The Good

An interesting show that really tried to say something about people and the healthcare industry.

The Bad

I wish there were more audio commentary tracks with the actors.

St. Elsewhere: Season 1 is a 22 episode collection of the daily goings on within the busy St. Eligius hospital. We follow a varied cast of characters consisting of such young actors as Howie Mandel, Denzel Washington, David Morse, Cynthia Sikes and Ed Begley, Jr. This show was interesting for many reasons, not the least of which was it's subject matter concerning the medical field. It never tried to glorify anything other than the doctors who do their work every day. Even then, amidst all that, the characters weren't beyond reproach.

Some of the episode in this 4 disc set are "Down's Syndrome" in which Dr. Cavanaro (Sikes) must tell some parents that their child is going to be born with that form of retardation. In "Hearts" there is a fake doctor on duty at the hospital, and a fairly rotund woman realizes her stomachaches are labor pains. Alcohol abuse is dealt with in "Working," as Dr. Morrison (Morse) tries to treat a man who is hoping to kill himself by drinking. This show worked on a lot of levels but by showing us the lives of doctors, the people who we don't usually see (or think of) as normal people, it gave St. Elsewhere an even greater depth.

Features

Commentary on "Cora and Arnie"

Director Mark Tinker and Doris Roberts sit down together to discuss this Emmy Award Winning episode. Tinker talks about building an old folks home, how huge of an actor Denzel Washington became, and how the set of St. Elsewhere was the largest standing set in town at that time. He and Roberts make jokes as she seems more interested in watching the show, and only occasionally offering some nuggets about the character she is playing.

St. Elsewhere: The Place to Be

Cora and Arnie: An Outstanding Episode

This featurette examines this episode in a bit more detail. They talk about the issue of homelessness, Doris Roberts explains her research, even going so far as to map out how her character got gangrene on her feet. She talks about how she and her costar both practiced their walk to receive their Emmys. I am glad that this featurette is on here because Robert's isn't very vociferous in the commentary track, and it's nice to see that she opened up more here and gave us a look inside her acting process.

Tim Robbins: The Punk Gets Responsible

Apparently, Tim Robbins comes from a punk rock background and his role on this show was actually his first job. He talks about playing a privileged rich kid (which is ironic because despite the politics that's how he's always appeared to me), and how his call time one morning was much earlier than he wanted it to be. This was a problem because he wanted to see The Clash the night before, so he ended up being late for work, got right into his character and was a real jerk. However, working on this show he realized he'd better shape up because he could in fact make a living as an actor.

Dr. Jack Morrison: The Spirit of Care & Empathy

David Morse is the subject of this featurette which examines the arc of his character. Not being 100% familiar with where Dr. Morrison ends up, I was somewhat surprised to find out that this man who is a beacon of light in the hospital, comes to confront many demons as the seasons pass. Morse is one of the best actors we have working in movies today, and I think it's interesting that initially in his career he wasn't going to do TV. After reading the first St. Elsewhere script this caused him to change his mind because, in his words, "there was nothing like this on TV or in movies."

Video

Full Frame - 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio. The 22 episodes in this set are all compressed at the same types of levels it seems. The shows looked solid but I don't I know that I would call them sparkling. I also don't know if they need to be. While I imagine that these episodes would look better on DVD than on regular TV, I think that the image upgrade is marginal. Judge for yourself, but there's nothing about the way these shows look that should deter buyers at all.

Audio

Dolby Digital. English and Spanish Mono. Subtitled in English and Spanish. Close Captioned. The sound quality on these four discs was overall quite solid. While I don't know that these were the best sounding DVDs, I certainly didn't hear any audio problems that I could detect. Add to this that the actors are very natural on this show (ie. they aren't whispering) and you get what seems like almost a documentary TV show focusing on the medical profession.

Package

The cast of this show is all present and accounted for on this simplistic and somewhat dated looking front cover. Not surprisingly Denzel Washington is more prominently presented than the other actors. The back of this slipcase displays a clipboard which gives a description of this show, a Special Features listing, and technical specs. The four discs that contain all 22 episodes are stored in 2 slim cases, each one containing different shots of the cast on their covers. The backs list out the shows, offer their airdates, and brief descriptions of each episode. Solid, economical work from our friends at Fox.

Final Word

Believe it or not, I watched this show a little when I was younger. I had some friends who were both big fans of Dallas (we were all in the 6th Grade, mind you), and feeling left out I started to watch St. Elsewhere. The only problem was that at 11 years of age, I wasn't smart enough to really get what was going on in this show. As a result of this, I tried to make it seem like I was enjoying St. Elsewhere a lot more than I was.

Upon getting reacquainted with it now, I can truthfully say that I think St. Elsewhere is one of the better shows I own. Director Mark Tinker and the entire creative staff really gave this show a personal quality that I don't think we find much nowadays. Everything seems so rigid and plotted out, where St. Elsewhere: Season 1 draws you in because of it's ability to linger on it's ensemble cast of characters.

St. Elsewhere was released .