The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
Featured Series (S)
St. Elsewhere 
NBC, 1982-1988

Dr. Donald Westphall
Ed Flanders
Dr. Mark Craig
William Daniels
Dr. Victor Ehrlich
Ed Begley, Jr.
Dr. Wayne Fiscus
Howie Mandel
Dr. Phillip Chandler
Denzel Washington
Mrs. Ellen Craig
Bonnie Bartlett
Dr. Daniel Auschlander
Norman Lloyd
Dr. Jack Morrison
David Morse
Nurse Helen Rosenthal
Christina Pickles
Dr. Annie Cavanaro
Cynthia Sikes (1982-1985)
Dr. Cathy Martin
Barbara Whinnery (1982-1986)
Dr. Ben Samuels
David Birney (1982-1983)
Dr. Robert Caldwell
Mark Harmon (1983-1986)
Nurse Shirley Daniels
Ellen Bry (1982-1985)
Dr. Peter White
Terence Knox (1982-1985)
Dr. Seth Griffin
Bruce Greenwood (1986-1988)
Dr. Paulette Kiem
France Nuyen (1986-1988)
Dr. John Gideon
Ronny Cox (1987-1988)

The name of the hospital was actually St. Eligius -- but the people who worked in that rundown facility in a grimy part of Boston called it "St. Elsewhere" because the patients weren't the only ones who wished they were anywhere else but there. It was the place patients who weren't wanted by other, more upscale, medical facilities ended up. Sometimes they recovered and sometimes they didn't. For six years this one-hour medical drama with outstanding writing and a great ensemble cast graced the small screen with its unique blend of black humor, gritty realism and occasional wackiness. Though it was never a Top Ten series, it earned 63 Emmy nominations (winning 13 times) and enjoyed a fiercely loyal viewing audience.

St. Elsewhere was an MTM production, and its talented band of writers and producers shared the old Republic Pictures building in Hollywood with the Hill Street Blues gang led by Steven Bochco. At the helm was Bruce Paltrow, whoseThe White Shadow series had been successful enough to warrant a 13-episode commitment from NBC for a new series. MTM pitched the St. Elsewhere pilot as "Hill Street in a hospital," and NBC bought it. All but one of the first season's 22 episodes were penned by Joshua Brand and John Falsey, nicknamed "Dr. Death" and "Mr. Depression." According to one associate, "In John and Josh's shows virtually no one got out of the hospital alive." Ratings were low -- in fact, for two weeks St. Elsewhere was the lowest-rated show on television -- and everyone expected cancellation. But the final episode received a high rating number; legend has it that NBC honcho Brandon Tartikoff's wife Lily convinced her husband to renew the show. That last episode of the first season was written by John Masius and Tom Fontana; they took over the writing chores for the second season, blending droll humor with first-rate drama, and St. Elsewhere hit its stride.

A remarkably talented cast included Ed Flanders as Dr. Donald Westphall, chief of staff and father figure; William Daniels as Dr. Mark Craig, an egotistical heart surgeon; Ed Begley, Jr. as Dr. Victor Ehrlich, a good doctor with a horrible bedside manner; comedian Howie Mandel as Dr. Wayne Fiscus; Terence Knox as Dr. Peter White, who in the third season turns rapist and ends up shot to death by Nurse Shirley Daniels (Ellen Bry); Mark Harmon as Dr. Robert Caldwell, plastic surgeon and heartthrob; Denzel Washington as Dr. Phillip Chandler, who had to come to terms with the fact that he hated being a physician; and Bonnie Bartlett as Mrs. Ellen Craig. (Daniels and Bartlett won two Emmies each, Flanders one, and Begley received six Emmy nominations.)

St. Elsewhere was an innovative and sometimes daring show.  It was, for instance, the first series to deal with AIDS on TV. Bruce Paltrow battled with the censors for a story about testicular cancer -- the word "testicles" was taboo -- and won.  The series was also quite wacky at times. In one episode, a woman is killed by a hospital bed, and in another Dr. Fiscus "dies" and goes to hell; when he is brought back to life by his coworkers he is a "changed man." Dr. Ehrlich engages in tacky monologues with anesthetized surgery patients. There were moving moments as well -- perhaps none moreso than when a doctor listens to his dead wife's heart for the last time, after it's been given to a transplant patient. St. Elsewhere was cancelled in 1988, after six seasons, not because of low ratings but rather due to MTM's demand for more money from NBC.

