Robert Young: The Accomplished But Troubled Life of the "Father Knows Best" and "Marcus Welby, M.D." TV Icon

Herbie J Pilato

He was the father and doctor everyone wanted. As the star of Father Knows Best (CBS/NBC, 1954 to 1960), and Marcus Welby, M.D. (ABC, 1969-1976), Robert Young provided comfort, joy, and wisdom to millions of viewers. But behind the scenes, the actor struggled with several personal and professional issues.

According to, "When Marcus Welby M.D. premiered on ABC on September 23rd, 1969, the pioneering medical drama featured a familiar TV face as its lead: Chicago-native Robert Young, who was coming off of six years as the star of the popular series Father Knows Best. Young’s new role as Dr. Marcus Welby was worlds away from his previous persona and the actor quickly shed his doting father association to fully embrace his new character – an embrace so complete that it came with a dose of controversy.

"Young’s outspoken willingness to blur the line between actor and doctor helped make him television’s most recognizable physician, but it also angered many in the medical community. Many medical professionals deemed the show’s portrayal unrealistic and dangerously deceiving. Welby would sit with patients through the night, drive them home from the hospital and even invite them to dinner at his home, activities that, in the real world, would be considered highly unprofessional. To the dismay of these outraged real-life doctors, Robert Young didn’t see the problem, going so far as to encourage real doctors to be more like his fictional Welby and offering unsolicited medical advice in interviews and around the set.

"Young battled both depression and alcoholism, and merely getting through the day was sometimes a challenge for the respected actor. After leaving “Father Knows Best,” Robert Young reached his lowest point and sought professional help, checking himself into treatment and eventually joining Alcoholics Anonymous. Landing the role of Dr. Welby would be the key step in his personal and public rehabilitation."

For more details about Robert Young's complicated but accomplished life and career, click here.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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