Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Mrs. Hufnagel Chronicles, Part 3

St. Elsewhere's most memorable patient makes her third appearance to report a stolen pair of slippers.
Mrs. Hufnagel (Florence Halop) wants to know who
took her slippers.

In her third appearance on St. Elsewhere, in "Strikeout", patient Florence Hufnagel (Florence Halop) pesters Nurse Shirley Daniels (Ellen Bry) and Dr. Elliott Axelrod (Stephen Furst) at the nurses' station. Elliott is trying to locate a patient, and while Mrs. Hufnagel complains about her missing pair of slippers, Shirley tells Elliott that the patient was transferred to Boston General for surgery.

This encounter is particularly significant because this is the first time we see Mrs. Hufnagel with Elliott, and it's where she first refers to him as "Chubs". Of all the staff at St. Eligius, Elliott is the only one with whom she will develop a bond.

I decided to leave in the entire final shot of the scene, which, in classic St. Elsewhere style, is a handheld shot that starts on the conversation between Shirley and Elliott, follows him as he tries to catch the elevator, tracks Mrs. Hufnagel as she spots the Mr. Cranston who she thinks took her slippers, settles on the characters in the next scene, firefighters Manny Schecter (Stephen Elliott) and Michael Duffy (John Hammond), as we see Mrs. Hufnagel frantically trying to reclaim her footwear from the other patient in the background, and follows Manny and Michael into the elevator as it goes down. The shot is 34 seconds long.

Here's Mrs. Hufnagel, out for justice:



Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Mrs. Hufnagel Chronicles, Part 2

The second in a series of videos featuring St. Eligius's most memorable repeat patient, Mrs. Hufnagel.

Mrs. Hufnagel (Florence Halop) has little sympathy
for Dr. Victor Ehrlich (Ed Begley, Jr.). Neither does
Dr. Bobby Caldwell (Mark Harmon).
Here's the second coming of Florence Hufnagel, from the third episode of season three, "Two Balls and a Strike". In this episode, the nurses have gone on strike, forcing the remaining hospital staff to cover nursing duties in their absence.

Here, aspiring heart surgeon Dr. Victor Ehrlich (Ed Begley, Jr.) is wheeling Mrs. Hufnagel (Florence Halop) down the hallway while bemoaning his share of the burden created by the nurses' strike to Dr. Bobby Caldwell (Mark Harmon). However, Mrs. Hufnagel has her own opinions about the situation.

You'd think it would occur to Victor to appreciate the nurses for their contribution to the care of the patients and functioning of the facility, but he's not yet the kind of person who would do that sort of thing.

The second clip in the continuing adventures of Mrs. Hufnagel:






Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Mrs. Hufnagel Chronicles, Part 1

The beginning of a series of clips featuring season three's legendary recurring patient, Mrs. Hufnagel.

Mrs. Hufnagel's (Florence Halop) reign of terror at St.
Eligius begins, with first victims Luther (Eric Laneuville)
and Dr. Cavanero (Cynthia Sikes).
In the second episode of season three (1984-85) of St. Elsewhere, the hospital is feeling the effects of the impending nurses' strike. There's a brief scene where Dr. Annie Cavanero (Cynthia Sikes) checks in on a patient, an elderly woman who tells her in a racially insensitive manner that she refuses to go along with orderly Luther Hawkins (Eric Laneuville) until she finds out what the hell is going on at St. Eligius.

Florence Halop was hired just for this one scene, but the producers saw something in her they liked, so they brought her back, and then kept bringing her back utni she had appeared eighteen times. Florence Hufnagel's repeated admissions to St. Eligius, each time with a more serious medical condition, became the one of the show's most prominent story lines by the end of the third season. Along the way, she gets passed from doctor to doctor until she has verbally assaulted every on-screen physician at St. Eligius. 

Halop was so good, the producers of Night Court hired her to replace the recently departed Selma Diamond as the wise-cracking bailiff Florence Steiner for the 1985-86 season before her death from cancer on July 15, 1986.

Inspired by the other video clips around the web that are escaping takedown, I am presenting the continuing adventures of Mrs. Hufnagel on YouTube (for as long as I can). The series kicks off with her scene from "Playing God, Part 2".

