I watched the first three episodes of St. Elsewhere, season one last week, and it made me realize how much of a foundation it laid for all of the hospital shows that have followed: ER, Grey’s Anatomy, House, Private Practice, Chicago Hope, Scrubs — even Off The Map, and the effing hilarious web series Children’s Hospital.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t huge into any of the big medical shows aside from Grey’s and I did watch Scrubs from time to time. But Grey’s Antatomy got too wacky for me last year, so I haven’t visited Seattle Grace Hospital since the closer of season 6. I do go through withdrawal sometimes, but it’s best that I watch some quality television, since I do spend a lot of time watching Tabatha’s Salon Takeover and Top Chef.
There are a lot of great things to take away from St. Elsewhere: ensemble casting, relationships, dark comedy, quick pacing, quality filming, and the fact that this show begins in 1982 — and it LOOKS like it. There was a guy walking around in a leisure suit like it was a t-shirt and jeans, so that rocked my world for a minute.
The thing that bothered me is that so many of the storylines in the three episodes of St. Elsewhere that I saw were basically all later used on Grey’s; the main difference was that instead of a predominantly male cast, this was through the eyes of female, and the intensity on Grey’s is dialed up to 11. But it got me thinking: when you’re stuck within the confines of a hospital, you’re bound to repeat things. There just are certain themes, and stories that are, as long as you’re talking about the same premise: young doctors learning at a hospital, while trying to balance any semblance of real life they have left.
This show loooooooved some continuous shots. It’s pretty amazing for a weekly show, though it is an hour-long series. They follow one doctor into a hallway talking to another doctor, who hands something off to another doctor who we start to follow, who passes a nurse on her way to attending to a patient, who we then settle the camera on — all while people coming in and out of the scenes are dropping one-liners and giving short updates to their stories. Actually, most of the time, the lines in these scenes barely played into the storylines, but might have exposed more about the character’s attitude or background.
And for as much as they want to play up the fact that Denzel Washington was in this show, he maybe has 2 lines per episode. Perhaps that changes as the show progresses, but so far, we just know that he’s a doctor, he’s black, and his parents are rich (which that’s the only way some black dude could become a doctor, and he’s still at the crappiest hospital in the state of Massachusetts). I also find it odd that the actress Kim Miyori, who plays Dr. Wendy Armstrong and has a decent amount of lines on this show, is not in the opening credits, but Denzel is. Perhaps there’s a reason for this — according to IMDB, she does get dropped after the second season.
The women on this show are interesting. So far, there’s not a lot of sexual tension between doctors, except that Howie Mandel’s character is being seduced (though he thinks he’s doing the seducing) by this creepy girl who works down in the morgue. She’s really creepy. It’s kinda hilarious.