1/11[15]
115"Baby, Maybe"Robert BeckerSara Davidson, Frederick Rappaport, Doug SteinbergJanuary 26, 1989 (1989-01-26)9.4[16]7.2/12[16]
126"Prison"Al WaxmanSara Davidson & Robert HardersFebruary 2, 1989 (1989-02-02)9.9[17]7.5/12[17]
137"South and a Little to the Right of Eden"Kim FriedmanSara Davidson, William A. Schwartz, Doug SteinbergFebruary 16, 1989 (1989-02-16)6.9[18]5.6/9[18]
148"Last Tango"Helaine HeadSara Davidson & Doris SilvertonFebruary 23, 1989 (1989-02-23)6.7[19]5.4/9[19]
159"From Russia With Love"Al WaxmanSara Davidson, Frederick Rappaport, Doug SteinbergMarch 9, 1989 (1989-03-09)7.9[20]6.3/11[20]
1610"Gestalt and Battery"Gwen ArnerSara Davidson & Julie SayresMarch 16, 1989 (1989-03-16)8.2[21]6.3/11[21]
1711"Confidentially Yours"Greg RoseSara Davidson, Frederick Rappaport, Doug SteinbergMarch 23, 1989 (1989-03-23)10.8[22]8.1/14[22]
1812"What the Inspector Saw"Robert BeckerSara Davidson, Jennie Blackton, Joanne Greenberg, Robert HardersMarch 30, 1989 (1989-03-30)7.3[23]5.2/9[23]


HeartBeat is praised by LGBT television historians for its inclusion of Marilyn and Patty as a couple, and for their sexual orientation being treated as a non-issue. However, ABC received criticism because unlike the heterosexual characters, Marilyn and Patty were not permitted to be sexual or physically affectionate with each other.[24] The feminist content and context of HeartBeat have been studied by feminist cultural critics.

Awards and nominations

HeartBeat was nominated for the 1989 People's Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama.[citation needed]

It received the first-ever GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Drama Series in 1990 (shared with L.A. Law).[25]


  1. ^ a b Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle F. (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present (Ninth ed.). Ballantine Books. p. 596. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
  2. ^ "No glitz, no glitter here". Daily News. New York, New York. January 3, 1989. p. 97. Retrieved December 5, 2021 – via Newspapers.com. Closed access icon
  3. ^ Ringer, Ronald Jeffrey, ed. (1994). "6. Whose Desire? Lesbian (Non)Sexuality and Television's Perpetuation of Hetero/Sexism, by Darlene M. Hantzis and Valerie Lehr". Queer Words, Queer Images: Communication and the Construction of Homosexuality (1st ed.). New York University Press. p. 107. ISBN 0-8147-7440-7.
  4. ^ Toepfer, Susan; Hutchings, David (April 25, 1988). "Is Prime Time Ready for Its First Lesbian? Gail Strickland Hopes So—and She's About to Find Out". People. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  5. ^ Capsuto, Steven (2000). Alternate Channels: The Uncensored Story of Gay and Lesbian Images on Radio and Television, 1930s to the Present (1st ed.). Ballantine Books. pp. 240-242. ISBN 0-345-41243-5.
  6. ^ a b Maya Salam (29 November 2019). "The Very (Very) Slow Rise of Lesbianism on TV - The New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-12-09.
  7. ^ Aaron Spelling : A Prime Time Life : An Autobiography (1996)
  8. ^ "Nielsen ratings". Life. USA Today. March 30, 1988. p. 3D. ProQuest 305993024.
  9. ^ "Nielsen ratings". Life. USA Today. April 6, 1988. p. 3D. ProQuest 306060935.
  10. ^ "Nielsen ratings". Life. USA Today. April 13, 1988. p. 3D. ProQuest 306023207.
  11. ^ "Nielsen ratings". Life. USA Today. April 20, 1988. p. 3D. ProQuest 306035713.
  12. ^ a b "Nielsen ratings". Life. USA Today. April 27, 1988. p. 3D. ProQuest 306042628.
  13. ^ a b c d "NBC, laughing all the way". USA Today. January 11, 1989. p. 3D. ProQuest 306165080.
  14. ^ a b "NBC clinches season's ratings title". Life. USA Today. January 18, 1989. p. 3D. ProQuest 306171627.
  15. ^ a b "NBC scores super ratings". Life. USA Today. January 25, 1989. p. 3D. ProQuest 306147740.
  16. ^ a b "Midseason entries boost NBC". Life. USA Today. February 1, 1989. p. 3D. ProQuest 306144802.
  17. ^ a b "Comedies sweep up for NBC". Life. USA Today. February 8, 1989. p. 3D. ProQuest 306179902.
  18. ^ a b "NBC's back alone on top". Life. USA Today. February 22, 1989. p. 3D. ProQuest 306175741.
  19. ^ a b "CBS up despite Grammy drop". Life. USA Today. March 1, 1989. p. 3D. ProQuest 306152931.
  20. ^ a b "NBC, in front with 'Left Behind'". Life. USA Today. March 15, 1989. p. 3D. ProQuest 306172200.
  21. ^ a b "Glad tidings for all networks". Life. USA Today. March 22, 1989. p. 3D. ProQuest 306198820.
  22. ^ a b "A 'Brewster' boost for ABC". Life. USA Today. March 29, 1989. p. 3D. ProQuest 306173300.
  23. ^ a b "ABC's roller-coaster week". Life. USA Today. April 5, 1989. p. 3D. ProQuest 306171172.
  24. ^ Tropiano, Stephen (2002). The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV (1st ed.). Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. pp. 44-46. ISBN 1-55783-557-8.
  25. ^ "GLAAD Media Awards: 1990 Awards". IMDb. Retrieved 1 July 2018.

Further reading