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JAYJAY1979

St Elsewhere

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With this being streamed on Hulu, it's fitting to start a discussion of this unique medical drama from the 80s.

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I watched that show religiously the entire time it was on. I still tell the story of Mrs. Hufnagel to people! 

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Let's not forget that it showcased some of the best acting of that era including William Daniels and his real-life wife Bonnie Bartlett ( wed 70 years as of June, 2021!) playing the dysfunctional  couple of Dr. Mark and Ellen Harper Craig- and rare dramatic (but surprisingly effective) early performances by Ed Begley, Jr. and, of all people, Howie Mandel (!)!  Yes, the show often veered into the absurd (as in having the charge nurse's daughter attempt suicide by chocolate)but it covered some still valid issues with then-cutting edge medical insights! If only they'd put the snowglobe out of their heads instead of going through with it. . .

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Easily one of my top five shows of all time.  Watched it as it aired back in the eighties.  Perhaps my favorite storyline was the mystery of the identity of the hospital rapist and the fallout from that revelation.  Such good tv.  Straddled high drama and quirky comedy seamlessly.  Favorite image:  Jack Morrison placing his ear on Eve Leighton's chest to hear her heart.  

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This show got weird in a way you almost have to go to daytime soaps to match.  But that actually made it unique, because even after it left the air other nighttime medical shows didn't really try to copy those aspects.  I mean I'm not saying it was acted or written like a really soap.  Just that it shared some of the framework of not being totally bound by conventional reality, but in its case threading that in with more grounded stuff around that (the part the daytime soaps either don't do or do badly).

 

Many years later, although with a different tone, I'd argue Grey's Anatomy finally tried some of the same stuff.  And I guess legal dramas tried this stuff a lot more.  LA Law did it, The Practice/Boston Legal, The Good Wife/Good Fight, etc.  Maybe to some degree a few of the Police dramas.

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When I saw the thread, I was worried they were doing a reboot. I used to love this show. Dr. Morrison (David Morse) took a beating! 

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On 9/13/2021 at 12:35 PM, SnarkShark said:

This show got weird in a way you almost have to go to daytime soaps to match.  But that actually made it unique, because even after it left the air other nighttime medical shows didn't really try to copy those aspects.  I mean I'm not saying it was acted or written like a really soap.  Just that it shared some of the framework of not being totally bound by conventional reality, but in its case threading that in with more grounded stuff around that (the part the daytime soaps either don't do or do badly).

 

Many years later, although with a different tone, I'd argue Grey's Anatomy finally tried some of the same stuff.  And I guess legal dramas tried this stuff a lot more.  LA Law did it, The Practice/Boston Legal, The Good Wife/Good Fight, etc.  Maybe to some degree a few of the Police dramas.

It was very different than any of the hospital shows. I watched ER and while I enjoyed it, it never felt the same. This show could be so serious but it never felt forced. And yes, there was the humor. I still remember Dr. Craig absolutely cutting down Dr. Ehrlich (the time he said he was going to drop kick him out of the surgical room). He treated him with absolute disdain, yet in the end, it worked out. 

 

Edited by libgirl2
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I was just thinking, weren't they one of the first to cover AIDS/HIV with Doctor Caldwell. I remember the original Degrassi back in the day had a student that was HIV+, the class bully. I saw it after St. Elsewhere but I was late to watching it. 

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3 hours ago, libgirl2 said:

It was very different than any of the hospital shows. I watched ER and while I enjoyed it, it never felt the same. This show could be so serious but it never felt forced. And yes, there was the humor. I still remember Dr. Craig absolutely cutting down Dr. Ehrlich (the time he said he was going to drop kick him out of the surgical room). He treated him with absolute disdain, yet in the end, it worked out. 

