This Thursday the ER will be seeing its last patient and I thought as a tribute I would select my top 10 moments from the last 15 years (in no particular order):
- The pilot episode: I credit this as the cause for my interest in television as I saw it when it first aired when I was 12 and was so blown a way by what a TV show could do that I realised that film was not the only medium that could be impressive in both scale and quality.
- ‘Hell and High Water’: this season 2 epic that showcased George Clooney as ER’s tour de force still holds up to the test of time, I watched it a few weeks ago and it is still as tense and nail biting as when it first aired.
- ‘All in the Family’: in season 6 when Carter and Lucy were stabbed this was the episode that immediately followed this event. From the opening of Dr Weaver finding them injured, to the heartbreaking scenes in which Romano and Corday could not save Lucy this episode had me crying from start to finish and still does almost ten years later
- ‘On the Beach’: or ‘the one where Mark Greene dies and I cry buckets’. Like the above episode this one had me balling, I still can’t hear the Israel Kamamawiwo’ole version of ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ without getting misty eyed.
- ‘Chaos Theory’: the season 9 opener was a little ridiculous (hospital quarantined due to potential small pox outbreak) but it produced one of the most shocking moments when Dr Romano got a little too close to a helicopter blade and was a genuine ‘holy shit’ moment. It is unfortunate that this moment kinda ruined his character and led to his future demise via another helicopter accident.
- ‘Ambush’: the live episode. It is incredible that for a show like ER that this episode was shot live twice for both the east and west coast of the
and that there were no major screw ups. It demonstrates both the hard work and the way that this show wanted to set the bar high and beat it. U.S.
- Episodes outside the ER: so this isn’t one moment so I’m cheating a little but when they step outside Chicago several excellent episodes have been created which are both politically charged (in the Congo) and ones which regard more personal family matters (road trips with Doug Ross and Mark Greene and one with Abby and Carter).
- ‘You set the tone’: words that show that this is a teaching hospital, the importance of having a mentor and showing that there have been several cycles of growth. These words were first uttered in the pilot by Dr Morgenstern (William H. Macy) to Dr. Greene after Carol’s suicide attempt. Greene passed them on to Carter as he finished his final shift, and then Carter did the same to Morris demonstrating the evolution of character from student to teacher.
- Guest appearances: yes another cheat but there have been so many good ones I could probably do a top 10 on these alone. Favourites include Ewan McGregor as a guy holding up a convenience store that Carol is in, Ray Liotta as an alcoholic in liver failure, Don Cheadle as a surgical student with Parkinson’s disease, Forrest Whitaker as a disgruntled and vengeful patient, Shawn Hatosy as someone with a hard to diagnose mental condition, James Cromwell as the priest with Lupus and special mention to guest director Quentin Tarantino. I’m sure I have missed many other excellent examples but those are the ones that spring to mind first.
- ‘Love’s Labor Lost’: so I have already mentioned some devastating episodes that revolve around the doctors, but this wins the prize for most shattering patient story with the death of a woman in labour. The whole episode is gut wrenching and deserves all the plaudits it was given, including 5 Emmy awards.
So, I’m sure there are many more moments and episodes that could be added to the list and it was pretty hard going through 15 years worth of material to pick just 10. I’m gonna be sad when it is all over on Thursday as it is a truly brilliant series which influenced how I view TV. Also if there is ever anything vaguely medical in my real life I always think of ER (not sure if this is actually a good thing) but it has definitely made me understand the physical human condition a little whilst keeping me highly entertained. It is also because of ER that I started watching Friends, when in season 1 George Clooney and Noah Wyle guest starred in the episode ‘The one with two parts’.
I will leave you with a clip from the pilot episode introducing a very young Carter: