First "E.R." went live, like in the early days of television. Now a television hospital drama will go back even further into cultural history when CBS TV's "Chicago Hope" emulates musical theatre. Tonight, Oct. 15, at 10 PM EST, CBS will air the long-awaited "Brain Salad Surgery" episode of "Chicago Hope," featuring song and dance numbers by the show's characters. John Leonard's television column in New York magazine (Oct. 20) reports that the production numbers spring from Dr. Aaron Shutt's (Adam Arkin) hallucinations when he suffers a cerebral aneurysm. Musical interludes include:
Mandy Patinkin's Dr. Geiger crooning "I'll Be There."
A lip-synch version of "Walk Like A Man," with Christine Lahti in trousers, with Hector Elizondo, Jayne Brook and Peter Berg backing.
Mark Harmon synching to "Red, Red Robin."
Young Dr. Shutt, at his Bar Mitzvah, singing "When I'm On My Journey."
The entire staff doing Guys & Dolls' "Luck Be A Lady."
Actually, the episode not only owes its genesis to the American musical but to British television dramas by the late Dennis Potter ("The Singing Detective," "Pennies From Heaven"). The writers of "Chicago Hope" certainly acknowledge the debt: they've named a black female surgeon flown in to operate on Dr. Shutt's aneurysm, Dr. Denise Potter.
--By David Lefkowitz