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|Index||33 reviews in total|
This series helped break prime time drama out of the 70's, "Marcus Welby
M.D.", "Medical Center" humorless, melodramatic rut, and was the father of
such shows as "Northern Exposure", "ER", and "Chicago Hope". The latter has
even paid homage to it through subtle references to its characters and
Along with "Hill Street Blues" it offered week after week of an ingenious blend of truly insightful drama and clever, often bizzare humour that left me craving more. It is still one of the most missed television programs to ever leave the air.
After watching St. Elsewhere on Bravo, I realized that it is truly a superior show even now. It took chances that nobody else is willing to take. It is even more multi-ethnic than most dramas today. It makes ER and other medical shows look like they written by first graders. Even after all these years, St. Elsewhere has aged like fine wine. It is fresher now than ever before. Too bad, it struggled in its day. What a shame. It is truly one of the finest dramas on television today even in syndication. ER could learn a lot from watching St. Elsewhere. Too bad, ER's stars are ruining their own show. Maybe if William Daniels joined the cast, I would start watching it again. St. Elsewhere is one of the finest hours on television. Even now, it will blow you away. I miss the chemistry among it's characters and it's controversial but yet compassionate way of handling some situations. I still think Christina Pickles should be recognized with an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) because it would boost the show's genius and brilliance all around the world. I dislike the fact that she will be more remembered for her role as Ross and Monica's mother on Friends than her days on St. Elsewhere as Nurse Rosenthal, a British woman with a love for Jewish men. Anyway, it was a show that just gets better in time. It's classic television and every medical show should watch and take notes.
This is a wonderfully scripted, well-acted drama which takes place in the fictional Saint Eligius hospital in Boston. The ensemble cast is perfect, with stellar performances by William Daniels, Ed Flanders, and Norman Lloyd as the long-practicing doctors who hold the hospital together. The series follows the physicians, residents, and staff through their personal and professional lives, with just enough humor and pathos to keep it all interesting. Especially notable is the two-part episode dealing with the 50th anniversary of Saint Eligius. The flashback sequences really tie to the current stories, help fill in blanks and make you understand more fully certain characters' actions and quirks. I highly recommend this series. It is currently being shown on Bravo (cable network). Look for it!
The two part episode that spanned St. Eligius' history from 1935-1985 was the best show ever on TV. The great thing about the show is that you never know if things will wind up good or bad, and the show likes to use your own memory of previous shows rather than beat you over the head with them.
There were very few shows that could provide stirring, insightful,
disturbing drama week after week, but "St. Elsewhere" always did. A
superlative cast made it entirely believable: Ed Flanders was terrific as
Dr. Westphall, as was William Daniels as Dr. Craig. I still miss the
that Craig threw at Dr. Ehrlich (Ed Begley, Jr.)
I found the show so believable that I wondered if there was a real St. Eligius Hospital in Boston. I think everyone should see it.
From my first attraction to its offbeat name, St. Elsewhere grabbed me
like no other show I've ever seen! The characters were more real than
most of the people I know! Many other quality shows have followed in
its wake, but none quite seem to touch St E !!!
Named for St. Eligius (patron saint of the downtrodden), this fictitious hospital is staffed by a unique group of ultimately good people who really do want to help the sick and injured. The storyline contains many threads and themes and allows the viewer a uniquely compassionate and often humorous look at human foible seeping through attempted altruism, sometimes with better results than others.
A number of renowned actors either graced this show with appearances, while more regulars' careers were advanced through being on this show. All in all, well worth catching on syndication, wish I had a DVD library of all of the episodes!!!
For a moment, let's forget the final five minutes of this series. Take
the 136.9 episodes presented. This was a new sort of television.
Granted, "Hill Street Blues" first came up with the large ensemble
cast, the mix of humor and drama and set the stage for this program,
but St. Elsewhere went so far beyond Hill Street that at the end, the
two series didn't even mildly resemble each other.