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A St. Elsewhere Treat on YouTube

Someone has put full episodes of St. Elsewhere on YouTube--enjoy it while you can.
If it's still there, jump to 39:09 for this brief but hilarious
encounter between  Drs. Auschlander and Martin.

I couldn't believe it when I saw it, but I came across a video on YouTube with "St. Elsewhere" in the otherwise German title, and when I saw that it was 48 minutes long, I realized what it was--a complete episode. Turns out to be the premiere of season two, "The Ties That Bind" (the title of the video contains the original air date, October 26, 1983). That's exciting, because in North America, the only St. Elsewhere you can watch online is season one (on Hulu). "Lust Et Veritas" on the same channel.

This is a great opportunity for those who have never seen the show but were curious enough about it to not stop reading this by now to check out what episodes of St. Elsewhere were like. They are embedded below.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Latest Work: Episode Descriptions

The St. Elsewhere Experience now boasts the most complete set of St. Elsewhere episode descriptions on the Web.

This is the photo they use at TV.com's page for
St. Elsewhere. It's from the second half of
season three.
I have to give credit to the late Donna Lemaster, whom I never knew, but whose St. Elsewhere episode guide I first came across in the Internet's fledgling days. Lemaster's guide has long been the only resource for finding titles, air dates and descriptions of all 137 episodes of St. Elsewhere, and over the years it gained some additions and bounced around before ending up at epguides.com. Recently, I discovered that the episode descriptions had disappeared. I had saved them, and I decided to dive in and give them a home here.

TV.com's episode guide for the show has also adapted Lemaster's episode summaries, but I, of course, like mine better. I plan on fleshing them out even more in the future.

Update, November 30: Turns out there are a bunch of sites that list TV you can watch online that have adapted Donna Lemaster's episode descriptions. I'd link to them now if it was worth the effort, but it's not.

Monday, November 19, 2012

More 30th Anniversary Wishes for St. Elsewhere from Papergreat

Papergreat now has three posts on St. Elsewhere, author Chris Otto's all-time favorite show.

Photo courtesy of Papergreat. Is that from a TV Guide?
Chris Otto's post on the 29th anniversary of St. Elsewhere was the seventh post I did on this blog. I'm pleased to report that he posted a follow-up this past October 26. Otto shares this photo, from the season four episode "Haunted", and in lieu of a long post, he lists some cool resources from around the web, including the news coverage from EW, GMA, and a certain blog that has been "going strong since May". Thank you, Chris, for the shout out.

Otto also posted about Edward Copeland's three-part retrospective at IndieWire's PressPlay. Like I did, he also listed what was new to him. Like he, I also love the Hufnagel-Westphall conversation.

I think that just about wraps it up for the anniversary coverage. It's been exciting for a fan like me to see retrospectives of various sizes and formats. It will be interesting to see what kind of profile the show has when it turns forty.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

30th Anniversary Slideshow at Yahoo!

A slideshow featuring twenty fun facts about St. Elsewhere with large photos.
Drs. Ehrlich (Ed Begley, Jr.) and Axelrod (Stephen
Furst) attempt to cheer up an injured Dr. Wayne
Fiscus (Howie Mandel) with a gag Ehrlich saw on TV.

Saw this one, "'St. Elsewhere' 30th Anniversary: Fun Facts", the day it came out (October 26), but I forgot about it until today. That's not a comment on the quality of this slideshow by any means; it has good, large photos, and I enjoy lists of trivia. These tidbits are a good selection of behind-the-scenes information and things they did on the show to make it awesome.

