Sunday, June 5, 2016

Rewatch: ER



So I took on a major rewatch project. I decided to rewatch all 15 seasons of ER. It was quite the undertaking. I hadn't watched the show since it aired, and had seen every episode only once previously; the night it actually aired. I stuck through the rough seasons of the show, and remained a loyal fan from beginning to end. And so I felt it was due justice that I give it another go and see if it held up after all this time.

First off the first half of the series is clearly set in the 90's, and it's fun. The first few seasons had no internet and no cell phones. Well unless you were rich, then you had the giant brick phone. Relationships occurred by actually talking to people in person, and some of the medicine and techniques are fun to see as antiquated now. Not everything can hold the test of time, but honestly it doesn't come off that outdated overall.

The first five seasons are interesting, and I was surprised to find out how much I actually remembered. I mean it has been 22 years since the show debuted.



Season 1 was definitely ground breaking TV. There hadn't been, and I can say there still isn't anything like this show. They did such a great job making you feel like you're actually there with them in the hospital performing those life-saving procedures. They had an outstanding original cast that to this day can never be matched. It was kind of cool to see a baby Carter on his first day as a med student being thrown into the trenches and reacting just how you would expect a med student to react. And Benton wasn't shy about getting Carter in there and learning. Greene was the mentor everyone wanted, and Ross was the childish handsome doctor you secretly want to work on you. Season 1 was everything they did right to build a fantastic series. For not having seen this season in 22 years, it was nice to see what I actually remembered, like Hathaway attempting suicide, Benton's mother dying, and Greene's baby delivery mistake and the legal consequences. I feel like it says a lot for the writing if I can remember as much as I did.

Season 2 brought us the one and only Dr. Weaver, I remember distinctly hating her from the very moment I saw her. And Doug nor Susan were too happy about her coming to the ER either. This time around because I knew she grew as a character later on in the series, I wasn't as bothered with her. This season had it's first big "event" episode with Doug saving a kid from a water culvert and becoming a local celebrity. I totally remembered this episode almost exactly how it played out. I was impressed with myself. We also saw Greene's marriage dissipate and him struggle with custody of his daughter. Susan also had to deal with losing little Susie to her sister Chloe. Honestly I was glad to see Chloe go away. I never did like that story line in the first place, and it wasn't any better the second time around unfortunately. Aside from that, Season 2 was just as good as Season 1 in my opinion.



In Season 3 Carter finally becomes a doctor, in the form of an intern, and things start to get real for him. Maggie joins the cast, but only as a part-time character, but she's their first gay character, which was pretty forward for the mid 90's, and then we lose Susan the first time after Mark pours his heart out to her. I felt so bad for him, but knew better things were ahead for him in the love department, but as a rebound first he dates Chuny which I found hilarious and so not working. It lasted a few weeks thank god. But then he goes and gets assaulted in a bathroom, and I remember that episode distinctly. I could even tell that it was coming, just by one scene alone. My memory is weird. Poor Mark then struggles with having been assaulted and not knowing who it was. Which would be hard, but he does come around in the next season thankfully.

Season 4 starts off with a live episode, and I remember the advertising for this was all over the place. I also remember that in the 90's it became a short-lived thing to do a live episode. This episode also happened to be where we meet Dr. Corday for the first time. I wonder how that was for Alex Kingston to join a show and the first one you do happens to be a "live" event? I wish I had realized that before the last Con I went to, I would have asked her that question. Maybe she's answered it somewhere in the past. I'll have to look. Season 4 was also when we got the pleasure of Dr. Romano, easily the most hated character at the time. I was also reminded that Dr. Corday was with Dr. Benton before Dr. Greene, and Mariska Hargitay was a desk clerk who dated Greene throughout a good chunk of Season 4. I didn't remember that one at all! We also learned in this season that Benton's son Reese may be deaf. Which I thought was a good thing for Benton. Having a kid softened him already, but a deaf child definitely changed his perspective, as we saw further in the next season.

Season 5 brought us Lucy, and I immediately got sad because I knew her fate. It was also interesting to watch Carter without money trying to make things work, and ending up being the babysitter of a bunch of med students at a dorm, and then when that ended he lives with Weaver for a while, and I found that super entertaining. We got to see a different side of Weaver, and it was a nice change. Doug and Carol were hot and heavy, and then Doug up and leaves, not knowing Carol is pregnant. And Greene and Corday begin their relationship, which in my opinion is my favorite pairing of the series.

The next five seasons were just as interesting to watch. I didn't remember that we actually had Lucy for nearly two seasons before she and Carter were attacked and we lost Lucy. It was just as sad as I remember though.



