Nurses: The Spinoff
About the Show
Nurses was an Empty Nest spinoff created by show runner Susan Harris that ran on NBC from 1991 to 1994. The show was paired with Empty Nest on Saturday nights and centered around the staff members of Community Medical Center’s 3 West nurses station – a floor above Dr. Weston’s pediatrics office. It wasn’t uncommon to see Harry, Laverne and other Empty Nest‘ers stopping by the third floor.
Episodes typically focused on a mix of personal issues in the lives of the staff coupled with plots revolving around the hospital’s eccentric patients – anything from a Hannibal Lecter-style cannibal to a group of Trekkies suffering from food poisoning. Like much of Harris’s work, storylines dabbled in both the realistic and the zany. Relationships between men and women were a significant source of material with the four female nurses at times coming off as a younger version of The Golden Girls as they gathered in the lounge to talk about their problems.
The show maintained modest ratings its freshman year thanks to the still-solid Saturday lineup that included both The Golden Girls and Empty Nest. As the NBC lineup changed and Saturday became less of a prime ratings destination, Nurses struggled to maintain its audience base. Changes in the cast, as well as the show’s soundtrack, for both the second and third seasons led to some inconsistency that likely furthered the diminishing ratings. Despite considerable media attention in 1993 when Loni Anderson joined the cast, Nurses was canceled at the end of its third year.
Reruns of the show aired briefly in the mid-90s on Lifetime but haven’t been seen since, and the show has never been officially released on DVD. However, like Empty Nest, bootleg DVDs of Nurses tend to circulate online. Visit the FAQ page for details on where to find them.
Cast / Characters
Stephanie Hodge as Nurse Sandy Miller (Seasons 1 & 2) – A fast talking Texan, Sandy was a divorced single woman always on the hunt for a man. Her sarcastic wit and cynical
demeanor was both endearing and annoying to the rest of the staff. Sandy provided the closest initial link to Empty Nest, as she was best friends with Laverne Todd. Stephanie Hodge left after the second season.
Arnetia Walker as Nurse Annie Roland – Annie, a long-suffering wife and mother, was head nurse of 3 West. A commanding presence and opinionated leader, Annie made a level-headed, solid boss for the floor whether she was advising Sandy on her latest relationship woes, keeping shady Jack Trenton in line or going head-to-head with Casey MacAfee.
Mary Jo Keenen as Nurse Julie Milbury – Julie was the Rose Nylund of Nurses. Her wide-eyed niavete was the source of much of the character’s humor. Julie was new to the nursing field at the start of the show, having formerly been a psychiatric social worker, and had trouble dealing with the harsh realities of working in medicine – and the germs that came with it. But her big heart and sunny optimism often won out in the end.
Ada Maris as Nurse Gina Cuevas – Gina was the lovestruck Latina who pined for the affection of Dr. Hank Kaplan and often shared humorous – and typically harrowing – tales from her homeland, the fictional San Pequeno. Hank and Gina eventually did get together and, after a one-night stand in season two that resulted in pregnancy, had a child in season three, delivered by Dr. Weston.
Kip Gilman as Dr. Hank Kaplan – Hank was a resident physician at 3 West. Despite his position, Hank was constantly broke thanks to a greedy ex-wife and his bachelor lifestyle. His “will they or won’t they?” relationship with Gina finally brought some consistency to Hank’s meandering social ways when the two finally got together in the third season.
Carlos Lacamara as Paco Ortiz – Paco was a shiftless and occasionally scheming orderly on the third floor who, after the first season, often fell into the role of sidekick (and scapegoat) to slimy Jack Trenton.
Jeff Altman as Nurse Greg Vincent (Season 1) – Greg was a snarky male nurse who often got flack for his disrepect of the hospital’s doctors. Jeff Altman left after the first season.
Florence Stanley as Dr. Amanda Riskin (Season 1) – Dr. Riskin was a dry, sharp-witted and tough-as-nails resident physician who later became the hopital’s medical director. Florence Stanley left after the first season.
Markus Flanagan as Nurse Luke Fitzgerald (Season 2) – Luke arrived at Community Med at the start of season two and butted heads with Dr. Kaplan right away. Luke, a self-professed loner, had trouble with authority and was not good at dealing with people. He often had the staff wondering just how sane he was. Markus Flanagan left after the second season.
David Rasche as Jack Trenton (Seasons 2 & 3) – Jack was a convicted felon for insider trading sentenced to do community service at the hospital at the start of season two. A wealthy businessman, Jack was not pleased with having to spend his days cleaning up after patients. He battled Annie, fawned over Casey, duped Paco and consistently tried to get out of doing any work.
