Monday, October 28, 2013

On Call, Vol. 2, No. 2 - O.R. Scheduling: Abby Singer, and the Shot Heard Round the World


From On Call, the official newsletter of the St. Elsewhere Appreciation Club, volume 2, number 2, July 1998.

Industry insiders speak with reverence about the "Abby Singer Shot", while fans of St. Elsewhere continue to ask about the origin of the episode titled "The Abby Singer Show". To understand the derivation of both, we spoke with a number of people who know Abby, including Abby himself. Part of our article is taken from a humorous (and informative) conversation ON CALL had with Abby and his protege Bernie Oseransky, who gathered in Bernie's office for the interview.

Abby Singer
"Dear Abby"
ABBY SINGER ... "I was born in New York City, and after high school in 1936 I went to night college in NY. My father was a designer and my mother was a housewife. I came out here during World War II when I was in the Navy, and stayed here after the War. I got into the business in 1946 and I was hired as Secretary to the head of Production at Columbia Pictures - a man by the name of Jack Fear... "Black Jack Fear" (Bernie, then Abby in unison) We used to say 'We have nothing to fear, but Fear himself'" (laughs).

NORMAN LLOYD ... "Jack Fear had the wrath of God put into him by Harry Cohn who ran the studio, the toughest, meanest guy in the business. Jack Fear translated that to the guys who worked for him, of whom Abby was one. Now, the other guys came out of that rather unpleasantly, but Abby's the one guy who came out of Columbia with an amenable personality... there was a kindness, a goodness in him. They all came out with a tremendous ability on their jobs - it was the best training ground in the world."

Sunday, October 27, 2013

On Call, Vol. 2, No. 2 - "Family" Reunion in the Works?


From On Call: The Official Newsletter of the St. Elsewhere Appreciation Club, volume 2, number 1, July 1998.

"Hospital staff" outside of stage seven
Back in 1993, a few St. Elsewhere veterans gathered in Los Angeles for an evening of discussion and film clips, courtesy of the Museum of Television. Now, another event is being considered, possibly to take place in March and April, 1999. Bruce Paltrow and Tom Fontana have already indicated they would attend as have numerous former cast members. But a reunion should involve as many "family" members as possible. That's why SEAC has been working tirelessly to identify, locate, and contact anyone who had anything to do with the production of St. Elsewhere. It is our goal to invite every living crew member to be in the audience for next year's seminar/reunion. Inspired by our mission, therefore, we are dedicating this and the next issue to people behind the scenes at St. Eligius. In our Fall issue we will publish updates (and numerous photos) on former production staff. Already, thanks to help from Rick Gunter, Bethany Rooney, and R.J. Visciglia, we are proceeding quite well with our task of identifying the entire St. Elsewhere gang. (This cover photo and many others will be published in our next issue along with the names, former occupations on SE, and current status.) In the meantime, THIS issue starts the ball rolling with articles on people we seldom ever saw, but greatly appreciated, including musical composer J.A.C. REDFORD, and legendary production master, ABBY SINGER, plus an in-depth profile on creative genius TOM FONTANA. So pick up a snack from Craft Service, sit back, and enjoy the Newsletter!

On Call: Vol. 2, No. 1 - Updating Charts: News of Cast and Crew


From On Call: The Official Newsletter of the St. Elsewhere Appreciation Club, March 1998, volume 2, number 1.

JOHN TINKER is shooting a pilot this month for ABC titled The Game. The one hour drama is set in Philadelphia and has been described as "Jerry McGuire meets L.A. Law". Meanwhile Chicago Hope just keeps getting better and better. This month the Chicago Hope docs were at a medical convention where the marquee welcomed "St. Eligius". Earlier this year, Kate mentions that her mentor was the late Dr. David Domedion. And on that same episode a patient with a golf club lodged in his chest was referred to as Mr. Masius. Speaking of whom...

JOHN MASIUS is producing a pilot for NBC. The one hour drama is titled Providence.

