Sunday, September 30, 2012

Here's Boomer!

The story behind Jack "Boomer" Morrison's nickname, which was inspired by NBC network executives.

Clancy (Helen Hunt) meets Boomer (David Morse).
In "Hello, Goodbye", the finale of season two, recently-widowed Dr. Jack Morrison (David Morse), having just barely managed to qualify for the second year of the residency program at St. Eligius, spends a day on the town with his son, Pete. While out and about, he meets a pretty and charming college student named Clancy Williams (Helen Hunt), who is gathering signatures on a petition for nuclear disarmament. Jack asks, "What is this?", and Clancy replies, "What does it look like, Boomer? It's a petition." They begin a relationship that carries into season three, with a brief re-connection in season four. When Clancy meets the other doctors, she refers to Jack by her pet name for him, "Boomer". The staff picks up on it, and Jack gets referred to as Boomer on and off throughout the rest of the series.

In season three's "My Aim is True", repeat patient Mrs. Hufnagel (Florence Halop) introduces herself to a candidate for the position of Dr. Auschlander's assistant, and gives her the lowdown on what really goes on at St. Eligius. "Sodom and Gomorrah. You name it, the doctors at St. Eligius do it. That bleach-blond, Ehrlich, he used to get his jollies by tying up his ex-wife. There's no shame around here. They've even got a doctor here named 'Boomer'." The implication is that Clancy gave him the nickname because of his prowess in the sack. However, we've seen that she started calling him that before they knew each other in the biblical sense.

There's a behind-the-scenes explanation though, and it turns out "Boomer" is an inside joke. From the DVD commentary for "Cora and Arnie", with producer Mark Tinker and Emmy-winning guest star Doris Roberts:

Monday, September 24, 2012

"Bypass"

A recap of episode 2 of season 1, in which Dr. Craig pushes a patient into agreeing to bypass surgery, injured terrorist bomber Andrew Rhinehardt angers the staff, and Mr. McAllister arrives to see his wife, the bombing victim.

Dr. Mark Craig (William Daniels): "I'm going to save you"
We were introduced to Dr. Mark Craig (William Daniels) in a brief scene in the first episode, "Pilot", but we get the full-on force of Dr. Craig in "Bypass", as does Dr. Victor Ehrlich (Ed Begley, Jr.), his much-abused protege. We pick up where the first episode left off, with two people injured in a terrorist bombing in a bank admitted to the hospital--an innocent bystander in a coma, and the bomber himself, who set off the explosion prematurely.

"Bypass" begins with an old TV device where the announcer says, "Tonight, on St. Elsewhere", and they show a selection of shots from the episode to come to whet your appetite for the action ahead. They did this through season two or so, I think. The producers want you to anticipate:
  • A press conference about the bank bombing; the bomber rolls his eyes when brought before his comatose victim, Katherine McAllister, in intensive care
  • Dr. Craig tells a patient that the arteries in his heart are blocked, and assures him, "I'm going to save you" (in a self-aggrandizing tone that's hilarious and awesome); Craig is incensed when Ehrlich doesn't get the consent for the surgery
  • Dr. Beale asks Dr. Samuels to teach him how to swim; Beale pulls them both underwater in a panic
  • Katherine McAllister's husband arrives at the hospital
  • Dr. Morrison asks the bomber why he did it, the bomber says, "you wouldn't understand," Jack grabs the bomber by the throat
"Bypass" is included in the VHS collection, The Very Best of St. Elsewhere. Also in this episode: Victor chokes when Dr. Craig quizzes him during surgery; Dr. White has difficulties with a set of x-rays; Wayne and Cathy's mutual attraction continues, the terrorist bomber's parents arrive to see him. We see more of the doctors' personalities and backgrounds.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Video: Interview with Norman Lloyd

Videos of an interview with Norman Lloyd about his career and his experience on St. Elsewhere, courtesy of the Archive of American Television and YouTube.

Norman Lloyd (Dr. Daniel Auschlander) discusses his long
career and his time on St. Elsewhere.
Here are some clips from an interview conducted from September 7, 2000, hosted at the Archive of American Television, and also divided into sections on YouTube. In the full version of the interview, Lloyd discusses his long and accomplished career, from studying with Eva Le Galienne (who came out of retirement to appear in the Emmy-winning episode "The Women" in season two), joining the Mercury Theatre, appearing in the title role of Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur and his long association with the legendary director, and much more. I haven't watched the whole thing (it's long), but I'll bet it's interesting. If you're looking for St. Elsewhere stuff, jump to six minutes into part six.

The following clips from YouTube are excerpts from this full version.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cheers Writer Ken Levine on the St. Elsewhere-Cheers Crossover

From veteran TV writer Ken Levine's blog, where he gets the lowdown on the episode from writer John Masius.

Carla (Rhea Perlman) leads the bar in a chorus of
boos for the "butchers from St. Elsewhere."
I love that writer Ken Levine, veteran of Cheers, M*A*S*H, Frasier, The Simpsons, and Everybody Loves Raymond to name a few, starts his blog post "St. Elsewhere Goes to Cheers: The Inside Story" by calling it "maybe the strangest cross-promotion in television history." I'd say that's not far-fetched.

It's kind of surreal to me that in the finale of season three, Drs. Westphall, Craig and Auschlander decide they could use a belt or two (at the urging of an ailing Katherine Auschlander, due for heart surgery to be performed by Craig in the morning), and drop into a local watering hole that Westphall had heard Ehrlich talking about, Cheers. Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger, and George Wendt are the only Cheers cast members involved. (They had wanted Nicholas Colasanto as Coach, but he died.) It's very strange to see St. Elsewhere's handheld tracking shots on the Cheers set.

Levine gets the story from St. Elsewhere writer John Masius, titled by Masius, "How St. Elsewhere Came to Cheers: A Revisionist History." He offers some interesting background on how the episode came together. The most interesting bit to me is the one bit of negative feedback they got from Cheers writers Glen and Les Charles, who didn't like the dialogue written for Carla and Cliff. I feel the same way. I've always found their appearances to be weird approximations of Carla and Cliff that just don't quite ring true. However, I've always enjoyed the bit where it turns out that Norm was Dr. Auschlander's accountant, and had previously prepared tax returns that stuck Auschlander with a $17,000 penalty.

Daniel (Norman Lloyd) is reunited with his former
accountant, Norm Peterson (George Wendt).
It's not the only crossover between the two shows. There's a Cheers episode from October, 1983, "Little Sister, Don't Cha", where Carla, about to deliver yet another child, announces to the bar that she'll be having her baby at St. Eligius. In this episode of St. Elsewhere,  which aired March 27, 1985, Carla reacts with disgust when she finds out the doctors are from St. Eligius, where she had been "forced" to have one of her kids.

In preparing this post, I came across several links about St. Elsewhere's crossovers, including this one. There will likely be a post on those in the future.
Update, September 20, 2012: YouTube comes through again... here's a twelve-minute clip of the scene from "Cheers". The poster refers to it as "one of the most bizarre crossovers in television history."



Update, July 20, 2013: TIME magazine just put this crossover on its list of '10 Classic TV Crossovers'. They used the same YouTube clip I posted here.