**This is the continuation of the previous post about the TV show ER. This section is my reflections on the show. (click here)**
Everyone around me was tackling the latest and greatest TV shows and talking about them constantly. My wife inhaled shows, addicted to whatever she was currently on. I was watching a show that faded from the cultural landscape long before I finished it.
In 2009, ER was still on the air, and thus still something most people knew of even if they didn’t watch. My military grooming regulations only furthered how much I looked like Dr. Greene, played by Anthony Edwards. That year, I made a trip to Rockefeller Plaza in New York City and came home with scrubs embossed with the ER show logo. Mom loaned me her stethoscope and that Halloween I went as Dr. Greene. It was a costume I would use again in the future when my knowledge of the Adobe Suite gave me the ability to create a replica ID badge for the fictional costume, thus increasing my authenticity.
I didn’t know it at the time, but a few years later I met Hallee Hirsh, the actress who played Rachel Greene, Dr. Greene’s daughter. When she appeared in the finale as a way to represent the original cast member, it only delighted me to have yet another connection to a great show. And of course, brought the storyline of the show full circle.
Though it would be impossible to pick a handful of episodes that stuck out at me, I have a wealth of moments from the show that I loved. From Greene saving his family from a deranged former patient to Romano signing to Benton’s deaf son Reese, I’m inundated with great characters and storylines.
For what has become one of my favorite TV show experiences of all time, ER is not without some trends. These are the type of things fans would pick up on and either agonize or look forward to. Time and time again, the show had to have certain archetypes present. There was always a heartthrob, an asshole, and a reliable student. The great part of the show was how a single character could move between these roles. Without exception, each time a new asshole was introduced, the show would slowly find a way to humanize them. After a while, they were no longer in that role and a new dramatic foil could move in. That was one reason why Romano signing was such a big deal. Here was a hothead who couldn’t get along with anyone, and yet manages to tell a boy how great his father is without notice. The scene doesn’t even have subtitles for the signs, making it an even more precious moment. Of all the roles that filled the jerk position, I ended up liking and rooting for later. It was a great way of using long form storytelling to paint a picture instead of one-dimensional mouthboxes. Looking back at it now, Carter was a character who managed to spend time in all three categories. Though the student was his most regular role, his pill addiction made him unmanageable (asshole), and his stability among the revolving door of castmates made him a bit of a heartthrob in later seasons. No other character in ER could run the gamut like that.
As the show went on, characters obviously left and new cast members were introduced to replace them. When the fifteenth season was announced to be the final one, it welcomed back a great portion of the original cast and have them interact with the “new class.” It made for a finale that was touching and one that doesn’t tie everything up in a bow. That was something the show did well. This was just a few moments with people in a crowded hospital; we were never going to see it all. Denouement wasn’t in the cards.
My favorite character was always changing depending on what season I was on. Ultimately, my favorites were: Gallant (Sharif Atkins), the army medic in Seasons 8-12; Neela Rosgotra (Parminder Nagra), med student turned surgeon who later marries Gallant appears in seasons 12-15; and of course John Carter (Noah Wyle), the man who is in 13 of the 15 seasons starting with season 1. Though I enjoyed many other characters, those were always the ones that were my favorites.
When the show came to a close, I didn’t get emotional. Though sometimes a show will move you. The West Wing and The OC had me balling. A handful of episodes from other shows had got me teary-eyed. Though ER had plenty of moments that made me run the emotional gamut, Neela’s departure was the most impactful. Done with such grace and heartache, it was truly touching. Though Pratt (Mekhi Phifer) and Gallant were hard to swallow too, Dr. Greene’s departure was a sad affair. Greene is seen spending time with his family on the beach as terminal illness overcasts his remaining days. It literally feels like the end of a major chapter in the show’s story as that moment faded to the credits.
Beyond the core cast, stars of all kinds appeared throughout the show’s run. Both Joe Manganiello and Deborah Ann Woll who would later star on True Blood appear in the final seasons. Academy Award nominated actors like Don Cheadle, Ray Liotta, James Woods, Ernest Borgnine, Sally Field, and many others would be peppered in throughout the show. In fact, the acting caliber of the show was so high, it is the most Emmy nominated show in TV history.
Thinking back on completing the show, part of me wants to go and watch it again from the beginning. At some point, I’m sure I’ll find a handful of episodes at random to keep me satiated whenever I feel the need to start the show over. It took a long time to finish the show, but the amount of time it took makes it special to me. I mentioned in my post about completing the bible that I wanted to finish watching this show. Now that I have, I only wish I had someone to share it with. No one watched the show with me and those who watched it when it aired are years removed from the finale. This almost felt like a cross to bear. I couldn’t share my favorite moments or worries about the characters without extensive explanation.
It wasn’t a show I could watch on streaming for free, so I was watching it one disc at a time. Towards the end of the jaunt, I would watch it every night before bed. It became a ritual, hoping Netflix sent the next disc before I was done with the current one. This of course was cheaper than buying every season as I went.
Now that it’s done, I’m brokenhearted. The show was over years ago, but I only finished it so recently. The promise I made to myself of writing this out only kept me in denial that is was actually over. I don’t want to jump into another show. I don’t want the inundation of new show suggestions. I liked having a show that wasn’t current to watch. It was like a security. The fictional Cook County General Hospital is closed. I can’t pay the landmark a visit. It exists only in the syndication rights and my memory. I loved this show and I’m so sorry it ever had to end. But I’m happy I’ve watched it through.