I started watching ER on Thursdays in 1995 after my basketball practices. Already at its second season, I had heard a lot of good from the show, but never bothered to see what it was all about. I was exhausted, relaxing on the couch after a good workout and a cooling shower, flipping channels, something I rarely ever do, when my attention was grabbed by the intensity of the scene that was been played out before me. Something to do with Eriq Lasalle's character (Dr. Benton) and his mom or sister, I vaguely remember. Then the emergency room complications, the tension. Blood. Hospital. This must be that doctors show, ER, I thought. Let me see what this fuss is all about, I said to myself, intended to watch at least the end of that show But it was already too late!! I was already hooked. The next week, I found myself driving back faster from my basketball practice to make sure to catch the show again.
Seven years later, I'm still watching (or taping) it every week. Why? Because it's the best drama show on TV, hands down, no contest. I thought at first I was biased because I studied physiology and am pretty versed in the technical jargon and medical realities they face on the show. I have a great interest in medicine and even considered a career in that path at one point in my life. However, the more I watched the show, the more I realized that it's not about the physical traumas, but about the human traumas. The admittedly romanticized, but no less relevant, reality of a profession that deals with life and death day after day, night after night. This is what makes it compelling. This is what makes it of greater scope and deeper emotions.
An ER doctor never gets enough sleep, never gets to go home. Is facing critical situations one after the other. Must make life-altering decisions daily. And yes, also has to cope with his personal life. Relationships, achievements and short-comings.
The setting aside, ER is a show that can boast about serious talent in the writing, directing, acting, casting, cinematography, editing, sound and even the pretty realistic make-up-F/X departments. And I'm talking about top-notch rendition, year after year. Just look at the list of Emmy and Golden Globe nominations over the years. What should also be kept in mind is the genuine appreciation by the public, as demonstrated for example by the People's Choice Award for Favorite Television Dramatic Series for eight years straight.
Created by writing mogul Michael Crichton, this show has passed a host of extremely talented actors that went on to 'bigger and better things', while still keeping the quality and the excitement of interesting and captivating stories told by equally apt newcomers. The style of the show is unique. The humour is witty and often sarcastic (see the purposely unlikable, sharp-tongued Paul Crane's Dr. Robert Romano). The tension is handled impeccably. The death of main characters truly riveting, sad and heartfelt (no question some of the best shows). The personal stories of the nurses and doctors and their work interactions with each other is worthy of a soap opera, but handled with a honest hard look at the twists and turn of life and personal interplay. The directing is smart, thorough. The long continuous takes (with great cinematography work) enables us to feel right in the action and switch from a tense situation to the other. What can you ask more of a TV show?
I enjoy ER and give my hats off to everyone involved with the show. Back in 1994, they re-invented the TV drama genre, upping the level of writing, acting and directing. This challenged the competition at the time and started giving us altogether better drama shows (for the most part). In its ninth season, ER is still the best; it hasn't lost any steam yet. Yes, there has been a lot of changes (actors-characters), but the essence (writers, directors, producers) of what makes the show great is still there and still strong.
When it comes down to it, the daily stress and life-affecting decisions at County General Hospital coupled with the hectic work environment is a place I want to vicariously live in every week. Because, with all the pain and hardness, we understand that these doctors like to help people, but they also love the RUSH.
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