TOM FONTANA is working on a pilot for CBS titled Family Brood about an Irish family of firefighters. Tom is also keeping the St. Elsewhere flame alive. Over a year ago he swore ON CALL to secrecy about his plan to revive a SE character on Homicide. Now he's done it. On March 20 ('Mercy') ALFRE WOODARD re-appeared as Dr. Roxanne Turner. Says Fontana, "Maybe I'll have Ehrlich show up on Oz, having been in prison for ten years." Tom will also appear with friend Dick Wolf (Executive Producer, Law and Order) at the Museum of Television and Radio later this spring.

STEPHEN FURST is still starring in and directing some episodes of Babylon Five, now on TNT. Stephen has also had an action figure made of his Babylon character "VIR". His 30 Day Wonder is still in development, but these days he's focusing on Arthur's Quest, a comedy about King Arthur. He is also preparing to write a book about his life, weight loss, etc... He will be a star attraction at a Sci-Fi convention in High Point, NC this June.

BONNIE BARTLETT DANIELS, as Norman says, is "always working." She recently turned in an Emmy-worthy performance on ER as Anthony Edwards' mom. She also stars in Primary Colors which opens this month. She appears as the wife of the "Paul Tsongas" character in this take-off of the '92 Clinton campaign.

DENZEL WASHINGTON was recently honored on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Later this year he will star in Martial Law. He will play an FBI agent to co-stars Bruce Willis and Annette Bening. In the mean time, He Got Game is due out in May. In it he plays a prisoner who is paroled only after agreeing that his basketball star son will play for the Governor's alma mater. Spike Lee directs. Denzel was also featured on the February issue of Cigar magazine.\

JENNIFER SAVIDGE is starring in the new FOX sitcom Significant Others which began a six week run this month. Though hard to believe, Savidge plays the mother of two grown kids. Also stars Richard Masur.

ED BEGLEY, JR. will star with young Jonathan Lipnicki in a Fall series on CBS titled Meego.

BRUCE GREENWOOD reprises his role as the arrogant network executive on The Larry Sanders Show.

BRUCE PALTROW is working on a TV pilot, reportedly a police drama. Perhaps the new show is about family values. Daughter Gwyneth appeared earlier this year on Good Morning America to promote Great Expectations, and she confided to Charles Gibson that father Bruce wouldn't attend her premiere because of the nudity. It's nice to know a hardened veteran of Tinsel Town can still be a regular father, Kudos to both Dad and Daughter for "acting" appropriately.

CYNTHIA SIKES, as reported in our last issue, will appear with Robert Redford in The Horse Whisperer, originally slated for an earlier release, now opening in May.

NORMAN LLOYD recently appeared in an episode of ABC's The Practice. He is also gearing up for a TV pilot on UPN on Seven Days. It is a Time Tunnel type show with Norman playing the elder of the team that builds the machine. He will be shooting his scenes beginning the last week in March. By the way, upon showing up for his obligatory studio physical, Norman waited in the exam room as a doctor entered, looked at Lloyd, and should enthusiastically, "Dr. Auschlander!", to which Norman replied, "Yes, how can I help you?"

GRANT TINKER, the grandfather of St. Elsewhere, was recently honored by NAPTE with the LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD. During the ceremony Tinker lashed out at Jerry Springer, telling TV executives that Springer's program "debases us all." Congratulations are in order for the award and for the observation. Both are long overdue.

HOWIE MANDEL will soon give us an alternative to Springer's sleaze. Also Howie is busily readying his syndicated talk show, but took time out to talk with us last month. ON CALL asked if he would consider our suggestion for a St. Elsewhere cast reunion on his new program Howie replied, "I thought it was a good idea. I'm going to try it." Mandel promised to let us know when the big event might be scheduled.

BILL DANIELS recently took time to meet up with Stephen Furst and Tom Fontana for dinner (Bonnie was filming ER and couldn't attend). Now if we can just get the entire cast and crew together for a banquet (but please, no food from the folks who catered Victor's wedding).

ABBY SINGER and BERNIE OSERANSKY gathered in Bernie's office at MTM last month to speak with ON CALL. These two Production Supervising Legends were great fun to interview and full of wonderful stories which we will publish in future issues.

