Dr. Westphall Moons As He Leaves NBC's 'St. Elsewhere' With AM-NBC Sued
Oct. 01, 1987
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ NBC officials thought long and hard before clearing the way for actor Ed Flanders to drop his pants to end his five-year starring role as Dr. Donald Westphall on NBC's ''St. Elsewhere,'' an executive says.
Westphall's action, in a confrontation with his hospital's new boss, ended Wednesday night's episode, and the moon shot was frozen for a moment as part of the closing credits rolled.
''It hasn't been done before and we wrestled with it as to whether it was appropriate,'' said Ralph Daniels, vice president for NBC Standards. ''We felt it was a special set of circumstances.
''It went up the line to senior management and it was decided we would allow it as a one-time thing. We felt it was appropriate to the character of Westphall and the cirumstances of the show.''
Less than 30 minutes after the final shot, 27 New York area viewers had called NBC to complain while 10 called to praise it, said Matt Messina, director of NBC entertainment press.
The viewers commented on ''the general taste of the program,'' he said. Some complained about Ed Flanders, Messina said, and others complained about other parts of the program but he said he did not know what their specific objections were.
Messina, saying the number of callers was ''a small response by a network standard,'' noted the program had not yet aired on the West Coast.
Ellen Miller-Wachtel, general attorney for the network, said the show would go on as scheduled despite a trademark infringement lawsuit filed in Louisville, Ky., by the hospital chain Humana Inc.
The federal court suit filed Tuesday asks that NBC immediately stop using the name ''Ecumena'' for the fictional corporation that took over St. Eligius hospital. NBC ''believes the complaint is totally without merit,'' according to Miller-Wachtel.
Flanders said he wanted to leave the Emmy-winning medical show to do other things and the producers wrote his departure into the ongoing story line.
''The hospital has been taken over by a major corporation that wants to cut costs and make St. Eligius profitable,'' said Brian Robinette, an NBC spokesman.
''This clashes with Westphall's humanistic policies and he quits. As he leaves, he moons Dr. John Gideon (Ronny Cox), who has taken over as president and chief executive officer.''