By KATHERINE HOBY



Paging Dr Warner, paging Dr Chris Warner. Will the real Chris Warner please stand up?



Okay, so he's apparently been in London for four years and that kind of trip can change a person but it seems he's become, gasp, a serious doctor.



Dr Warner, in all his roguish glory, is one of the reasons I used to watch Shortland Street. With his triumphant return to the clinic my flatmates looked to be at risk of having me tune the television to TV2 at 7 pm every weekday and then hide the remote.

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He was handsome. He was a real charmer. He was a Romeo - no one's heart was safe.



Okay, he's still handsome, and probably still a charmer. But there's been no sign so far of the rogue we knew and loved watching. Not a flicker of an eyelid toward the attending nurse. Not a boyish smile to the receptionist. And certainly not a whiplash double-take at the sweaty gym instructor in the coffee shop. (Remember our first look at Dr Warner? He was emerging from a hot passionate session with an aerobics instructor played by Suzy Aitken.)



Actor Michael Galvin has been quoted as saying his alter ego has changed, that he's older and wiser and not the playboy he once was.



Fair enough. People do change. But excuse me while I yawn. Bor-ring.



Any soap, foreign or domestic, needs a resident bad boy. With the return of "Dr Love" I thought Shortland Street was seeing the homecoming of the prodigal son.



Life on the street was never dull when Dr Warner was on the scene. You never knew what he might do next. He was a guy who never sat still, who was always doing something - or someone.



He was the guy you always tut-tutted at, the one whose gall you simply could not believe. It was exciting watching. It kept the viewer tuning in to see what young blue eyes would get away with next.



He's showed touches of the dash of old with his swift and insistent takeover of the clinic. But it would be nice to see a swift and insistent takeover of a nurse or two along the way.



Perhaps we will have to resign ourselves to the fact that like everyone, Dr Chris Warner has grown up. We've all known people who thought it was fun to bounce from one bed to another, breaking hearts along the way. Most of the time, however, people grow out of that behaviour.



So has it happened? Has the unthinkable come to pass? Has the Peter Pan of Shortland Street thrown off his "kid in a candy-store complex" and grown up for good?



Perhaps. And perhaps he is ready for, gulp, a serious adult relationship. Is Romeo dead?



Dr Love DOA. Time of death: on return to Shortland Street. Fondly remembered, and mourned, by older Street viewers. Rest in peace.



Shortland Street

TV2, Weeknights, 7 pm