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Time of TV Shows like Grey's Anatomy ABC 2019

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 7 (1682 words)
Categories: Actor, Art, Cinematography, Time, Tv
Downloads: 6
Views: 9

Before the time of TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy (ABC, 2019), or before the crazy paced mad corridors of the medical drama ER, there was the hospital show St. Elsewhere, which helped pioneer the most modern TV medical dramas and all types of dramas we have today. Escaping from the same old one hero or one-protagonist single story ritual of shows like Marcus Welbey, M.D., (TVGuide.com, 2019) St. Elsewhere came to our screens the year after the legendary police show Hill Street Blues (IMDb, 2019).

These types of shows changed the genre of TV Shows and the techniques of such shows to what can be described as a genre of realistic and serious drama. It included many cast and launched some big names for the future. Twelve actors are credited in the starting credits for the first season. There are also many returning guest stars, a multitude of plotlines in each episode, and continuing story arcs that often involve edge of the seat cliffhangers.

Instead of focusing on one main character, St. Elsewhere helped to start the trend of TV shows creating a community in the workplace. Characters would come and go over the time of its existence, but the important factor in the show was always the hospital itself that is St. Eligius, a broke, underfunded, run down learning hospital in the South Boston area.

As well as re-inventing narrative structure, (“each episode is relatively independent – characters, settings and relationships carry over across episodes, but the plots stand on their own, requiring little need for consistent viewing or knowledge of diegetic history to comprehend the narrative [itself]”). (Mittell 2007: 163) ((Scribd, 2019) St. Elsewhere also revolutionized the cinematic language of TV dramas, using lengthy following or tracking shots and shaky hand held cinematography work to add a sense of the present and continuity to the show. Often, the view of the camera will track from one group of characters to another group in one single shot, interweaving several diverse plots and storylines into a more significant context. It could be argued that it is primitive compared to the later cinematography of ER, but the longer takes are still magnificently choreographed and played out. (Adweekcom. 2019).  All this helped give TV shows a visual life it had never seen before.

St. Elsewhere also helped launch the career of many actors. One such actor was David E. Kelley (IMDb, 2019) by introducing witty and quirky humor into previously serious no fun or no laughing zones of one hour long drama TV shows, this actor fitted perfectly into the show. Right from the beginning of its pilot episode screening, which features a scene in a hospital morgue, the show used what could be described as ridiculous actions and witty dialogue in the middle of a traumatic and serious situation or even a distressing situation it could be argued. (One Example: A doctor to the other doctor in the morgue: “Would you give me a hand please?” “Sure.” “It’s right beside you in the bag.”) The show switches seamlessly between the hospital’s medical cases and the personal lives of the characters. They switch between heart breaking tragic storylines to out of this world funny ones. A young fresh faced Tim Robbins, in his first professional role, appears in a few episodes as a rebel type who feels entitled and whom the staff is forced to treat begrudgingly (IMDb, 2019). A psychiatric patient who imagines he’s a bird roams the hospital corridors. This patient poses as a Dr. Bullfinch, who visits patients and tries to help with surgeries. In another story crudely titled as “Down’s Syndrome”, a couple battles with their conscious of whether to abort a pre-diagnosed handicapped child. With a minimum of panic, the show plays out both sides of the argument brilliantly before reaching and building up to a tough but unsentimental ending. The medical staff, especially the doctors struggle with their cases, their careers, family and love life, Dr. Craig persecutes and traumatizes the residents, especially the brilliant and upcoming Ehrlich, who seems to be an expert at making an embarrassment of himself. Doctor Fiscus, an ER doctor, is assaulted and robbed by a patient so he starts carrying a revolver to work. (Adweekcom. 2019).  The seedy Doctor Ben Samuels played by David Birney, a top surgeon there, saves lives and devours Women. Doctor Morrison uses each case he has, as a launching pad for contemplations on morality and ethics of modern medicine. Future somewhat famous actors who keep turning up in guest appearances include; Ray Liotta, Ally Sheedy, Judith Light, Laraine Newman, David Duchovny, Christopher Guest, and a few more actors who went on to other successful films and TV shows.

