St. Elsewhere and The White Shadow

St. Elsewhere (1982-1988)
The White Shadow (1978-1981)
Type: Crossover
Group 2

    With most shows, they simply spin off a character into another show or they have the characters do one shot crossovers with other shows. But with The White Shadow and St. Elsewhere, they did something rarely done. They took a character from The White Shadow, Warren Coolidge played by Byron Stewart, and transplanted him onto St. Elsewhere as a regular character.

    But it's not like he was spun off. St. Elsewhere hardly centered on him. In fact, with Coolidge being an orderly, he didn't get to do much at all on the show. No big thing was made of him being a character that started on another show. He was just sort of there. The shows didn't even take place in the same cities. The White Shadow was set in L.A. and St. Elsewhere takes place in Boston.

    There were references to The White Shadow though. Coolidge could often be spotted wearing a Carver High School t-shirt, Carver High School being the setting of The White Shadow. The biggest reference was quite a funny one though. Timothy Van Patten, who played the character of Salami on The White Shadow, made a guest appearance on St. Elsewhere as an entirely different character. There was a scene where they had Coolidge run into his character and excitedly greet him with, "Heyyyy!!! Salami!!!" only to have Timothy Van Patten tell him, "I'm sorry you must have me confused with someone else." It was very funny. That was the point in fact where I realized that Byron Stewart was in fact playing the same character that he had on The White Shadow. Shortly after that, they had another scene in which Coolidge discussed his basketball career with another orderly. I think it was established his basketball career and maybe college education as well was stopped short by a sports injury.

    For the longest time I was curious why this crossover happened. I guessed that maybe one of the higher-ups on the show also had worked on The White Shadow and was helping to get his actor friend a new job. I could see the actor pushing his buddy on the idea. "See, Coolidge could be working there as an orderly! It makes sense!" I now have it on good authority that my idea wasn't far off. It seems that when The White Shadow ceased production most of the crew ended up working on St. Elsewhere. Some of the actors from The White Shadow even directed episodes of St. Elsewhere. Gotta love it.

    Regardless of how and why it happened, the idea of this character just happening into two different shows as if by accident is one that makes me smile. When most shows end, that's it. You don't get to know what happened to the characters next unless they do a reunion show and then everyone ends up having done soooo well in life its unbelievable. The whole point of having Coolidge on St. Elsewhere almost felt like it was just to show you he was doing okay if not exactly a millionaire. Like I said, he wasn't a central character. He was just sort of there in the background. And somehow, that was comforting.

    An addendum to all St. Elsewhere entries: The final episode of St. Elsewhere revealed the entire series to be the daydream of an autistic child (man did this show have balls!). Given this, an argument could be made that all the crossovers with St. Elsewhere are invalid. That all the crossovers were merely part of the kid's dream. Like he watched Cheers on TV and worked it into his little fantasy and thus the shows don't really exist as part of the same reality. I count the crossovers as valid however. When all these crossovers were aired it was with the idea they were real. No one new the whole show was supposed to be a kids dream. So, since they were intended as real, I say they're legit. I actually like the idea that the kid dreamed ALL the shows connected to St. Elsewhere. In that case the Newhart show was the dream of Bob Newhart's character from the Bob Newhart show who was in turn only a character in an autistic kid's head. Don't think about that too long or your head will explode.

Other St. Elsewhere Crossover Links
St. Elsewhere and The Bob Newhart Show
St. Elsewhere and Cheers
St. Elsewhere and Chicago Hope
St. Elsewhere and Homicide: Life On The Streets
St. Elsewhere and M*A*S*H
St. Elsewhere and Oz
St. Elsewhere and Tattingers/Nick And Hillary

St. Elsewhere Season 1 DVD article!

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