HELEN HUNT deserves our congratulations and best wishes for her Oscar. She becomes the fourth St. Elsewhere alum to get a nod. The others are Dean Jagger (who won as Best Supporting Actor for 12 O'Clock High; Alfre Woodard, nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1983's Cross Creek; and Denzel Washington, whose performance in Glory won him the 1989 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

On Call, Vol. 2, No. 1 - Personnel Department: Profile on Christina Pickles... A Gal Who Pays Her Own Rent


From On Call: The Official Newsletter of the St. Elsewhere Appreciation Club, March 1998, volume 2, number 1.

British Invasions are nothing new to America. Thomas Jefferson precipitated one in 1776 and Ed Sullivan another in 1964. But in the late '50's, it was the strategic landing of one young, comic beauty that has had the most impact on fans of St. Elsewhere.

"IN THE BLOOD"

Christina Pickles was born in Yorkshire, England where she and her brother and three sisters enjoyed a happy childhood.

CHRISTINA PICKLES ... "It was a big house with everything I needed. We had tennis courts. We were lucky children."

Her father was an architect, and her mother a homemaker, both of whom initially resisted, but later agreed to Christina's request for a pony.

PICKLES ... "I rode all my life beginning at about age eight up to age sixteen. I used to compete in horse shows in Yorkshire. I was one of those little girls who was horse crazy, and the minute I got interested in boys, I completely lost interest in horses."

But in addition to boys, Christina also nurtured an interest in show business, particularly because of her Uncle Wilford Pickles, a famous comedian.

PICKLES ... "One of my earliest memories is of sitting on the front row of the Dress Circle of an old English Theater, leaning my little face against the brass railings and waving to Uncle Wilfred who was performing in a Christmas pantomime. I loved the lights and laughter and audience response. I guess that's why I love doing sitcoms in front of a live audience."

At age sixteen Christina left school and went to the Royal Academy of Art, but soon, a break-up with her sweetheart prompted a change of scenery.

PICKLES ... "They (my parents) suggested it... they were tired of seeing me dragging around the house because I had a broken heart. I left England and went to America to visit some friends I had known at the Royal Academy. I thought I was just going for a short break to get away from my sad romance, but the minute I got off the plane and walked on American soil, I felt I was home."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The New York Post Wants a St. Elsewhere Reboot

The New York Post includes St. Elsewhere on its list of classic television series they'd like to see remade.

Ah... pop culture lists. Every so often, St. Elsewhere gets a little love on one. In response to the news that NBC will be producing a new version of another MTM comic drama that debuted in the 1982, Remington Steele (which featured recent St. Elsewhere Emmy-winner Doris Roberts, who was hilarious as secretary Mildred Krebs), the New York Post has published a list of five classic television series that they would like to see remade.

The first one on the list (even though it's in no particular order)? St. Elsewhere. They applaud the show's "first-class" cast, citing William Daniels, Ed Flanders and Ed Begley, Jr., and found it cool that the ensemble included a young Howie Mandel and Stephen Furst, who is legendary for his portrayal of Flounder in National Lampoon's Animal House. They like that it never got sappy like Grey's Anatomy. However, something would have to be done about the ending.

(My suggestion for now--the pilot starts with Chad Allen as grown-up Tommy Westphall in a replica of the apartment from "The Last One", and Norman Lloyd's there too as his grandfather. Tommy picks up his old, dusty snowglobe from the top of an old TV (make it a model from 1988), gives it a shake, and stares into it. Cut to an exterior shot of St. Eligius, and it's snowing. Begin series, and it's present day in Boston. That's how you get around the snow-globe ending.)

The other classic series on the list: 
  • Hill Street BluesSt. Elsewhere's MTM competition (the list of actors cited for playing memorable characters omits double-Emmy-winner Michael Conrad; come to think of it, you'd think the Elsewhere list would mention Denzel)
  • Thirtysomething (whose starring role for Patricia Wettig prompted the departure of her St. Elsewhere character, Jack Morrison's second wife, Joanne)
  • Friends (which featured Christina Pickles as Judy Geller, the mom from hell)
  • The Larry Sanders Show (which featured Deborah May, a.k.a. yuppie fertility patient Terri Valere, as ice-cold network executive Melanie Parrish)

Monday, October 14, 2013

On Call, Vol. 2., No. 1 - From the Cushing Award Committee: St. Elsewhere and the Emmys


From On Call: The Official Newsletter of the St. Elsewhere Appreciation Club, March 1998, volume 2, number 1.