Really, the notable thing that hooks a television viewer and a pop culture junkie about St. Elsewhere were all of the references. Almost like a game of Trivial Pursuit while you watched the action, the writers of the program constantly dropped references to other classic television programs, paid tribute to the past roles of their stars and placed all sorts of humorous "in jokes" for its viewers to get along the way. I don't know that all of them would still have meaning for someone viewing the show today, but maybe? The fact was the writers were letting us know that we were just like them, TV addicts, and that made a Velcro like seal between the program and its fans.
That was all just the sizzle. The steak was a great, solid cast and taut storytelling. Clearly this was the best show of the 1980s, and quite possibly the best hospital show in history.
"First rate people in a second rate place" was how the characters were described, and really, you can't deny it. St. Eligius had a lot of problems throughout its fifty plus years as a Boston teaching hospital, but no matter how convoluted their personal lives became, you always got the feeling that at least the doctors and nurses always cared about their patients, and that's why checking in was not just an addiction but a borderline obsession!
Most notable of the players were William Daniels in his role as the bombastic, pedantic and terribly Bostonian Cardiologist, Dr. Mark Craig, along with his foil, Ed Begley Jr. as his ne'er do well protégé, Dr. Victor Ehrlich. An almost Laurel and Hardy style relationship was created with these two (though physically, perhaps Mutt & Jeff is a better reference), and many of the scenes they played together were some of the most hilarious of any SITCOM of the era!
But it's difficult to truly single out any one acting performance, when you see who else was doctoring... future two time Oscar winner Denzel Washington on staff, Howie Mandel out of his zany stand-up style to play it straight and he managed! The elegance of Norman Lloyd as Medical Chief Auschlander, and the tragic sadness of Ed Flanders as Westphall, which, even more sadly, was echoed in his real life. Bonnie Bartlett, Christina Pickles, Sagan Lewis... a true gem of a cast and everyone contributed something amazing.
In addition, the guest stars list reads like a Hollywood who's who! Just check the "episodes cast" button if you don't believe me.
There were some firsts for the show: first television character to get the AIDS virus was Dr. Bobby Caldwell. Inexplicably, they also had the first character to be "cured" of AIDS, but the less said about that, the better! Dr. Westphall's bare ass was the first ever seen on a prime time network program. And, long before "24" existed, there was the digital clock on this series!
Forgive the final plot twist, which to me was a dig more at the network that canceled them than the fans that supported them. This show is filled with small treasures and characters that make them shine like diamonds. If only every show could be as good as this one. Then again, were that the case, I'd probably never do anything but watch television!
This series concerned St. Eligius, a hospital in a less fashionable section of Boston, and the day-to-day lives of its staff and patients. The institution had acquired its unfortunate nickname from statements made by doctors at other institutions to the effect that, if patients could not afford treatment in a respectable hospital, they would have to go to "St. Elsewhere." Nevertheless, St. Eligius consistently showed itself to be a place full of concerned and highly skilled medical personnel.
The central character was Donald Westphall, the chief of medicine and also the one in charge of the new residents who came in every year (St. Eligius was, among other things, a noted teaching hospital). He was depicted primarily as a caring, understanding, and reserved (even repressed) individual, but he could also be seen slugging it out occasionally with the administration, his residents, and even his colleagues if the situation required it
The other two "old-timers" who were present throughout the run of the series were Daniel Auschlander, the chief of services, who had already been diagnosed with cancer in the first episode but wouldn't seem to die (though he certainly talked about dying enough) and Mark Craig, the brilliant and extremely pompous heart surgeon who always said exactly what was on his mind to everyone, regardless of the reaction it got. Craig`s favorite target by far was young Victor Ehrlich, a tall, blonde California surfer dude who also happened to be a skilled surgeon. Ehrlich, though, was content to good-naturedly absorb the barrage of insults as best he could and go on learning from the master. (Ehrlich, unfortunately, was only slightly more adept than his mentor in interpersonal relations, and his conversations with other residents frequently ended with them telling him, "You're a pig, Ehrlich," and walking off.)
Other main characters in the sizeable cast included people every part of the hospital, from the residents to the regulars at the nurse's stations to people in custodial services to patients to administrators. As in real life, doctors came and went every couple of years, with some making greater impact than others. Indeed, the "star" of the series, David Birney, was gone after a single season. (It should be noted that, though the bulk of the hospital staff consisted of men, there were also women in highly visible and well-thought out roles as well, or were at times anyway.)