Loni Anderson as Casey MacAfee (Season 3) – Corporate climber Casey MacAfee became hospital administrator at the start of the third season. When a corporate company took over operations, its flaky owner Mr. Waits (played in a recurring role by Will & Grace‘s Leslie Jordan) put Casey in charge, despite her having no experience with running a hospital. Her management decisions, such as installing a surveillance camera over the nurses station or ordering sunny yellow hospital gowns, conflicted with the staff, especially Annie, who became her biggest antagonist. Casey reinvigorated the show’s Empty Nest connection when she set her romantic sights on Harry.
Nurses produced 68 episodes between September 1991 and May 1994. A title and air date guide can be found here. Also check out the Golden Girls/Nurses Crossovers section for more episode information.
Whatever Happened To…?
Despite a brief run in syndication on Lifetime in the mid-nineties, Nurses has largely faded from view. But its cast went on to varying degrees of success after the show shut down production.
Stephanie Hodge – After briefly playing mom to Jennifer Aniston in 1994’s short-lived Muddling Through, Stephanie went on to a five-season stint on the WB sitcom Unhappily Ever After as the sex-starved Jennie Malloy, from 1995 to 1999. Since then, she has made appearances in several television shows including Reba, The War at Home, Good Luck Charlie, and more recently Perry Mason and Young Sheldon.
Arnetia Walker – Arnetia’s biggest roles since Nurses include a recurring spot on the series Popular and a regular, albeit short-lived, stint on ABC’s The Big House, which ran for six episodes in the spring of 2004. More recently she appeared on the Dynasty reboot and starred in the stage play Yes, Virginia, alongside Mindy Sterling. The play was cowritten by former Golden Girls writer Stan Zimmerman.
Mary Jo Keenen – Mary Jo starred in the short-lived 1995 series My Wildest Dreams and made appearances on The John Laroquette Show, Everybody Loves Raymond and, perhaps most notably, a recurring role on Seinfeld as a neighbor of the Costanzas who thought George was in need of mental help. She is married to Mitchell Hurtwitz, a producer on Nurses and The Golden Girls, who has created and/or produced several series including the acclaimed Arrested Development. (In fact, it was Mary Jo who came up with the family name, Bluth, used on Arrested Development.) Mary Jo and Mitchell have three daughters.
Ada Maris – From 2000 to 2004, Ada starred on the Nickelodeon series The Brothers Garcia alongside Nurses costar Carlos Lacamara and has had roles on Stark Trek: Enterprise and the soap opera One Life to Live in 2009-2010. In 2022, Maris and Lacamara reprised their Brothers Garcia roles for a reboot series, The Garcias, on HBO Max. She is married to actor Tony Plana (Ugly Betty).
Kip Gilman – Kip has accumulated an impressive list of guest roles since Nurses ended, including recent spots on shows such as Bones and CSI:Miami. He is also an accomplished stage actor. Kip is married to actress Jamie Rose.
Carlos Lacamara – Carlos reunited with his Nurses costar Ada Maris for the Nickelodeon series The Brothers Garcia, which ran from 2000 to 2004. Since then he has appeared in several primetime series and daytime soaps ranging from NCIS and Desperate Housewives to Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless. He reunited with Maris for the 2022 HBO Max revival series The Garcias.
Jeff Altman – Comedian Jeff Altman has had a varied career in addition to his one-season run on Nurses that has included television (Baywatch), films and voiceover work (Bee Movie).
Florence Stanley – Florence was already an accomplished and well-known actress prior to her stint on Nurses. She continued to add to her impressive resume after leaving the show with appearances on such series as Mad About You, Cybill and Malcolm in the Middle. She was the voice of the grandmother on the ABC series Dinosaurs from 1991 to 1994 and the original voice of Lois’s mother on Family Guy. Florence died in 2003 at the age of 79.
Markus Flanagan – Markus has appeared in a variety of TV shows since his one season on Nurses. Among his recent works are Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Supernatural and Bones. Markus is also a playwright and founded the L.A. Cafe Plays series in Santa Monica, CA. His book, One Less Bitter Actor, is a critcally-acclaimed guide for those trying to make it in show business.
David Rasche – David’s ever-growing resume includes roles on such series as Suddenly Susan, Ugly Betty, All My Children, Royal Pains, Bored to Death and Veep. His film roles include appearances in Burn After Reading and Just Married. Most recently, he has turned up on Succession.
Loni Anderson – Loni’s varied career, which includes what are perhaps her most notable roles as Jennifer on WKRP in Cincinnati and the real-life Mrs. Burt Reynolds (which ended in a much-publicized divorce during her stint on Nurses), remained active after the show wrapped. She costarred in So NoTORIous in 2006, alongside Tori Spelling and Zachary Quinto, and has recently appeared on Baby Daddy and in the 2016 series My Sister is So Gay.