After 15 seasons, E.R. closes its doors

The Original Cast of E.R.

This Thursday, after 15 seasons and 331 episdes, County General will close it doors and ER will permanently enter the world of syndication.

ER is the longest running American primetime medical drama. Created by Michael Crichton in 1974, the serial drama was intended to be a movie based on Crichton’s experiences as a medical resident. But it was not until Crichton teamed with Steven Spielberg to produce Jurassic Park in 1993 that ER became a television drama.

In 1994, NBC looked the same as it does today; it had poorly developed television shows and was last-place in the weekly rankings. In fact, before ER came on the scene, NBC executives had planned on offering the 10 p.m. timeslot to Jay Leno, which is exactly what will happen following ER’s finale. Executives took a risk and agreed to broadcast ER, which no one expected to be successful. There were too many characters and too much gore. It did not follow standard narrative structure and used unorthodox filming techniques. In other words, it was too realistic. But when ER premiered on Sept. 19, 1994, it revitalized NBC and changed the television landcape forever.

I discovered ER the same way I suspect many people my age did: TNT Daytime Drama. I started watching out it of boredom one summer and with four episodes airing per day, watching ER was something for me to do. Soon enough, I was addicted; I stopped eating dinner with my family so I could watch ER at 6 o’clock. I even made my parents tape ER when I went to summer camp for two weeks, completely defeating the purpose of summer camp.

When I started watching, the glory years of ER, the days of Dr. Ross and Nurse Hathaway (played by George Clooney and Julianna Margulies) had just ended. But that didn’t matter to me. I was hooked and every Thursday since that summer, I haven’t missed an episode. While I watch other medical dramas, namely Grey’s Anatomy, I do so more because I enjoy mindless entertainment than because I’m being intrigued by compelling plotlines or dynamic characters.

ER has the ability to attract an audience in a way that no other show is able to. While it has depended on the occasional helicopter falling on a doctor scenario to draw ratings, ER does not focus on extreme melodrama the way that Grey’s does. There isn’t some indie rock song guiding your emotions. And there definitely has never been the ghost of a doctor’s very dead boyfriend overstaying his welcome.

When Grey’s Anatomy is currently television’s big thing, ER stayed away from following its lead. Instead, it continued with the same, albeit sometimes improbable, plotlines and character arches that had made it successful for over a decade. This is a testament to why ER is one of the greatest television shows of all-time and why Grey’s has become nothing more than a mockery.

There is a moment is an early episode from this season, when Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierny) is led down a hallway by longtime ER nurse Haleh. They arrive at a wall that has every locker nameplate of past ER doctors and nurses on it. This scene is a testament to the longevity of the show. Former stars, most notably George Clooney, have returned to show fans what has happened to their characters since they left the show. So the show is going out that same way it came in; with a focus on exceptional writing and strong characters. ER, in many ways, has come to natural and logical end.

ER’s conclusion is bittersweet. But as long as it doesn’t end with a kid shaking a snow globe and it all being a dream (a la St. Elsewhere), I’ll be content with the finale.

I haven’t quite figured out what I’m going to do on Thursday nights at 10 p.m. for the rest of my life. Maybe some other great show will captivate my attention the way ER did. But I’m not counting on that. Instead, I’ll look forward to an ER reunion sometime in the future.

The two-hour series finale of ER airs tonight at 9 p.m. on NBC. It is preceded by an hour long retrospective at 8 p.m.

Published: Mount Holyoke News
April 2, 2009
Reprinted with permission

In Which Dr. Ross Returns

George Clooney’s not so secret return to E.R. aired last night and it was magical. I literally squealed when I saw Clooney, Julianna Margulies and Eriq La Salle names in the credits. I squealed even louder when Ross and Hathaway made their (unassuming) first appearance in the episode. I’m so freakin happy right now; this must be what it feels like when you’re kids come home from college.

Overall, it was a great episode that also guest starred Susan Sarandon and Ernest Borgenine. Dr. Ross is now an attending physican in Seattle and Hathaway is a hospital administrator. Benton has been at Northwestern the past seven years. When Carter needs a kidney transplant, their lives become intertwined but of course, they’ll never that.

There were so many perfect moments with the original cast members but here are my favorites.

Dr. Ross sits down with Rosgotra and Taggert and they try to figure out who from his days are still around.

I’d like to point out Abby Lockhart delivered Ross and Hathaway’s daughters. Okay, enough of my ER-fanatic tendencies.

Also very crucial to this episode: The Benton/Carter bromance lives.

Susan Sarandon’s guest appearance as a grandmother dealing with the death of her grandson just screams “Emmy nominee”.

Last but not least: Carol is updated on the status of the transplants and updates Ross. The kidney went to some doctor in Chicago. They have no clue the kidney recipient is one of their former co-workers, and I wouldn’t have it be any other way.

I loved this episode; I’ve already watched it three times.

Thoughts on the E.R. reunion?

Paging Dr. Ross!

I’ve been an ER fanatic since I was (no joke) in the seventh grade. I loved it so much my mom finally agreed to let me stay up to watch it just so I would stop talking about Dr. Greene and Dr. Carter like they were my best friends. It is and will always be my favorite television show. You know that Sinead O’Connor song “Nothing Compares 2 U” thats how I feel about ER. So while I can watch shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, House etc, none of these are equal to ER.

Sadley this is ER‘s 15th and last season and I have (no joke) cried every episode thus far. Just ask my friend Caitlin, who I watch ER with every week. By the time each episode ends, I owe her a tissue box and several juice boxes.

This final season has brought back many of the old doctors – Dr. Corday; Dr. Weaver; Dr. Barnett; and Dr. Greene (from the grave). So this next bit of news, which I have been hopingand praying would come true, makes me incredibly happy.

George Clooney back to the ER?

According to an Internet report, ER alum George Clooney will return to the medical drama this week to shoot a cameo for the departing show. NBC would neither confirm nor deny the story to EW, but it seems highly likely, especially given what executive producer David Zabel told EW exclusively last year. To wrap the show’s final season, Zabel said he wanted to revisit characters that have existed in the ER over the years and say where they are now. “We’d love to get them all back in some way, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to,” says Zabel of actors like Clooney (Doug) and Julianna Margulies (Carol). “But we’re gonna try.”

Hmm… well if you ask me… I think Dr. Ross is back! Woohoo! At least he better be. Hopefully he brings Nurse Hathaway with him, because that would make this ER fan very, very happy. Just like this clip below did the first time I saw years ago.