 

Remember the amazing “Time Heals” episode, which jumped around in time and was filmed differently depending on what era they were in (B&W for the 1930s, primary colors in the 1960s, etc)? We saw young Mark Craig with his mentor, Dr. David Domedion, whom Craig spoke about reverently in earlier episodes, but who we had never previously seen. And it turns out that Domedion had treated Craig the same way that Craig later treated Ehrlich. In the present day, Morrison’s son young son disappears, and when he finally is reunited with him, he cries and says quietly “Oh, Nina”, referring to his late wife.

I loved William Daniels and Bonnie Bartlett in this.

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9 hours ago, Kyle said:

Remember the amazing “Time Heals” episode, which jumped around in time and was filmed differently depending on what era they were in (B&W for the 1930s, primary colors in the 1960s, etc)? We saw young Mark Craig with his mentor, Dr. David Domedion, whom Craig spoke about reverently in earlier episodes, but who we had never previously seen. And it turns out that Domedion had treated Craig the same way that Craig later treated Ehrlich. In the present day, Morrison’s son young son disappears, and when he finally is reunited with him, he cries and says quietly “Oh, Nina”, referring to his late wife.

I loved William Daniels and Bonnie Bartlett in this.

Oh gosh, I remember! And Dr. Craig was groveling to him! I liked that episode so much. 

I only own season one on DVD and got it ages ago. I don't think they released the rest of the show on DVD. I don't have Hulu. 

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The other thing I loved was all the in-jokes to other MTM shows (St E was produced by MTM). Like Warren Coolidge from “The White Shadow” winding up working at St E. In one episode he sees a character played by Tim Van Patten (Salami on TWS) in the elevator and yells, “Salami! It’s Warren!” And Van Patten’s character says, “You got the wrong guy, pal.” There’s another episode where a mental ward patient thinks he is Mary Tyler Moore. Betty White is guest starring in another story in the same episode as an army major. The patient finally sees her toward the end of the episode and shouts, “Sue Ann Nivens, the Happy Homemaker! It’s me, Mary!” LOL

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57 minutes ago, Kyle said:

The other thing I loved was all the in-jokes to other MTM shows (St E was produced by MTM). Like Warren Coolidge from “The White Shadow” winding up working at St E. In one episode he sees a character played by Tim Van Patten (Salami on TWS) in the elevator and yells, “Salami! It’s Warren!” And Van Patten’s character says, “You got the wrong guy, pal.” There’s another episode where a mental ward patient thinks he is Mary Tyler Moore. Betty White is guest starring in another story in the same episode as an army major. The patient finally sees her toward the end of the episode and shouts, “Sue Ann Nivens, the Happy Homemaker! It’s me, Mary!” LOL

I remember the MTM guy! I liked the in jokes too. I really miss that show. 

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4 hours ago, libgirl2 said:

Oh gosh, I remember! And Dr. Craig was groveling to him! I liked that episode so much. 

I only own season one on DVD and got it ages ago. I don't think they released the rest of the show on DVD. I don't have Hulu. 

You realize that with Mr. Begley now being 72, Dr. Erhlich  would  be the head honcho if not retired. Though, unless they found a 7 foot tall med student, there wouldn't be the comical 'Mutt and Jeff' deal of the tall galoot being dominated by a sawed off Napoleon as there was with him and Mr. Daniels's character! 

Surprisingly, Mr. Begley wasn't as good in dramatic scenes as was Howie Mandel in this show! 

Edited by Blergh
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9 minutes ago, Blergh said:

You realize that with Mr. Begley now being 72, Dr. Erhlich  would  be the head honcho if not retired Though, unless they found a 7 foot tall med student, there wouldn't be the comical 'Mutt and Jeff' deal of the tall galoot being dominated by a sawed off Napoleon as there was with him and Mr. Daniels's character! 

Surprisingly, Mr. Begley wasn't as good in dramatic scenes as was Howie Mandel in this show! 

Howie Mandel was such a surprise in dramatic scenes. They do say comedians can do the best drama. 