Series Highlights
Pilot (October 26, 1982) -- Dr. Samuels learns he has a venereal disease, Dr. Morrison deals with a dysentery patient, and Dr. Fiscus meets Dr. Cathy Martin.
"Cora and Arnie" (November 23, 1982) -- Morrison helps a bag lady and her retarded husband. (James Coco and Doris Roberts both won Emmies for their guest performances.)
"Legionnaires" (2 parts, December 7 & 14, 1982) -- Dr. Westphall creates an isolation floor to halt the spread of the deadly Legionnaires Disease.
"AIDS and Comfort" (December 21, 1983) -- A Boston city councilman is diagnosed with aids, and rumors threaten a blood drive run by Drs. Daniel and Ehrlich.
"Qui Transtulit Sustinet" (November 16, 1983) -- Dr. Craig performs a controversial heart transplant while Dr. Morrison tries to come to terms with the loss of his wife.
"Equinox" (March 14, 1984) -- Dr. Cavanero must tell a young man he has testicular cancer while Dr. Martin decides to come forward about her rape.
"Two Balls and A Strike" (October 3, 1984) -- The St. Eligius rapist strikes again, the nurses go on strike, and Dr. Craig's wife insists that he try marriage counseling.
"Cheers" (March 27, 1985) -- Ehrlich seeks religion while Dr. Westphall announces he is going to resign during a get-together at a neighborhood bar called Cheers.
"Loss of Power" (December 11, 1985) -- Dr. Craig has to perform emergency surgency during a blackout while a man who thinks he's a vampire asks Dr. Morrison for help.
"Time Heals" (2 parts, February 19 & 20, 1986) -- Drs. Craig, Westphall and Aushclander reminisce about their experiences at St. Eligius on the 50th anniversary of the hospital's opening.
"After Life" (November 26, 1986) -- Dr. Fiscus is mortally wounded in an ER shootout and experiences both heaven and hell before his colleagues resurrect him.
"Last Dance at the Wrecker's Ball" (May 27, 1987) -- Patients are transferred, staff members consider the future, and Dr. Auschlander collapses when St. Eligius is shut down.
"Resurrection" (September 16, 1987) -- St. Eligius reopens with Dr. John Gideon in charge, and Fiscus discovers a baby has AIDS.
"Weigh In, Way Out" (December 2, 1987) -- Nurse Papandrao takes a walk with a dying man while Dr. Morrison competes with another doctor for the honor of delivering the hospital's 100,000th baby.
"The Last One" (May 25, 1988) -- Gideon fights to save St. Eligius -- only it seems the entire six-year saga of "St. Elsewhere" has been the figment of an autistic boy's imagination!

Some St. Elsewhere Trivia

Bruce Paltrow is the father of actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who was six years old when dad started work on the series. In some episodes you can hear "Paging Gwyneth" on the hospital public address system.

Mark Daniels and Bonnie Bartlett, who played Mark and Ellen Craig, were married in real life; they became the only married couple to win Emmies on the same night.

Cast member Howie Mandel ended up in a hospital for real when he burst a sinus vessel during a stand-up comedy routine in which he pulled a latex surgical glove over his head and blew it up, from the inside, by exhaling through his nose. Doctors strongly advised him not to try that stunt again.

The building used for exterior shots of St. Eligius Hospital was actually a Boston apartment building.