If you don't want the contents of this slideshow spoiled, go read it now in a new window (and then return here, of course). Otherwise, the fun facts about St. Elsewhere assembled by Amy and Nancy Harrington are summarized here, for those who enjoy words without the distraction of striking photography.
  1. The role of Dr. Donald Westphall (Ed Flanders) was offered to Hal Linden, who had just completed Barney Miller, but he wanted a break from TV.
  2. Norman Lloyd was only hired for four episodes, and Daniel Auschlander was supposed to succumb to his liver cancer. But they liked him, so they wrote in three years (fictional time, six years real time) of remission.
  3. William Daniels and Bonnie Bartlett, who played Dr. Mark Craig and his wife Ellen, have been married in real life for 61 years.
  4. The building used in the opening credits is the Franklin Square House, located at 11 East Newton Street in Boston, was built in 1868.
  5. Before Byron Stewart played orderly Warren Coolidge on St. Elsewhere, he played high school basketball star Warren Coolidge on The White Shadow. Warren went to college at B.C., but injured his knee, ending his career.
  6. The fourth season episode "Close Encounters" featured psych patient Elliott Carlin (Jack Riley), who was Dr. Bob Hartley's most frequent patient on The Bob Newhart Show from 1972 to 1978.
  7. Also on "Close Encounters", Betty White's character, Captain Gloria Neal, gets mistaken for her character on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Sue Ann Nivens, by psych patient John Doe #6 (Oliver Clark), who believes he is Mary Richards.
  8. In season five's "Once Upon a Mattress", Wayne Fiscus (Howie Mandel) is recovering from a near-fatal gunshot wound when Elliott (Stephen Furst) and Victor (Ed Begley, Jr.) attempt to cheer him up by putting surgical gloves over their heads and inflating them with their noses. When Mandel did stand-up, this was one of his trademark gags. It fails to make Wayne laugh.
  9. In season five (somewhere, I'll have to find it), Mark and Ellen Craig visit their alma mater, Penn. William Daniels famously played John Adams in the Broadway and film versions of the musical 1776. He quotes a line from the song "Sit Down, John" when he comments on the weather: "It's hot as hell in Philadelphia." He also recalls that he was considered "obnoxious and disliked" in med school, the same words used to describe his character in 1776.
  10. Mark Harmon's Dr. Bobby Caldwell was the first character on a network TV series to contract AIDS.
  11. Cheers and St. Elsewhere crossed over twice.
  12. The series finale--the whole thing was dreamed up by Tommy Westphall, staring into the snowglobe. When you factor in the crossovers, it creates the Tommy Westphall Universe phenomenon.
  13. MTM's trademark mascot Mimsie the Cat appeared in surgical scrubs in the MTM production card at the end of St. Elsewhere's credits. In the series finale, the kitty becomes the show's last kill-off.
  14. The finale also saw the doctors reenact The Mary Tyler Moore Show's final episode group hug, with the shuffle to the box of tissues. The finale is loaded with other references as well.
  15. Family and friends were used as the names paged on the hospital's loudspeaker, including the young daughter of executive producer Bruce Paltrow, Gwyneth.
  16. St. Elsewhere launched the careers of Howie Mandel, David Morse and Denzel Washington. The show's guest stars included early performances by Tim Robbins, Helen Hunt, Patricia Wettig and Jane Kaczmarek.
  17. Ed Begley, Jr. has gone on to play doctors more than twenty times since his role as Dr. Victor Ehrlich, including his current role on Grey's Anatomy.
  18. St. Elsewhere received 62 Emmy nominations and won 13 of them.
  19. The crossovers continued after St. Elsewhere left the air, including appearances by Dr. Roxanne Turner (Alfre Woodard) and Dr. Victor Ehrlich on Tom Fontana's Homicide: Life in the Street.
  20. NBC celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2002 with a series of classic TV crossovers. While not a strict crossover, William Daniels, Ed Begley Jr., Stephen Furst, and Eric Laneuville played doctors who fell ill at a convention, causing them to be admitted to Sacred Heart hospital on Scrubs.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

St. Elsewhere Theme for Solo Guitar

YouTube video of an excellent fingerstyle guitar rendition of Dave Grusin's theme from St. Elsewhere.

I recently set up a Google Alert to report on mentions of "St. Elsewhere", which mostly gets you pages using "elsewhere" and the abbreviation of "street". It turned up this brilliant performance of Dave Grusin's theme music for St. Elsewhere arranged for solo guitar.

He had to trim down the original synth arrangement to make it playable for guitar, and he made all the right choices. I play guitar myself, and I am very impressed by his ingenuity and chops. Bravo, sir!


Monday, November 12, 2012

"Returning to St. Eligius: St. Elsewhere, 30 Years Later" - Part 3 at PressPlay

The conclusion of Edward Copeland's retrospective on the series featuring new interviews with several cast and crew.
Wayne Fiscus (Howie Mandel) treats his last patient
at St. Eligius, an opera singer with laryngitis.

