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St. Elsewhere - Season 1

4.7 out of 5 stars 189 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Over its six-season run, the ground-breaking, critically acclaimed St. Elsewhere was nominated for over 60 Emmy Awards, winning 13 of them! This remarkable series, with its unique blend of intense medical drama, off-beat humor and imaginative storytelling, paved the way for later TV classics such as E.R. and Chicago Hope, while introducing America to future superstars Mark Harmon, Howie Mandel, and Oscar(r)-winner* Denzel Washington. Eccentric, insightful, and intelligent, St. Elsewhere is considered to be one of the best dramas ever to air on broadcast television.

Beginning its six-year run in 1982, St. Elsewhere was neither television's first ensemble medical drama nor, heaven knows, its last. Yet this four-disc set of all 22 episodes from the first season is a reminder that this was, and still is, one of the very best. Even now, when "reality" programming blights the landscape like some biblical plague, doc, cop, and lawyer shows remain staples of the medium, and while the likes of C.S.I., E.R., and Grey's Anatomy have it all over St. Elsewhere in the sizzle department--the production values are much flashier, the content sexier, more graphic, and faster-moving, the technology both in front of and behind the camera light years more sophisticated--the older show, despite its somewhat cheesy '70s vibe, is the hands-down winner when it comes to the actual steak. That's because it does it the old-fashioned way: by relying on good writing, vividly-drawn, identifiable characters, and excellent performances by an eye-opening group of actors.

Co-creators Joshua Brand and John Falsey's pilot episode, which establishes the scene at Boston's St. Eligius Hospital (mocked as "St. Elsewhere" due to its rundown facilities and reputation as a "dumping ground" for the poor and disenfranchised), isn't especially promising. While we can see right away that the show sports a lighter, more humorous tone than others of its genre, the direction is static, the acting and dialogue are often stiff, and what passes for "chaos" is pretty tame. But it hits its stride almost immediately thereafter, as the characters (including Howie Mandel's wisecracking Dr. Fiscus, David Morse's driven, committed Dr. Morrison, William Daniels' egotistical, pompous Dr. Craig, and Ed Begley, Jr.'s nerdy Dr. Ehrlich) are more fully realized. The cast, in fact, may be the most impressive ever assembled for a TV program: in the first season alone, the list of actors with regular, recurring, and one-shot appearances includes future movie stars Denzel Washington (a regular, but his role is minor), Tim Robbins, Ally Sheedy, Christopher Guest, Laraine Newman, Ray Liotta, Tom Hulce, Michael Madsen, and Rae Dawn Chong. Sure, some of the multiple storylines are dated: the handling of issues like gun control, immigration, and terrorism seems almost quaint by today's standards, and a running gag concerning ladies man Dr. Samuels' (David Birney) having to inform his many lovers that he has gonorrhea comes off as tasteless and unfunny, notwithstanding that era's low awareness of AIDS and other STDs. But on the whole, this St. Elsewhere set (extras include audio commentary for "Cora and Arnie," plus four featurettes) is a reminder of episodic TV at its best. --Sam Graham

Special Features

  • 22 episodes on four discs
  • Commentary on one episode
  • "Cora and Arnie: An Outstanding Episode" featurette
  • "Tim Robbins: The Punk Gets Responsible" featurette
  • "Dr. Jack Morrison: The Spirit of Care & Empathy" featurette
  • "St. Elsewhere: The Place To Be" featurette

Product Details

  • Actors: Ed Flanders, David Birney, G.W. Bailey, Ed Begley Jr., Terence Knox
  • Directors: Bruce Paltrow, Kevin Hooks, Mark Tinker, Thomas Carter, Victor Hsu
  • Writers: Andrew Laskos, Charles Rosin
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: November 28, 2006
  • Run Time: 1081 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (189 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000GPPNO2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,516 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "St. Elsewhere - Season 1" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
St. Elsewhere is viewed by critics as one of the best TV shows ever produced. The accolades are deserved. All the shows since - ER, Grey's Anatomy, Chicago Hope and others - have roots in St. Elsewhere, the show that set the standard for combining hospital drama and comedy.