Scarecrow and Mrs. King 
(CBS, 1983-1987)
Lee Stetson ("Scarecrow")
Bruce Boxleitner
Amanda King
Kate Jackson
Dotty West
Beverly Garland
Billy Melrose
Mel Stewart
Philip King
Paul Stout
Jamie King
Greg Mortion
T.P. Aquinas
Raleigh Bond (1986-87)
Dr. Smyth
Myron Natwick (1986-87)

When secret agent Lee Stetson, aka "Scarecrow," (Bruce Boxleitner) is forced to use civilian Amanda King (Kate Jackson) to help him dodge KGB agents, she proves to be such a natural that he talks her into becoming his partner. She takes a job as a secretary at the International Federal Film Company, a Washington D.C.-based front for the agency that Lee works for. His boss, Billy Melrose, is highly skeptical, but Amanda proves herself to be the perfect spy. After all, who would suspect this suburban divorcee and mother of dabbling in espionage? Amanda finds the work exciting, and besides, she's attracted to the tall, handsome Scarecrow. In the fourth season of this charming and lighthearted action series, Lee and Amanda get married. There's just one hitch -- they can't tell anybody in order to protect Amanda's family, which includes her children, Philip and Jamie and her mother Dotty.
Alabama-born Kate Jackson was named one of "The Twelve Promising New Actors" in John Willis' Screen World, and prior to Scarecrow and Mrs. King starred in another popular television series, Charlie's Angels (1976-1981). In fact, she had to turn down the lead role in the film Kramer vs. Kramer because of her commitment to Charlie's Angels. Her first series work was in the daytime horror soap, Dark Shadows, and following the cancellation of Scarecrow and Mrs. King, appeared in the short-lived Baby Boom series (1988). She has starred in numerous TV movies, including, most recently, A Mother's Testimony (2001). Married and divorced three times, she has an adopted son, and survived a battle with breast cancer.
Bruce Boxleitner (b. 1950, Elgin, Illinois) had appeared in the TV series How the West was Won (1977-79) previous to signing on with Scarecrow and Mrs. King. He has since appeared in the popular sci-fi series, Babylon 5. He has also starred in numerous TV movies, including Bare Essence (1982) and Red River (1988), as well as feature films, the most recent being the Civil War epic Gods and Generals, due to be released in 2002. He is married to Melissa Gilbert and is the father of three. He has written several sci-fi novels, and in 1998 was appointed to the National Space Society board of governors.
Scarecrow and Mrs. King lasted for four seasons, with a total of 88 episodes. It is now airing on PAX, in syndication.

Series Highlights
The First Time (10.3.83): Secret agent Lee Stetson recruits an unsuspecting civilian, Amanda King, to help him find a leak in his organization.
There Goes the Neighborhood (10.10.83): Lee and Amanda pose as a suburban couple to solve a case involving a South American gunrunner and a murdered housewife.
If Thoughts Could Kill (10.17.83): When Lee gets a physical he also gets brainwashed into believing that his boss is a traitor -- and must be killed.
The A.C.M. Kid (10.31.83): Lee and Amanda babysit a computer genius, the son of kidnapped Russian emigres who is forced to provide secret codes to the men holding his parents hostage.
To Catch a Mongoose (10.4.84): In London, Amanda must identify a high-school friend suspected of being a hired killer. Filmed in London.
Our Man in Tegernsee (11.19.84): Amanda is arrested in Munich for peddling counterfeit money, and Lee must find a way to clear her. Filmed in West Germany.
Affair in Bromfield Hall (11.26.84):A seedy photographer is responsible for getting Amanda enmeshed in a sex scandal while she and Lee are investigating a security leak in London.
Ship of Spies (1.7.85): Lee and Amanda set sail on a honeymoon cruise to find out why an informant has disappeared, and learn the cruise ship is being used to transport money to revolutionaries.
A Lovely Little Affair (9.23.85): Amanda falls for an art restorer that Lee suspects is linked to international terrorists. Ben Murphy guest stars.
We're Off to See the Wizard (9.30.85): Investigating the murder of six female agents, Lee is dismayed when the clues lead him to his former trainer, an agent he once admired.
J. Edgar's Ghost (11.18.85): An agency librarian finds secret files she thinks once belonged to J. Edgar Hoover -- and also finds that her lover, a former agent, has betrayed her.
Stemwinder, Pts. 1 & 2 (9.19.86 & 9.26.86): Thanks to a clever KGB agent, Lee and Amanda are accused of treason, and the agency issues a "shoot to kill" order.
The Man Who Died Twice (11.21.86): While Lee and Amanda have second thoughts about marriage, one of Scarecrow's contacts fakes his own death to protect his family.
Do You Take This Spy (2.13.87): Before heading for their own wedding, Lee and Amanda must solve an art-theft case.

