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Suzanne Pleshette Meets Nurses, Asks Them To Help Save “Nightingales″

May 2, 1989

UNION, N.J. (AP) _ The dessert and hot topic was cheesecake. ″Nightingales″ star Suzanne Pleshette ate it as real-life nurses told her how not to portray them as the confection.

Miss Pleshette also apologized for the NBC-TV series’ portrayal of nurses as doctor-chasing airheads, and asked for their help: Save Our Show.

″You’re looking at a hit show that’s about to be canceled as a result of the controversy,″ the actress said. ″Unfortunately, now the nurses are in a position to undo what they’ve done. They have to save us.

″Unless every nurse who wrote a letter before can fax a letter to NBC in the next two days, we may be over and out,″ said Miss Pleshette, who portrays the ″den mother″ to a group of sex-kitten nurses.

Miss Pleshette and co-producer Douglas Cramer met with nurses at Union Hospital on Monday to discuss how the program could portray nurses more realistically.

″We want the show kept on the air and to reflect nursing and health care as it could be,″ said Patricia Lynch, nursing administrator at the 201-bed hospital in this town 30 miles west of New York City.

The program, which premiered in January and is broadcast on Wednesday nights, has been criticized for demeaning the nursing profession in particular and women generally by portraying five student nurses as lusty bimbos. The program often shows them in racy lingerie, bouncy aerobic workouts and locker- room disrobing sessions.

The 189,000-member American Nurses Association organized a massive letter- writing protest, and sponsors including Chrysler Corp. and Sears, Roebuck and Co. have withdrawn advertisements from the show.

NBC is expected to decide whether to renew the show within two weeks.

Last week, executive producer Aaron Spelling said the series would show less skin and more nurses working in uniform if NBC brings it back next season. He also said he would hire a nursing adviser to help the show depict more realistic situations.

Barbara Wright, executive director of the New Jersey State Nurses Association, which has joined in the protest against the show, said the group has been encouraged by the response to their complaints.

″We would certainly want to consider any ways that things could be modified and create a positive image,″ she said in a telephone interview.

Ms. Lynch said she invited Miss Pleshette and Cramer to Union Hospital because she believed the staff could provide constructive criticism. They talked over a private lunch of shrimp cocktail, followed by cheesecake.

″We consider a show in its first season a work in progress,″ Miss Pleshette said at a news conference.

″We do not deny and we never deny that we made some mistakes.″

After the show’s initial episodes, Miss Pleshette said, she objected to the garter belts and bras the actresses wore and ordered ″appropriate″ undergarments.

Changes were made but did not appear on television for about four episodes, and well after the protests began, because of the lag in airing prime-time programs, she said.

A show about nurses dealing with AIDS, cancer, and other diseases would make the program more interesting, said Ms. Lynch.

″What really makes a nurse is what’s inside her heart and her mind and how she deals with people and life issues,″ she added. ″That’s more dramatic than seeing somebody jump up and down in their tights.″

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