St. Elsewhere, an offbeat, critically acclaimed hospital drama of unprecedented quality, debuted on NBC on October 26, 1982. Produced by the company responsible for “Hill St. Blues,” it was considered a medical version of that program, showcasing unflinching realism and excellent writing and acting, as well as a unique blend of black humor, drama and tragedy. Despite amassing eight Emmy Awards and a fiercely loyal following during its five-year run, it received poor ratings. On May 25, 1988, “St. Elsewhere” closed its doors to network TV.
Set in a rundown Boston neighborhood, “St. Elsewhere” (the derisive name given to St. Eligius teaching hospital) serves patients not wanted by the more prestigious institutions. The sensitive Dr. Donald Westphall leads the administration, struggling with the daily triumphs and failures of hospital life. He is busy with the dedicated and caring staff who have their own difficulties, such as egotistical heart surgeon Dr. Mark Craig, inexperienced graduate Dr. Victor Ehrlich, and the young resident Dr. Phillip Chandler, who is afraid of not measuring up to the high standards of medicine.
It is a place where little joys like the birth of a baby are offset by muggings in the emergency room, ministering aid to the indigent and homeless, a nurse stealing medication from patients, and so on. And unlike most previous medical shows, patients on “St. Elsewhere” do not always pull through.
Created by Joshua Brand and John Falsey, the team who went on to create “Northern Exposure,” “St. Elsewhere” was in part based on the experiences of a friend of Brand’s in a Cleveland teaching hospital. The series humanized the never-ending ordeals of a fast-paced hospital, made real with hand-held cameras, multiple intersecting episodes and overlapping dialogue. The show’s fresh urban edge revitalized a programming genre that had grown stale, and paved the way to current medical drama successes such as “ER” and “Chicago Hope.”
USA / NBC – MTM / 137×60 minute episode / Broadcast 26 October 1982 – 25 May 1988
Creators: Joshua Brand, John Falsey / Music: Dave Grusin / Executive Producer: Bruce Paltrow
ED FLANDERS as Dr Donald Westphall
WILLIAM DANIELS as Dr Mark Craig
MARK HARMON as Dr Bob Caldwell
DENZEL WASHINGTON as Dr Philip Chandler
NORMAN LLOYD as Dr Daniel Aushchlander
ED BEGLEY JR as Dr Victor Ehrlich
HOWIE MANDEL as Dr Wayne Fiscus
DAVID BIRNEY as Dr Ben Samuels
CHRISTINA PICKLES as Nurse Helen Rosenthal
DAVID MORSE as Dr Jack Morrison
ERIC LANEUVILLE as Luther Hawkins
CYNTHIA SYKES as Dr Annie Cavanero
TERENCE KNOX as Dr Peter White
G.W. BAILEY as Dr Hugh Beale
ELLEN BRY as Nurse Daniels