During its six year run on NBC, St. Elsewhere captured sixty-two Emmy nominations and fourteen wins... an impressive feat by anyone's standards. But now, for the first time, the stories BEHIND the statistics can be revealed. Following months of research and scores of interviews, ON CALL has learned not just about the heartaches and triumphs, but how St. Elsewhere actually played a role in shaping the Emmy awards as we know them today... and in so doing, helped to improve a system that once denied our favourite show its top prize, year after year.

1983 - "REGULARS EVICTED BY THE HOMELESS"

In its first season, St. Elsewhere racked up ten nominations and three wins. That year, behind-the-scenes nominations went to SOUND MIXING (for episode #16, "THE COUNT")... SOUND EDITING (for episode #19, "WORKING")... and ART DIRECTION (for episode #1, "PILOT").

Ed Flanders
ED FLANDERS won for Lead Actor, and even though it was his third Emmy, the recognition didn't go to his head.

CODY LAMBERT (Ed's former wife)... "When I first met him in Malibu he had them (the Emmy statuettes) on a simple shelf in the back of the house - he didn't even have a display case or anything - he lived very simply."

In his brief acceptance speech Ed even diverted the spotlight from himself.

CODY LAMBERT... "I remember him being disappointed that year that the writers didn't get more attention... when he won (I remember) him thanking the writers saying, 'Where would we be without them.'"

Perhaps, though, the most significant aspect of the 1983 Emmys were the awards for Supporting Actor and Actress. Ed Begley, Jr. was nominated, and should have won, but the nods when to James Coco and Doris Roberts for their portrayals of a homeless couple (episode #4, "CORA AND ARNIE"). As a result, some of the case were (despite their happiness for Doris and Jimmy) somewhat offended that any guest star could walk away with an award that should have gone to a regular performer in the series.

On Call, Vol. 1, No. 3 - Updating Charts: News of Cast and Crew


From On Call: The Official Newsletter of the St. Elsewhere Appreciation Club, December 1997, Vol. 1, No. 3.

ED BEGLEY ... appears in a recent video release of Santa with Muscles (Cabin Fever), for which he received great reviews. Ed also appears in the Showtime production of Alone starring Hume Cronyn and James Earl Jones, premiering Dec. 21.

TOM FONTANA ... is still the Wizard of Oz. HBO has ordered 13 more episodes of the prison drama. The series will reappear in June of 1998. Meanwhile Tom is still at the helm of Homicide.

STEPHEN FURST ... directed the season opener of Babylon Five. That series, by the way, won the Hugo Award for Science Fiction. Stephen is also completing work on this theatrical film 30 Day Wonder, and he will appear at the Spacedock Convention Feb. 7 & 8 at Hagerstown, MD.

SAGAN LEWIS ... reprised her role as Judge Aandahl for the Homicide / Law & Order two-part series last month. She also writes the nicest letters to us and is a big support of SEAC. (It never hurts to suck up to a judge).

France Nuyen
FRANCE NUYEN ... has recently recovered from a nasty injury sustained while she was performing some do-it-yourself carpentry work around the house. Her tendon was severed, and she was rushed to Cedars Sinai ER where she was kept waiting four hours before a surgeon ever appeared. (No comment on the irony there.) France, whose most notable post-St. Elsewhere role was in The Joy Luck Club, is back on the big screen and can soon be seen appearing with Lauren Holly in A Smile Like Yours.

CHRISTINA PICKLES ... is completing her screenplay, and also appeared in another episode of Friends. Says Christina, "I'm truly the Mother from Hell!" She will also start with Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer, and this Christmas look for her in a film where she plays Drew Barrymore's Mom.

BRUCE PALTROW ... will not be directing Duets as earlier reported; however, he is working on a television pilot about which he is keeping mum for now.

MARK TINKER ... Congratulations are in order as Mark pick up an Emmy for NYPD Blue. He also recently guest-lectured at his alma mater Syracuse Universtiy as a favor to his friend (and St. Elsewhere expert) Bob Thompson.