Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Whatever Happened To...Chad Allen

I loved St. Elsewhere. A lot. In fact, I consider myself more than just a common fan of the show.

Truth is, I really did love it. Every episode. The show, which ran on NBC from 1982 through 1988 was brilliant; it combined very human stories with a unique visual presentation, excellent writing that helped the show feel authentic and a cast of talented actors who seemed to do their best individual work while being part of a large ensemble.

Anyone remember Denzel Washington?

I think what I loved most about St. Elsewhere was how a show about a bunch of medical professionals in big-city Boston's St. Eligius Hospital could make this then-teen-aged country boy from rural West Virginia feel like family.

Not a distant cousin or some type of in-law, but real family. The kind you don't feel obligated to pull out good china for when I visit. The sort of family you get excited to see, and love to spend time with. St. Elsewhere made me feel part of something unique, something special.

Until Chad Allen, and "The Last One."

For years, Allen played Tommy Westphall, the young son of Dr. Donald Westphall. Dr. Westphall was wise, but flawed. There was a sense of sadness about him, as if he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. But, he carried it quietly, and with dignity. That dignity was evident when he provided medical care to patients, when he taught medical students completing residency at St. Eligius and when he parented Tommy, who happened to have autism.

For six years I visited my family at St. Elsewhere, watching Dr. Morrison (David Morse) become as good a human being as he was a doctor, hoping Dr. Ehrlich (Ed Begley, Jr.) would soon stop being a kiss-ass and crossing my fingers that Dr. Axelrod (Stephen Furst) would begin to develop some confidence.

Until Chad Allen, and "The Last One."

The final episode of St. Elsewhere, titled "The Last One" ended with Ed Flanders (wearing clothes that identified him not as a doctor, but as a construction worker) walking into a small apartment. In a chair sat Norman Lloyd-- known to viewers for years as Dr. Auschlander--dressed casually, and quickly revealed to be the father of the Construction-Man Donald Westphall.

Sitting quietly in the floor, staring intently into a snow globe was Tommy.

Westphall paused, looks at Auschlander and said: "I don't understand this autism. I talk to my boy, but...I'm not even sure if he ever hears me...Tommy's locked inside his own world. Staring at that toy all day long. What does he think about?"

It was all a fantasy! My beloved characters--Wayne Fiscus, Peter White, Jack Morrison and Elliott Axelrod--each simply a fantasy conjured up by a kid staring at a snow globe!

I was crushed, and angry. So much so that I boycotted the episodes of Highway to Heaven, The Wonder Years and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman that featured Chad Allen as a guest star. I stayed away from his guest star turns on NYPD Blue, Cold Case and Charmed. I did see him recently, though, in a small role in TV's Criminal Minds.

Maybe it's time for a healing, after all...


jedi jawa said...

That's hilarious! I've managed to make it all the way to age 33 and never heard that story! When St. Elsewhere started I was in 1st grade and was only in 9th when it ended so I never watched it. Wow, what a way to end a show! :-)

The Film Geek said...

It was tragic! And this before lots of TV shows were pulling that kind of swerve.

I was devestated...

Oh, and I hate you youngsters! :)

Stanton said...

As far as last episodes of TV series go, I thought it was inventive. I wasn't offended or disillusioned by it. It had kind of a "wow" quality; Kinda like when the Donald Sutherlan professor character in "Animal House" was talking to the stoned students about our solar system being a molecule in the pinky finger of a giant.

Can you name another last episode that was better?

The Film Geek said...

Other than the Newhart swerve, I can't Stanton. And let me be clear: it was inventive, and very well done. It was even a nice tie-in for me in a professional sense. But, as I tried to say in the post, I had an investment in those characters. A week by week over years investment. I was with them as they cried, and loved and laughed and...

Christ, I sound pathetic. :)

It was inventive. I was sad. LOL

Route 75 said...

Were you with them when that one kid was watching a female doctor in the shower and spluged all over himself? You were, weren't you? WEREN'T YOU!?!

The Film Geek said...

I was.

Hey, I didn't say the family was perfect. Just that they were family!

Hoyt said...

I was going to say that I had heard about the "snow globe" ending and that I missed the opportunity to watch season 1 last December when my sister pleaded with me to watch it when she was home. But I'm having trouble leaving comments on blogger sites because of the word verification feature. Anyway, Stephen Furst rocks!