St. Elsewhere: Season One

The best American TV series of the ’80s finally enters the digital age. St. Elsewhere was an ensemble drama set in a Boston hospital, the fictitious St. Eligius, nicknamed St. Elsewhere for its underdog status. That’s fitting, considering the show struggled in the ratings until its cult audience slowly grew and the Emmys started flowing. The show’s character-driven writing, innovative directing and superb acting still set St. Elsewhere apart from the pack, rivalled only by its contemporary Hill St. Blues. Ahead of its time, St. Elsewhere tackled issues of rape, homosexuality and terrorism with sensitivity and wit. Although common today, the show pioneered long, continuous shots to capture several dialogues in one scene. The level of talent contained on these discs is found in the names — Denzel Washington, Howie Mandel, David Morse and director Bruce Paltrow (Gwyneth’s late dad) — who all graduated from St. Elsewhere to go onto bigger and better things. This dense set collects the debut season’s 22 episodes, including the pilot. Thankfully, the drama and laughs hold up nearly 25 years later. However, the special features are a little skimpy. A retrospective offers a much-needed glimpse into the origins of the show but is painfully lacking in Denzel and many of the key creators. Given the size of the cast, the DVD sorely needs a "where are they now?” featurette to give each actor his due. Instead, Tim Robbins reminisces about his first Hollywood job portraying a cold-hearted terrorist in early episodes. Just as rewarding is David Morse, who recalls prepping for his role as the nice Dr. Morrison. Only one episode is awarded an audio commentary, which director Mark Tinker and Emmy-winning actress Doris Roberts handle with nostalgia and insight. Perhaps the season two box will give us more. (Fox)