A Salute to ‘ER’
Deb and I rarely get to watch television live. Partly that has to do with our schedules and party it has to do with our desire to watch everything on DVR and avoid as many commercials as possible, fitting in more programming in less time.
However, we sort of made an exception last night for the final episode of ER. Deb said it was the kind of event we should see the night it happened so when she returned from choir practice at 10, we settled in and began the recording as the second half aired live. So, by the time it ended, we were a mere 30 minutes behind the rest of the East Coast.
We were hooked, like most of America, from the beginning given the stylish way the show was shot. The hand-held camera motion, the quick introduction of the regulars and the guest characters, the intercutting storylines, it was all a captivating blur. In the weeks that followed, as we got to know the characters it retained out attention, setting up a weekly habit that continued for a petty amazing fifteen years. During the leaner years, we stuck with it because it was still better than a lot of prime time dramas and as characters came and went, you could always hope for the best.
Last night’s finale was written by producer John Wells and he made certain that not only did we see familiar faces, but we got a sampling of every kind of case that became a hallmark of the series. There was the birth-gone-wrong, the teens doing stupid things, the elderly facing death with dignity, the confused and those in need. And of course, the last scene, as an explosion meant the ER would be full and all hands had to be on deck. He weaved all the threads quite nicely and made certain we had some sense of where all the characters were headed while showing that County General would always be there.
Wisely, he didn’t try and wrap everyone’s story in the two hours so the faithful saw Neela’s new path two weeks ago along with Cate Banfield finally getting a second chance at parenthood last week along with knowing that Archie Morris would wind up with his detective. This week, we got the inevitable, but nicely done, reconciliation between Sam and Gates, countered with the chasm that remained between Carter and Kem.
What was interesting was that an entire character arc was given to guest star Alexis Bledel which should have been given to one of the four interns introduced earlier this final season – it’s almost as if Wells lost faith in them as seen with their diminished appearances in the final half of the shortened season. She did a great job, I have to say, and it’s a shame we won’t see more of her character.
While Wells brought back Laura Innes, Alex Kingston, Eriq La Salle, and Sheri Stringfeld to join Noah Wylie form the earlier years, the best touch last night was the arrival of Mark Green’s now-adult daughter Rachel (Yvonne Zima) as a potential student doctor. She’s come a long way from the troubled teen she played on the show and her appearance was most welcome. (Additionally, they came up with a clever flashback to work in characters now dead on the show, including Mark Green and Rocket Romano.)
Many have said the show should have pulled the plug years ago, but honestly, I didn’t mind it lingering and will miss it since the show delved into topical medical and political issues, advocacy drama mixed with entertainment. While far from perfect, as the screen faded to black, it was certainly satisfying.