"St. Elsewhere" was much more soap opera-like than "Hill Street Blues," and this effectively drew viewers in and kept them in year after year. In the last seasons, there were radical changes in plotline (the hospital was bought by a large corporation, which brought with it brand-new management styles), and the cast seemed to change more frequently. There were also more episodes that tried to stretch beyond the established formula of the series. One flashback episode, for example, showed the young resident Mark Craig sucking up to HIS mentor, which was a delight to watch. The final episode proved to be the most strange and surreal, and left most longtime viewers dumbfounded.
For me, the series was marred slightly by that fact that, as in previous series created by Bruce Paltrow ("Lou Grant" and "The White Shadow"), the producer's politics too often became an integral part of the series. In practically every episode, it seemed, there would be a conversation between a doctor and a patient`s relative in which the latter would inform the physician about the percentage of Americans affected by some unfair law, or the exact number of cases of such-and-such a societal problem that were reported in the previous four fiscal years. The intent was good; had it occurred less frequently, it would have been far less annoying.
When it appears in syndication, "St. Elsewhere" can easily become an addiction, even if you have seen episodes three or four times already. The writing was at a very high level, the characterizations were three-dimensional and complex, and the medical situations intriguing. One becomes very interested in how the characters deal with their problems, and what twists and turns their lives will take. There is sufficient comedy mixed in with the serious plots to allow the easing of your pain after serious conflicts have arisen, and there are even some inside TV jokes thrown in once in a while for those who can catch them. Yes, there is far too much melodrama sometimes, but even that can be fun.
("St. Elsewhere" is often mentioned in the same breath with "Hill Street Blues." They were both hour-long, big-cast dramas of the 1980s, both with several plots going on at the same time, both were made by the same production company, and both were part of the "revitalization" of NBC, which by the end of the decade was not at all the "joke" network it had been ten years before. "St. Elsewhere" and "Hill Street Blues" were fine programs, though "Hill Street" was easily the best drama of the decade.)
There is much to be said about St Elsewhere and its immense importance
in defining the modern Television drama. The series set the formula for
how future medical dramas would be produced. Physicians were not
perfect individuals, and patients died. Doctors and nurses were "real
people", and they, as did the patients, cope with day to day life
inside and outside the confines of St Eligious hospital.
St Elswehere would bring the viewer into a drama filled hospital, where both doctors and patients interacted. The writers while giving us a look into the lives of both the Physician and patient, mercifully avoided a soap opera like atmosphere. They were instead disciplined in the intercourse between doctor and patient, and everything in between. They explored issues that TV had previously considered taboo, and handled those subjects in a mature, responsible manner, while never disregarding the intellect of the audience, and their ability to hold attention to dialogue.
Comparatively St Elsewhere moved on a slower pace than it's modern counterpart, "ER". The writers gave you scenes and story-lines that would cause the viewer to slow down and think, and avoided fast paced vacuous imagery and verbiage. Rarely did their ER blow-up, or the hospital fall victim to a helicopter crash. While there were expeditious Emergency Room exhibits in the St Elsewhere series, they did not bounce back and forth the camera like a ping-pong in an attempt to keep us amused. Instead, they focused on dialogue, the characters, and most imortant the plot.
Its drama along with real and diverse characters, will ensure its place in history, as one of televisions best series. St. Elsewhere is a prime example of how big ratings mean very little in defining a shows value or place in Televisions hierarchy.
In the wonderful episode with Betty White as a guest star playing a military general, John Doe (played magnificently by Oliver Clark) has been calling himself Mary Richards and calling other characters by names of other from the Mary Tyler Moore Shyow. The two separate plot lines seemingly have nothing to do withg eadch other, but the writer couldn't miss the opportunity it presented. Their paths cross, and John Doe addresses Betty White by the name of her character from MTM, and she replies something to the effect of, "I don't know what you're talking about." It is one of the best moments of television from the 1980's.
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