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4 minutes ago, Blergh said:

Surprisingly, Mr. Begley wasn't as good in dramatic scenes as was Howie Mandel in this show! 

That episode where "Dr. Fiscus" (Howie's character) died and went to "heaven" was one of the most creative things I'd seen on a TV show to that point.  When he is talking to "God" - and "God" was identical to Dr. Fiscus, the look on Howie's face went from surprise to the realization of "Of course we look the same.  I was made in your image."

On the other hand, the last episode will forever remain as my least favorite ending for a show I loved.  I loved all of the visualized euphemisms (e.g., it was over when the fat lady sang). 

Spoiler

But the last scene where all of the stories and characters were just the imagination of Tommy . . . hated it.  

 

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3 minutes ago, AZChristian said:

That episode where "Dr. Fiscus" (Howie's character) died and went to "heaven" was one of the most creative things I'd seen on a TV show to that point.  When he is talking to "God" - and "God" was identical to Dr. Fiscus, the look on Howie's face went from surprise to the realization of "Of course we look the same.  I was made in your image."

On the other hand, the last episode will forever remain as my least favorite ending for a show I loved.  I loved all of the visualized euphemisms (e.g., it was over when the fat lady sang). 

  Reveal spoiler

But the last scene where all of the stories and characters were just the imagination of Tommy . . . hated it.  

 

I loved when he went to heaven. It all made sense too. And I enjoyed the writer's interpretation of hell. 

I was kind of "meh" with last episode. I admire them for doing something different but I felt somewhat cheated. 

Spoiler

Newhart did it best when he woke up and it was a dream. It fit the feel of the show, plus he would always be Dr. Robert Hartley and Suzanne Pleshette his wife. Dallas was also a cop out with the one season being a dream but Dallas was camp. 

 

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IMO,  the whole 'snowglobe' deal seemed as though the show's writers,producers,etc. were giving us longtime viewers who'd hung on through thick and thin one enormous. .  .RASPBERRY!! 

So, yes, I thought it was downright infuriating instead of remotely clever or original! 

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Aside from the controversial last scene, I didn’t like the rest of the episode either. I don’t like finales where everyone suddenly departs or everything gets nicely tied up. Within a very short span of time, most of the younger residents and the Craigs leave St E, Ecumena/Weigert sells the hospital back to the Catholic Church (why did they sell it to begin with, then?) and Westphall is reinstalled as Chief of Staff or whoever his title was. Way too busy and contrived.

Tom Fontana, who was the creative force behind St E, left before the last season to do the short-lived “Tattingers” series. So season 6 had a different showrunner, and there was a drop off in quality.

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15 minutes ago, Kyle said:

Aside from the controversial last scene, I didn’t like the rest of the episode either. I don’t like finales where everyone suddenly departs or everything gets nicely tied up. Within a very short span of time, most of the younger residents and the Craigs leave St E, Ecumena/Weigert sells the hospital back to the Catholic Church (why did they sell it to begin with, then?) and Westphall is reinstalled as Chief of Staff or whoever his title was. Way too busy and contrived.

Tom Fontana, who was the creative force behind St E, left before the last season to do the short-lived “Tattingers” series. So season 6 had a different showrunner, and there was a drop off in quality.

I remember the hospital was sold, but I forgot they sold it back to the church. 

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7 hours ago, Kyle said:

The other thing I loved was all the in-jokes to other MTM shows (St E was produced by MTM). Like Warren Coolidge from “The White Shadow” winding up working at St E. In one episode he sees a character played by Tim Van Patten (Salami on TWS) in the elevator and yells, “Salami! It’s Warren!” And Van Patten’s character says, “You got the wrong guy, pal.” There’s another episode where a mental ward patient thinks he is Mary Tyler Moore. Betty White is guest starring in another story in the same episode as an army major. The patient finally sees her toward the end of the episode and shouts, “Sue Ann Nivens, the Happy Homemaker! It’s me, Mary!” LOL

And "The Bob Newhart Show" had Mr. Carlin - who was in the group in St. Elsewhere.

