Nick at Nite Programming: St. Elsewhere

Steve Arino

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Hello Out There From TV Land,

For my next series of posts, yours truly will be presenting Complete Showographies of Classic Nick at Nite Programming, a different TV series of the 150+ shows that have aired in regular reruns on Nick at Nite since 1985.

Tonight's Nick at Nite Showography is the hit '80s Hospital Drama "St. Elsewhere."

Created by Bruce Paltrow, "St. Elsewhere" originally aired on the NBC Television Network from October 26, 1982 - May 25, 1988.

Spanning 6 seasons consisting of 137 hours, "St. Elsewhere" centered on the staff and patients of the fictional St. Eligius Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

Dr. Donald Westphall (Ed Flanders) was the Hospital Chief of Services, a widower with 2 young children: an average teenage girl, Elizabeth (Dana Short), and a young son with a severe case of Autism, Tommy (Chad Allen); Dr. Mark Craig (William Daniels) served as a brilliant Heart Surgeon with an even bigger ego to boot; Dr. Victor Ehrlich (Ed Begley, Jr.) served as Craig's protege and was a recent Medical School graduate; Dr. Wayne Fiscus (Howie Mandel) served as the show's Comic Relief character; Nurse Helen Rosenthal (Christina Pickles) was the Head Nurse at the Hospital for most of the series' entire run; and Dr. Phil Chandler (Denzel Washington) was the unsure-of-himself Resident Surgeon.

Later additions to the show included Dr. Bobby Caldwell (Mark Harmon), who eventually was diagnosed with AIDS and written out midway through Season 4 as having started an AIDS clinic, eventually dying of AIDS in Season 6 (after Mark Harmon left "St. Elsewhere" for a real-life movie career); Dr. Seth Griffin (Bruce Greenwood), whose devout Christian faith sometimes got in the way of his Practicing Medicine; and Dr. John Gideon (Ronny Cox), the new Chief of Services after St. Eligius was bought by the fictional Ecumena Corporation (not to be confused with the real-life Humana Corporation, which owns a number of real-life Hospitals across the United States of America).

Critically acclaimed throughout its 6-year run, "St. Elsewhere" never ranked above #50 in the Nielsen Ratings; the end of its run, however, was not due to low ratings, but rather because the series' production company, MTM Enterprises, Inc., wanted more money than the powers that be at NBC could afford to continue with production on "St. Elsewhere."

After being fired from "St. Elsewhere," Ed Flanders famously bared his naked buttocks to both Ronny Cox and the home audience watching the show that night, in the episode "A Moon for the Misbegotten." (To be fair, Ed Flanders kept both his shirt and tie on, along with a suit) and delivered his parting line "You Can Kiss My Ass, Pal."

The series finale telecast on May 25, 1988 was one of the most memorable in prime-time network TV history.

Among other notable events: Dr. Westphall returned to work at St. Eligius; Dr. Craig and his wife Ellen (who was portrayed by William Daniels' real-life wife, Bonnie Bartlett) decided to move to Cleveland, Ohio where she was offered a job; Dr. Daniel Auschlander (Norman Lloyd), after a series-long battle with Liver Cancer, died of a Massive Stroke; and the entire 6-year run of "St. Elsewhere" was revealed to be the figment of the imagination of Tommy Westphall.

Also in the final scene, Dr. Auschlander returned to Earth--as Donald Westphall's father, who helped Donald (a Construction Worker in the real world) raise Tommy and was himself a Widower.

Tragedy struck the cast of "St. Elsewhere" in 1995 when Ed Flanders, age 60, shot and killed himself after a long battle with Back Injuries (which caused him to go into a Deep Depression) at his home in Denny, California; though he was no longer on Earth, Ed Flanders' memory lived on, thanks to "St. Elsewhere" reruns having been in off-network Syndication.

Reruns of "St. Elsewhere" began airing on Nick at Nite on April 29, 1996 as part of a simulcast event of the all-night launch of sister network TV Land (then known as Nick at Nite's TV Land), with its premiere TV episode airing that night at 1 A.M. ET / PT; after the all-night event, reruns of "St. Elsewhere" began airing every Saturday night at 11 P.M. ET / PT on Nick at Nite.

It should be noted before I continue that Nick at Nite had a weekly rotating block of shows from May 4, 1996 - July 6, 1996 known as "Nick at Nite's TV Land Sampler," a weekly sampler of TV Land Programming that included, among other shows included in the rotation, "Hill Street Blues," "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour," "Mannix," "Petticoat Junction," "That Girl," "The Ed Sullivan Show," "St. Elsewhere," "Cannon," "The Phil Silvers Show" & "The Addams Family," as well as past Nick at Nite favorites "Green Acres" & "Mister Ed."

After its regular Nick at Nite airings, reruns of "St. Elsewhere" returned for the final time on Nick at Nite from June 30, 1997 - July 4, 1997 as part of the week-long simulcast event (on Nick at Nite and Nick at Nite's TV Land) of TV Guide's "Greatest Episodes Marathon," with the "St. Elsewhere" 2-parter "Time Heals" airing on the night of July 3, 1997 from 11 P.M. to 1 A.M. ET / PT on both Nick at Nite and Nick at Nite's TV Land.

The other episode of "St. Elsewhere" to have aired on Nick at Nite was on May 11, 1996, with the episode "Bypass," the 2nd episode ever made (which featured a very young Tim Robbins as a Bomb Terrorist admitted to the Hospital).

After its Nick at Nite airings, "St. Elsewhere" reruns moved full-time to Nick at Nite's TV Land.

In the year 2000, the Bravo Cable Channel began airing reruns of "St. Elsewhere" after it left TV Land.

For my next Nick at Nite Showography tomorrow, I'll be talking about "Hill Street Blues."

Stay tuned.

Steve Arino
 

Darklordavaitor

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I haven't seen St. Elsewhere, but reading up about the show gives me interest in doing so. I'm a fan of the MTM studio, and what I've read makes it sound like a strong addition to the canon. But it doesn't look easy to, since only the first season is on DVD, and it doesn't look to stream anywhere.

I'm especially interested in seeing the episode where Norm Peterson and Cliff Clavin show up. I am familiar with the scene in Cheers where doctors from St. Elsewhere show up, though.
 

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