The other night I started watching Season One of the old TV show “ER” on DVD. I’d seen the pilot before, but I have never actually seen all the episodes from that first year.
When I write the “old show” ER, I’m talking 1994, 17 freakin’ years ago. It doesn’t seem that long ago since Mark Greene’s (Anthony Edwards) geeky face first showed its existential appearance of angst regarding work, his wife and kid, his buddy Doug Ross (George Clooney) and his love-interest/friend Dr. Susan Lewis (Sherrie Stringfield).
There are teenagers alive now who were born the year the show debuted! There are human beings walking around who don’t know what “ER” is! And hey! I wasn’t even living in Sacramento when the show began!
But I digress…. “ER” ran from 1994 to 2009 — 15 years, 331 episodes. It was part medical lesson, part soap opera and part action show.
In 15 years, it seemed liked every main character slept with every other main character and that more diseases were diagnosed than could fill a Tabor’s Medical Dictionary. (It’s like, how many people knew what “eclampsia” was before “ER”??!) (“Love’s Labor Lost,” Season Two, 1995)
Viewers were treated to 15 winters of Chicago snow, 15 springs of Lake Michigan and the year-round roar of the “el” train.
The thing that struck me the most as I watched episode one the other night was how dadgum YOUNG everyone looked! It blew me away. Dr. John Carter (Noah Wyle) looked like a beleaguered horny teenager and Dr. Greene still had a little bit of hair on top of his head.
It was kind of like looking back on the lives of people I had met long ago while at the same time knowing how they were all going to turn out at the end. It was bittersweet — like going through an old photo album.
“ER” was a Thursday night tradition for 15 years. Going out for coffee after an evening meeting depended on how close to 10pm it was. A familiar response to an invite was, “Naw, I’m gonna go home and watch ‘ER.'” I said it myself many a’time.
A lot of the main characters — doctors, RNs, administrators — came and went (and came back again!) over the years. But there was always a core group of desk clerks, nurses, paramedics and aides who kept the Emergency Room running while the docs and RNs played out their melodramatic professional and personal lives.
For instance, there were a number of nurses who appeared on the show on and off for almost every single season. These characters included Conni Oligario (Conni Marie Brazelton), Chuny Marquez (Laura Cerón), Lydia Wright (Ellen Crawford) and Malik McGrath (Deezer D). And who can forget the big-guy desk clerk Jerry Markovic (Abraham Benrubi), a kind of larger than life ER version of “Radar O’Reilly.”
One of the fun things about “ER” was that it was kind of realistic, but…not really. It often seemed like peeps on the show never got enough sleep but somehow managed to work long hours, have affairs and go out to lunch at the joint across the street. And how many doctors and nurses in real life look as good as these folks always did in their uniforms? Do paramedics really spit out those rapid-fire vitals without looking at a chart?
Of course, going to a real ER in any big city is usually not very enjoyable. It’s always more interesting to pretend that doctors and nurses, or any hospital employees, have such over-the-top, fascinating, fulfilling lives.
And…they are able to look so young while they’re doing all that hard living!
©July 2011 by Phyllis J. Hanniver