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1988: Snow Falls on 'St. Elsewhere,' Creating a Finale to Remember
May 25, 2019  | By TV WW  | 2 comments
 
On this day in 1988, TV viewers saw one of the most famous — and perhaps the most debated — series finales in TV history. The episode marked the end of St. Elsewhere, an NBC drama about St. Eligius, a run-down Boston hospital headed by chief of staff Dr. Donald Westphall (Ed Flanders). His staff included Dr. Daniel Auschlander (Norman Lloyd), Dr. Mark Craig (William Daniels) and various young interns and residents.  

During the show's six seasons, the show divided its focus between weekly medical cases and its employees' personal dramas. Its ensemble cast included Ed Begley, Jr., David Morse, Howie Mandel, Terence Knox, Denzel Washington, Mark Harmon, Christina Pickles, Stephen Furst, Alfre Woodard and Bruce Greenwood.

At the tail end of the final episode, viewers see an exterior shot of the hospital, with snow falling all around.  The next scene shows Donald Westphall's autistic son, Tommy (Chad Allen) playing with a snow globe. Westphall enters, and the scene makes it clear that he's not employed as a doctor. A conversation reveals that Auschlander, who's also present, is Westphall's father.  The two discuss Tommy, with Westphall lamenting that his son does nothing but sit and stare at the snow globe. Westphall then takes the globe from Tommy, and tells him to wash his hands for dinner. When he places it on top of the television, viewers see a tiny replica of St. Eligius hospital, surrounded by swirling snow - implying that the show's entire six seasons were merely the imaginative musings of an autistic child.

Following the finale, a "Tommy Westphall Universe" hypothesis was developed, suggesting that numerous television shows were, in fact, dreamed up by Tommy and exist only in his mind.
 
 
 
 
 
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2 Comments
 
 
jim
Oh how I would love to see this series again. Unfortunately only season 1 was ever released on dvd. With all the streaming options and "extra" broadcast channels now available can't someone find room for this remarkable show instead of the same old same old shows that are mostly inferior and constantly being repeated?
May 25, 2017   |  Reply
 
BPearce
Jim, if you're still waiting -- the entire series became available on Hulu late last year. The quality of the episodes following the first series varies greatly (some appear to be syndication prints from days gone by, others obviously more recent), but it's great fun to revist the series in its' entirety.
May 25, 2019
 
 
 
Len Feiner
Whatever happened to that Snowglobe?
May 25, 2015   |  Reply
 
Len Feiner
Linda, this was meant to be a joke for David ... I am the person who owns the Snowglobe!edus!
May 25, 2015
 
 
Linda Donovan
The snow globe is in the hands of a private collector, Len, but it left those hands for a brief period in November and December of 2014. As you may recall, the globe was featured prominently in "Bianculli's Personal Theory of TV Evolution" NY exhibit. Wonderful -- the snow globe and the exhibit. If you follow this link, you'll see the globe in the top photo. http://www.tvworthwatching.com/post/What-I-Learned-from-My-Own-Art-Exhibit-And-Other-Things.aspx
May 25, 2015
 
 
 
 
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