As a teenager I came late to the table and was only able to view about two thirds of the original shows. However, I was able to record on VHS almost all of the shows I did see. I was excited when I heard they were going to (finally!) release the show on DVD and I could, at last, watch all the early episodes I had missed.

So here we have one of the most acclaimed shows ever and what we get is a flimsy slip case, double sided DVDs (that easily become scratched), and minimal extras. This is the treatment they give shows like Different Strokes or Emergency. St. Elsewhere, of any of the 80s shows, deserved the kind of treatment they give The Simpsons or CSI.

Imagine what they could have done if they'd packaged the entire show like they did the complete West Wing. Imagine a first aid box with the St. Elsewhere logo. Inside would have been a DVD set for each season. Single sided DVDs with images of the cast on each one. The extras would have included interviews with all the cast members, background on the St. Elsewhere theme song, a documentary on where they shot St. Elsewhere (and where exterior shots were filmed in Boston), a where are they now documentary on the cast, and lots lots more.

Intead we get this. I bought this set. And I'll buy the others when they get released. But what a rip-off. St. Elsewhere - and its fans - deserved better than this.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
It's hard to say how well this show will stand up to the test of time. It's been a long time since I've seen an episode, and I know that dramas in particular don't always hold up well a generation later. I LOVE LUCY, MASH, THE HONEYMOONERS can still make us laugh and appreciate their brilliance. Dramas like HILL STREET BLUES often are more nostalgic than actually still engrossing.

I have high hopes for ST. ELSEWHERE because 1) it was head and shoulders above the rest when it aired, 2) it had a brilliant cast...and not just Denzel Washington, David Morse or Alfre Woodard (who all went on to more famous film careers), but pretty much every other person in the show was at the top of their games.

I remember how cutting-edge they were, particularly in dealing with AIDS. First regular TV show I can remember where a patient had AIDS. And I remember how freaked out everyone was by him. First show in which a major character (Mark Harmon) died from AIDS. And remember how there was a rapist running around the hospital as well? And remember that it turned out to be a major character? Not many shows will go down that road today.

I remember lots of humor, and lots of pathos. I'm sure it doesn't have the blinding pace of ER...but ER would not have existed without ST. ELSEWHERE. (And ER's pace isn't always a good thing...sometimes I can't understand what everyone is saying on that show!) But it told interesting stories, and it had recurring characters you CARED about. In so many dramas with large casts don't find yourself investing much concern in what happens to the're just trying to keep up with them all. ST. ELSEWHERE managed to juggle so many people, and yet they were all flesh and blood.
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Format: DVD
A number of years ago I wrote an Amazon review of the box VHS set, "The Best of St. Elsewhere." In that videotape collection all of the contemporary or period music had been replaced by an awful, high-static overdub of generic, muzak-style tunes. Obviously rights for all of the popular and pre-recorded songs could not be obtained and the set was released anyway. Only the theme song and background score composed specifically for the show remained as originally intended. Unfortunately, the new dubbing ruined many of the best episodes and even the actors' original dialogue tracks were barely audible over the `new' score.

[UPDATE: I have purchased the DVD since writing this review several weeks ago. Fox Home Entertainment has done a terrific job with the extras and remastering. Producer/co-creator/director Mark Tinker mentions in the audio commentary for the 'Cora & Arnie' episode that even at the time of production they frequently had to use very convincing 'sound-alikes' for period music because the original artists' recordings were prohibitively expensive. The one exception to this was the ZZ Top song 'Legs,' which the producers did buy and may be heard in a later episode/season. Despite this, the earlier VHS collection I referenced still has terrible overdubs and does not contain the original broadcast selections - sound-alike or not. I am happy to report that at least for the Season 1 DVD all of the original music seems to be intact.]

I am very glad that the series is at long last being released on DVD, but am wondering if the music rights were ever obtained. This issue has held up many other releases, most notably `Miami Vice,' which was scored almost entirely with hit songs from the 80s.

I will purchase the first season and hope for the best.
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