Didja know Normal Lloyd (Auschlander) just died this past May - 106 years old!

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Norman Lloyd did an interview for one of CBS’ weekend shows just a few years ago and was amazingly lucid and articulate and was telling stories about working in Hollywood with Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock. When his death was reported, one of his friends in the industry said that when he had his annual visit with Lloyd this year, it was the first time that he seemed to have lost a step or two mentally. But that’s pretty damned good - only visibly slowing down mentally at 105!

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On 9/13/2021 at 7:27 PM, Twilight Man said:

Denzel Washington, "Mr. Feeny" and Howie Mandel walk into a hospital......................

You left out Gibbs and Provenza too. Why isn't this show on any of the retro channels? I'd rather watch this and falcon Crest instead of westerns.

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Serialized or semi-serialized shows tend not to repeat well, ratings-wise. So the mainstream retro channels tend to stick to the tried-and-true audience pleasers that have a standalone format, where you can watch an occasional episode and don’t have to worry about catching up on where the story is.

It’s a bit of a shame, really. You’d think there’d be a market for a drama channel where they can put on shows like this or LA Law or Falcon Crest or Knots Landing.

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In their joint Emmy TV Legends Interview, William Daniels and Bonnie Bartlett talked about Ellen having a fling with the new St. Elgius boss  (Ronnie Cox) when the Craigs were separated. It seems the intent was to celebrate the beleaguered Ellen's liberation from her stifling marriage to Dr. Mark. However, the other performers and the viewers wound up loathing Ellen's new . .. paramour and actually pitying Dr. Mark despite ALL he'd put Ellen through before and after their son's death.  Mr. Daniels said that he himself felt jealous because Miss Bartlett was enjoying cozying up to the other actor but Miss Bartlett liked that her character could do that without there being any actual consequences for HER (perk of acting). Oh, they did agree that the Craigs' ending as well as The Snowglobe were unbelievable and lame! 

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Dr Craig was a d bag...why his character was popular baffles me.

Serialized and semi serialized shows do better on streaming platforms than when rerun only on TV.  Although Knots Landing was reun on TNT in the 90s to huge success after it was canceled. 

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19 hours ago, JAYJAY1979 said:

Dr Craig was a d bag...why his character was popular baffles me.

Serialized and semi serialized shows do better on streaming platforms than when rerun only on TV.  Although Knots Landing was reun on TNT in the 90s to huge success after it was canceled. 

Well, Dr. Craig was somewhat similar to folks I've . .. had dealings with in my life and I suppose other audience members also could relate. Also,  the way Mr. Daniels depicted him, every time he seemed on the verge of being a total irredeemable martinet, he'd show a glimpse of humanity (e.g. crying at Green Eggs and Ham when told that those were his son's last words after spending the whole episode dissing his late son's actions and life and refusing to talk with Ellen about any positive memories). 

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I think it’s a tribute to the writers and William Daniels that a character who was so awful on paper was still someone that the audience could connect with. Mark Craig reminds me a bit of Archie Bunker in that here was another obnoxious character with a wife who deserved sainthood for putting up with him, and who showed glimpses of humanity. And also played by a very gifted actor.

I also liked when Mark and Ellen went to Philadelphia and she wanted him to sing to her so he sang a bit of a song from “1776”, which William Daniels starred in on Broadway.

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24 minutes ago, Kyle said:

I think it’s a tribute to the writers and William Daniels that a character who was so awful on paper was still someone that the audience could connect with. Mark Craig reminds me a bit of Archie Bunker in that here was another obnoxious character with a wife who deserved sainthood for putting up with him, and who showed glimpses of humanity. And also played by a very gifted actor.

I also liked when Mark and Ellen went to Philadelphia and she wanted him to sing to her so he sang a bit of a song from “1776”, which William Daniels starred in on Broadway.