"Returning to St. Eligius: St. Elsewhere, 30 Years Later - Part 3" has arrived, published on November 8, which was also Norman Lloyd's 98th birthday. Part one of this series at PressPlay focused mostly on the first season. Part two adds more stories about season one and widens the scope considerably. For the second installment, Edward Copeland interviewed Christina Pickles, Ronny Cox, Channing Gibson, Cindy Pickett, Bonnie Bartlett, David Birney, Jennifer Savidge, Joshua Brand, Cynthia Sikes, William Daniels, Mark Tinker, David Morse, Nancy Stafford, Stephen Furst, Ed Begley Jr., Terence Knox, Norman Lloyd, Blythe Danner, Ellen Bry, Michael Dukakis, Edward Herrmann, Piper Laurie, Chad Allen, and Sagan Lewis.

Parts two and three are considerably longer than the first installment, and they are loaded with great stories from cast members, guest stars, and producers, as well as analysis and insight from the author. Much as part one focused on the first season, part three covers the last. As a whole, Edward Copeland's series of articles joins the ranks of Robert Thompson's Television's Second Golden Age as one of the most thorough explorations of the show ever undertaken. It's a definite must-read for St. Elsewhere fans.

It's all great stuff, so here are the bits from part two that were new and interesting to me:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"Returning to St. Eligius: St. Elsewhere 30 Years Later" at Press Play

Parts one and two of Edward Copeland's article with new interviews with several cast members.

Press Play's "Returning to St. Eligius: St. Elsewhere, 30 Years Later" is shaping up to be one of the most comprehensive stories ever compiled about the critically-acclaimed drama, which I think is now as little-regarded in discussion of the greatest television series as it once was by prime-time television audiences. Edward Copeland has interviewed several cast members, writers, producers and guest stars for their experiences and recollections about the series, and the results are a terrific read.

Returning to St. Eligius: St. Elsewhere, 30 Years Later, Part 1 was published on October 26, the 30th anniversary of the show's premiere, and the much longer Returning to St. Eligius: St. Elsewhere, 30 Years Later, Part 2 was published on November 5. Part 3 is still to come.

I am completely geeking out on these articles. Part one mostly covers the first season. Copeland interviewed Joshua Brand, William Daniels, Norman Lloyd, Cynthia Sikes, Terence Knox, David Morse, Ed Begley Jr., Jennifer Savidge, Tom Fontana, Christina Pickles, David Birney, Stephen Furst, and Piper Laurie for the first installment.

Josef Sommer
David Paymer
The first part covers the rocky road involved in producing St. Elsewhere's pilot, which started with Josef Sommer playing Donald Westphall, David Paymer as Wayne Fiscus, and Daniel Auschlander with a Viennese accent. After Bruce Paltrow saw the rushes, he shut down production to retool. In came Ed Flanders, Howie Mandel, a New York-based origin story for Auschlander, a new director and a new cinematographer. The typical clean TV hospital set was scrapped for a more shopworn-looking model at great expense to MTM. The results were a vast improvement.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Slideshow: "Then & Now: The Good Doctors of St. Elsewhere"

Courtesy of Fox News and Snakkle, here's a slideshow catching up with 22 members of St. Elsewhere's cast.
Mark Harmon, 1983 and today. The Magnum stache
didn't last long.

Sorry for the delay in publishing the latest on the web on St. Elsewhere; I've been waylaid by illness. This piece ran on October 22 on FoxNews.com. Titled "Then & Now: The good doctors of St. Elsewhere", the article features a slideshow with side-by-side then-and-now photographs of several of the cast. The piece is a re-work of this "Hot Gallery" at Snakkle.com, "Looking Back at the Stars of St. Elsewhere, Some of the Most Beloved Doctors in TV History", from October 16.

The FoxNews.com slideshow pulls out just the vintage and recent photos of Mark Harmon, Denzel Washington and Howie Mandel, while the complete Snakkle.com piece features eleven actors from the series: Bonnie Bartlett, Christina Pickles, David Birney, David Morse, Washington, Ed Begley Jr., Ed Flanders, Mandel, Harmon, Norman Lloyd, and William Daniels. Each of the actors gets two slides; clicking on the links in the previous sentences will take you to the first of the two pages for that actor.