With so many different characters involved, and with the hustle and bustle of normal everyday routines in the hospital, some critics expressed the view that the better-known actors were reduced to occasional cameo appearances. Some critics thought that they could have been made more use of. (O’Connor, 2019) not everyone agreed though.

As mentioned earlier in this text the show was the start of a new genre and it can be argued that people were caught unaware of the raw and new approach to the type of dialogue, camera work, plotlines and the humor. These types of shows soon grew on people and soon audiences expected to be watching shows that were influenced by Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere, like Cheers, NYPD Blue, ER, and many more. The aspects of this show that fitted perfectly within genre expectations was certainly the revealing of the lives of the characters outside their roles of being doctors, the storylines that audiences could apply to their own struggles in life and identification with the humanity of the characters. No, one special character or protagonist can be picked out because all the plot lines and stories were more about the community aspect of the hospital. This genre was so refreshing and new compared to the big hero aspect in previous shows. So, it can be argued that the newer younger actors in the cast could adapt and fit to the genre more than the actors that came with a bit of reputation. It can also be argued that some of these more established actors who starred in shows from the 1970s subverted expectations of this type of genre by their attitude and acting. This paper will look at one such actor. David Birney:  David Birney was a very popular TV actor and star in the late ‘1970s/early ‘1980s, and could be forgiven for thinking that his seducer of Women type character was going to be the main, top leading man; as it turns out, he was out staged by many of the supporting actors and was slowly phased out, to the extent that we hardly see him in the last few episodes of season 1. (Stelsewhereweb.com, 2019) Per the biography of David Birney he left the show due to “conflicts with the producers about the direction and status of his role.” (Barakoti, 2019) (So it can be argued that some of these set in their way’s actors were caught in the headlights of this new way of acting and found it difficult to apply their skills to this new type of genre. (Anon, 2019).

What was so special about St. Elsewhere, compared to most TV shows today, is how much of the acting and the whole drama is so understated and unspoken. There are no, no voice over trying to extract pity or morals from every situation. The actors as the characters are not wonderfully articulate themselves. It must be said though that sometime they dip into some corny melodrama that they did have to back away from as they were getting away from the genre that made the show special. There was, sometimes a structural difficulty. Some storylines, for instance Doctor Samuels love affair with an endocrinologist while she was visiting the hospital, or Doctor White’s handing over of malpractice cases to a somewhat dodgy lawyer began and then were strangely abandoned. Doctor White especially is a complex character; he’s not so much confusing as unrefined or unfinished. There are some strong suggestions out there that the producers altered their direction three or four times during the season about the personality of the character. He begins as a truly charming, haphazard, kind of incompetent resident. Then suddenly his marriage goes on the rocks and he almost rapes his own wife; he sleeps with a multitude of nurses at the nurse’s station. He then gets an old Girlfriend look after his wife’s abortion who is pregnant by another man; he then sorts of makes up with his wife; then out of the blue he’s addicted to drugs, a corrupt, shady doctor, and it does not stop there, soon he is in rehab and strangely still working at St. Eligius. Maybe the acting of Knox did not help, but Doctor Whites unexpected dives in behavior and personality seem wildly without reason or basis. These types of storylines would have subverted the true genre of the show. But thank God, they always had the courage to drop these storylines and let them fade away into the distance without any real explanation.

If a main protagonist had to be chosen that enhanced and did not disappoint the expectations of the audience concerning the genre that made the show so popular, it would have to be the character of Dr. Donald Westphal, played by Ed Flanders who was an experienced actor. Flanders stood out and added to the show’s popularity. As the head of St. Eligius Hospital, he was kind of a bemused but beleaguered normal man in contrast to a huge number of crazy individuals he was surrounded by. This role can be compared to the one played by Daniel J. Travanti on Hill Street Blues. His job was to keep his head while everyone else lost theirs, and he fitted the part perfectly. It must be remembered when show’s like St. Elsewhere started to break away from the single protagonist type TV shows, they were breaking new ground and opened the way for many of the popular shows today.

Cite this essay

Time of TV Shows like Grey’s Anatomy ABC 2019. (2019, Dec 06). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/before-the-time-of-tv-shows-like-grey-s-anatomy-abc-2019-or-example-essay

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