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St. Elsewhere

By Stephan Magcosta

Long before the angst-ridden tension of ER and Chicago Hope, television audiences tuned in to St. Elsewhere for their weekly dose of hospital hijinks. From 1982 to 1988, this Boston-based NBC series shared the spotlight with Hill Street Blues as cutting-edge TV drama, paving the way for shows as diverse as Northern Exposure and L.A. Law.

Once dubbed by TV Guide as "the greatest dramatic series of all time," St. Elsewhere wears this accolade remarkably well, as evidenced by this four-tape boxed set. For example, many dramatic series now incorporate humor as a vital element, but St. Elsewhere may be the first long-running dramatic series to consistently use intelligent humor in a compelling, off-beat manner. Each of the eight episodes in this boxed set demonstrates this nuanced humor.

Representing the most highly acclaimed shows from each season, The Very Best of St. Elsewhere showcases the work of several cast members who continued their careers after the series' demise, including Mark Harmon, Howie Mandel, Helen Hunt, Alfre Woodard, and of course, Denzel Washington. St. Elsewhere lent a much-needed human element to the never-ending trials of a frenetic, big-city hospital, and the drama was made real with the pioneering use of handheld cameras, looping story line episodes, and overlapping dialogue. The show's fresh urban edge revitalized a genre long stale with the likes of Marcus Welby, M.D. and Medical Center. Garnering 13 Emmy Awards and a fiercely loyal following, the show endured a five-year run, despite increasingly poor ratings. Finally, on May 25, 1988, St. Elsewhere closed its doors to the public, as well as network television.

 

Share Your Memories!

Do you have a favorite episode of St. Elsewhere? What do you remember about the series? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"I have many fond memories of this program. There is no doubt in my mind that this was and is the greatest medical/hospital drama of all times. There is a very human aspect to this series. I miss being able to see this show as often as I would like. I would have to say my favorite episode was with Doris Roberts and James Coco as homeless people."

--Anonymous

"This was a fantastic programme, with pathos, humour and drama. Being a Canadian now living in England, I saw it from 1982-1985 in Canada and 1985-1988 in England. I am sure I have missed some episodes due to scheduling mishaps in the UK. Absolutely wonderful and I miss it terribly!"

--DJ-UK

"Arguably the best drama series in modern television. Could not wait to watch it on Wednesdays. Would not mind picking up reruns on video. Never seen something so realistic before. Show involved a lot of self-indulgent navel gazing by the characters towards the end but till then it was a great show. It launched the careers of Denzel Washington, Howie Mandel and David Morse. In addition it showcased what great actors William Daniels and the late Ed Flanders were. Just tremendous writing also. I doubt we will see anything like it again. Imitators like ER and Chicago Hope just don't reach it."

--Wood-skylight

"A woman passes out for 12 seconds and her husband brings her into St. Eligius to figure out why. And so begins one of my favorite episodes, in which the woman undergoes test after test, seeing doctor after doctor, and no one can find anything wrong with her -- and at the completion of each test, we see a printout of the hospital bill! Brilliant."

--Gerald Fitzgerald

"I have always enjoyed medical series such as Marcus Welby, M. D. ; Medical Center; Trapper John, M. D. and most recently Chicago Hope. But when I was taking time to view some of the shows I had videotaped, I found myself wallowing again in the goings on of St. Elsewhere and its eclectic staff.

Chief of Surgeon Dr. Mark Craig, a bit abrassive at times, but extremely direct and honest. Head of the hospital, Dr. Donald Westphal, a former doctor turned administrator but still a doctor at heart, the aged Dr. Daniel Aushlander, kind, gentle, but well able to keep the hospital staff in line. The residents, Drs. Victor Ehrlich, Wayne Fiscus, Jackie Wade and others. The head nurse, Helen Rosenthall, and Luther, the orderly and of course Dr. Philip Chandler played so well by Denzel Washington the show proved a springboard to an illustrious career in the movies. I found the show had a balanced blend between staff and patients that neither was overshadowed by the other.

My favorite episode was preceded by episodes where Dr. Craig had been barred from surgery because of a pending lawsuit by the family of a patient of his who died after surgery. A resident, Elliot Axelrod, was in the ER not feeling well, and ended up on the floor having a heart attack. The ER staff came to action, got him stabilized and ready for a bypass operation. Axelrod wanted Dr. Craig to perform the surgery but was told it was impossible. The surgery went well, and Axelrod was hooked up to monitors in a hospital bed when Dr. Craig came to see him.

Unknown to either, Dr. Ehrlich was watching while Axelrod told Dr. Craig how much he admired the way he always spoke the truth while he himself just wanted people to like him. He said he wanted to cry but his chest hurt, but the tears came anyway. Dr. Craig reached down with his hand and stroked Axelrod's cheek, which showed the viewers, and Ehrlich, that the curmudgeon was also human. It drove Ehrlich to approach the patient's family saying to barr Dr. Craig from ever operating again would kill him, and that the man had received the best care possible. The suit was dropped and Dr. Craig was astonished to find out the resident who never seemed to like him was the person responsible. It was sad that at the end of the episode Axelrod went into fribrillations and died, but it will still be my favorite episode for the tenderness shown, and a lesson learned. You really can't judge a book by its cover."

--desertnan

"I love this Show!!! I have very fond memories of watching it with my family every Wednesday night. The main thing I remember about St. Elsewhere is that it consistantly moved me, so many good memories, how many shows can you say that about?"

--Brooklynjd

" St. Elsewhere opened my eyes to the reality of life and got me in the noble profession of Medicine. David Morse was an excellent actor. "

--Dr. R. Guadalupe

"I love this Show!!! I have very fond memories of watching it with my family every Wednesday night. The main thing I remember about St. Elsewhere is that it consistantly moved me, so many good memories, how many shows can you say that about?"

--Brooklynjd

 

TV TIDBITS

Aired: October 26, 1982 - August 10, 1988

Cast: Ed Flanders, William Daniels, Denzel Washington, David Birney, Ed Begler Jr., David Morse, Cynthia Sikes, Ronny Cox, Howie Mandel

Network: NBC

Genre: Medical Drama

Theme song

Image courtesy of NBC


St. Elsewhere memorabilia!
St. Elsewhere Videos and DVDs!
Ed Flanders memorabilia!
Ed Flanders Videos and DVDs!
William Daniels memorabilia!
William Daniels Videos and DVDs!

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