But at its most profound, Patinkin's ad-lib retort resonates with the same tough attitude everyone involved with Chicago Hopehas had to adopt to survive so much, so far, so well. Hobbled by the cocky, let's-see-who-blinks initial decision of CBS to run the program on NBC-dominated Thursday night, opposite the equally new ER, Hope had to swallow the humiliation of losing precipitously (with much press fanfare) to that other medical drama. Since Hope was moved to Mondays at 10 p.m. in the middle of last season, it has attracted a large, loyal audience that finds Arkin as hunky as George Clooney, and it ranks 23rd for this season to date, holding its own against powerhouse Monday Night Football and regularly beating ABC's Murder One. (For struggling CBS, that constitutes a huge, healthy hit.)
The show has also survived producer turnover. Although Hope is the child of L.A. Law wizard and Picket Fences creator Kelley, ongoing creative supervision was gradually transferred from Kelley to executive producer John Tinker (St. Elsewhere), who came on board in November 1994. Envisioned as a large ensemble drama, the show and its cast have suffered morale slumps, first as Patinkin's role expanded like yeast and later as energy was in danger of deflating after he decamped.
At the end of the second season, only three of the original pilot-episode cast members remain: Arkin, Hector Elizondo as hospital chief of staff Dr. Phillip Watters, and Roxanne Hart as charge nurse Camille Shutt. On the other hand, newer additions, especially Christine Lahti as cardiothoracic surgeon Kathryn Austin and Peter Berg as cowboy surgeon Billy Kronk, have palpably juiced up the show. Ensemble equality continues to be a tender subject Hart, Thomas Gibson, Jayne Brook, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and, especially, late addition Jamey Sheridan are still impatient for their characters to have more to do.