On a trivial note: IMO, it's interesting how Mr. Daniels picked up the Boston Brahmin accent via having done a stage show of Life With Father in his teens (despite being a Brooklyn native) while Miss Bartlett has kept HER Midwestern accent through 70 years of marriage !

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So I finished watching season 2...quite a lot of continuing stories.

Dr. Armstrong's quick descent...it did seem to come out of nowhere, but after almost being attacked..it was the strong that broke the back for her I imagine.

The rapist story made total sense..because as we all know..it's about power more than sex.  I did like the scene between Dr Cathy and Dr Armstrong..which highlighted how each person can handle being a survivor of a crime.

And wow...Mark Harmon was hot.  No wonder my mom always crushed on him lol  He and Nancy Stafford had a nice chemistry and her role as administrator was a needed role on the show.

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Mark Harmon was a very handsome man - in particular as he grew into his looks when he hit his 30s (I’m always fascinated by people who are OK looking when they’re young and suddenly get very good looking in their 30s or even 40s). However, his second season mustache was ill advised, to put it nicely.

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On 9/18/2021 at 3:33 PM, Blergh said:

Well, Dr. Craig was somewhat similar to folks I've . .. had dealings with in my life and I suppose other audience members also could relate. Also,  the way Mr. Daniels depicted him, every time he seemed on the verge of being a total irredeemable martinet, he'd show a glimpse of humanity (e.g. crying at Green Eggs and Ham when told that those were his son's last words after spending the whole episode dissing his late son's actions and life and refusing to talk with Ellen about any positive memories). 

Dr. Craig was my favorite character. He was demanding but he had the same standards for himself. He made Erhlich a better doctor than if he had been a lax supervisor. Dr. Westphal could be too nice. I agree the finale stunk but the show had become too dark it's ok to have good things happen to characters between all the drama.

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On 9/19/2021 at 9:08 PM, kathyk24 said:

Dr. Craig was my favorite character. He was demanding but he had the same standards for himself. He made Erhlich a better doctor than if he had been a lax supervisor. Dr. Westphal could be too nice. I agree the finale stunk but the show had become too dark it's ok to have good things happen to characters between all the drama.

At least he had a personality and I always remember him as Mr Feeney :)

Now Dr Morrison...he was my least favorite character.  He was such a drip..and I read that the actor started darker characters to avoid being typecast.

And he was too personally involved with his patients.

So far, I liked Nurse Shirley the best of the characters..but I know she isn't on the whole time. 

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One of my all-time favorite drama series. Sure, when "ER" came along in the '90s, that instantly made this show seem a bit antiquated. But the storytelling is still outstanding. Fantastic writing, as expected for a Brand/Falsey show.

Two scenes leap to mind: 

After Mrs. Hufnagel died, the mortality conference where Dr. Craig admitted he was at fault. Just rewatched that scene now. Downright riveting. "We lose patients for a lot of reasons that we can't control, but when we lose a patient because of our own ineptitude, it's unforgivable." 

And the "Sweet Dreams" episode - Dr. Morrison's nightmare. Oh man, that last scene freaked me out. It just doesn't hit quite the same way with the music substitution (it was originally Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker"). 

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On 9/20/2021 at 9:38 PM, JAYJAY1979 said:

Now Dr Morrison...he was my least favorite character.  He was such a drip..and I read that the actor started darker characters to avoid being typecast.

And he was too personally involved with his patients.

Just like Westphall another tragic sad-sack. I also didn’t like Morrison’s Brady perm.

I liked Craig, Mrs. Craig, Auschlander, Lucy (in small doses), Annie (she was easy on the eyes), and Paulette (a wise person and someone I’d like to work for).

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Of course, it was ironic that the one character who Dr. Craig held the most  contempt for was a 'Dr. London' but never once was that character actually SEEN by the viewers. 

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