In 1986, the show won Emmy Awards for music composition (Arthur B. Rubenstein) and costume design (Molly Campbell & Bill Lapidus.)
Near the end of the fourth (and final) season, Kate Jackson made only cameo appearances, as she was undergoing radiation therapy to treat breast cancer.

Sledge Hammer! 
(ABC, 1986-1988)

Inspector Sledge Hammer
David Rasche
Detective Dori Doreau
Anne Marie Martin
Captain Trunk
Harrison Page

This half-hour parody of cop shows starred David Rasche as Inspector Sledge Hammer, a police officer with an inordinate fondness for his pearl-handled .44 Magnum (nicknamed "Gun") and a very shaky acquaintance with legal procedure. He'll fire warning shots at jaywalkers and demolish a 16-story building to bag a sniper. His favorite charity is Toy Guns for Tots. According to the mayor, Hammer makes "Rambo look like Pee Wee Herman." When a gun-toting female criminal scoffs that he would never shoot a woman, Hammer guns her down and drawls, "Call me a feminist." His partner is Dori Doreau, a bright and beautiful policewoman who happens to be a karate expert. (After Dori drops a thug with a karate chop, Hammer says, "Doreau, that was absolutely unnecessary and excessive. I loved it.") It's Dori who usually solves the case -- though you will never be able to convince Hammer of that.

When asked what Sledge Hammer! was about, creator/producer Alan Spencer replied, "Ultimately, what the show is about . . . is a half-hour." When pressed, Spencer and star Rasche declared the show to be a spoof of reactionary cop films and series, a la Dirty Harry. "The danger is that the show might be enjoyed for the wrong reasons," said Rasche. "It's inevitable that some people won't get the joke, but you can't not do it for that reason." Sledge Hammer! poked fun at nearly everything, and the sight gags were so outrageously funny (unless you were hopelessly mired in political correctness), that in spite of being scheduled opposite hit series like The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Dallas and Miami Vice, it managed to hold on for two seasons, with a total of 41 episodes aired.

Before coming to television, Rasche was an accomplished stage actor who earned a master's degree at the University of Chicago divinity school and then signed on with Chicago's famous improvisational troupe, Second City Cabaret. He resisted television work until Sledge Hammer! lured him away from the stage.

Series Highlights
"Sledge Hammer!" (pilot; 9.23.86): Hammer and his new partner Doreau rescue the mayor's daughter from terrorists.
"They Shoot Hammers, Don't They?" (10.17.86): Hammer's old partner breaks out of prison and challenges him to a duel.
"All Shook Up" (11.6.86): Hammer looks into the murder of Elvis impersonators.
"Magnum Farce" (11.22.86): Hammer takes on a group of  vigilantes.
"Desperately Seeking Dori" (2.7.87): A blow to the head leaves Dori acting just like Hammer.
"The Spa Who Loved Me" (4.28.87): Female terrorists steal a nuclear bomb that Hammer accidentally detonates.
"A Clockwork Hammer" (9.17.87): In a spoof of Max Headroom, Hammer meets a computerized version of himself.
"Play It Again, Sledge," (10.1.87): Suspended from the force, Hammer gets help from Bogart's ghost when he opens a detective agency.
"The Death of a Few Salesmen" (10.15.87): In a send-up of Crocodile Dundee, Hammer poses as Australian car magnate Crocodile Bruce.
"Hammeroid" (11.26.87): Breaking nearly all his bones, Hammer uses a robotic suit to stop crime in a spoof of Robocop.
"Sledge in Toyland" (12.3.87): A toy manufacturer is accosted by one of his own toys.
"Suppose They Gave a War & Sledge Came?" (1.22.88): Hammer joins weekend war gamers to investigate a mysterious death.
"The Secret of My Excess" (1.29.88): Hammer takes on an evil yuppie.
"It Happened What Night?" (2.3.88): A surveillance tape shows that Hammer and Dori (gasp!) slept together.