In Season 6 alone we gained Kovac, Abby, Malucci, Cleo, Deb (Jing Mei) returned, and then Romano was made a regular. I remember them all, but not all at once! Before Season 6, we had maybe one or two new regular characters per season. This was also the same season where we lost Lucy (RIP), Jeannie, Maggie, Anna, and the first full season without Doug Ross, which made me sad, but I knew it was coming. I do have to say that Season 6 nearly killed me. That was easily the most emotional season they'd done so far. Between Carol deciding to leave and join Doug in Seattle and then Carter and Lucy being attacked, the season was full of feels.

And then I got to Season 7 and remembered, nope that's the most emotional season so far. Season 7 wrecked me all over again. Dealing with Dr. Greene's brain tumor, and Corday's pregnancy, their engagement and then their super stressful wedding. I'd forgot just how seriously emotional and hard Season 7 was just for that story line alone. And then to add Kovac's family history, and Carrie's coming to terms with her sexuality, and Carter's drug addiction recovery it was a hard season!



And then came the last half of Season 8. It nearly put me into a deep depression. I remember the death of Dr. Greene being hard, but not that hard. Up until this rewatch, if someone were to ask me what the hardest TV death was, I had always said Nate from Six Feet Under. I can now officially say, nope I was wrong, it's Dr. Greene. I ugly cried so hard! And it left me with a very sad feeling all day. As ridiculous as that sounds, because I do realize it's just a show, but that episode was the best written, acted, and most emotional episode of the series hands down. The episodes leading up to it were hard as well, and the episode right before where the hospital learns of his death had me bawling too, but to watch him actually die ruined me all over again. I thought I was prepared, I mean I had seen it before, but I don't think you can really prepare yourself for that kind of emotion.

I also think it's safe to say that once we lost Dr. Greene, the show just wasn't the same. He carried that show for 8 seasons, and it left a void that just couldn't quite be filled. Don't get me wrong, the show still had some gems:

Like in Season 9 when it started off with Dr. Romano getting his arm sliced off by a helicopter, or watching the downward spiral of Kovac. It spent a lot of time with Carter in Africa, which I actually enjoyed, but can see how it took away from the show's formula. Don't get me wrong, the season is good, there's just something missing (ahem Dr. Greene).

Season 10 started off with killing Romano by none other than a helicopter just a few episodes in. I recall when I first watched, I thought this was their "jumping the shark" moment; watching again, I'm not entirely sure I was wrong. The magic that once was, started to really dwindle at this point with the show. And if I can be honest, this time around Romano grew on me. I remember hating him, but after watching again, I can actually say I enjoyed his character. The season also brought Carter back to Chicago with a pregnant girlfriend in tow, only to be still-born. Carrie lost her wife in a fire accident, and we ended the season with her losing her child to her in-laws.

The final five seasons appeared to me that they tried really hard. Too hard sometimes:

Season 11 for instance, felt like they had one too many "special" episodes. Even having two in a row. Someone was aiming for an award, that's for sure. The season also saw the aftermath of the birth of Carter's still-born son, Carrie almost losing her child in a custody battle, and Carrie meeting her birth mom, only to not be accepted because of her lifestyle. Dr. Corday left after performing an illegal, but justifiable surgery, and then ultimately we saw Carter leave the show at the end of the season.

Season 12 felt odd because for the first time there was no Carter, and then Susan left abruptly as well with no goodbye. That felt a bit cheap. And with Romano dead, and Carrie barely to be found, they had to try and shake things up with a few "strong" guest characters, so they brought on nurse Eve, and Doctor Clemente. I hardly cared for either character. They both brought nothing to show in my opinion, and were basically filler. We also saw Abby and Kovac get back together and pregnant. Carrie had hip surgery and lost the crutch, and Pratt headed off to Africa to join Carter as commanded by Kovac. I honestly forgot how heavy the Africa story line really was in the later half of the series. I think the best part of Season 12 for me though was when Morris found out he was a father to four kids because he donated sperm in his college days. He took to being a "daddy" like it was nothing, and I found it hilarious. I also enjoyed the couple episodes we got with Carter. It felt like he never left.



Season 13 brought about a few changes, like the opening credits. No more theme song. And that saddened me greatly. No more Clemente, which made me very happy, and Kovac and Abby get to be parents. John Stamos joins the cast officially, which of course is good because it's Stamos. Carrie gains a new lover, we learn Pratt is a bigot, and Kovac has PTSD from losing his first family, and projects it onto his new family. We also lose Carrie after she got demoted, Ray after he got hit by a truck and lost his legs, and Kovac after he and Abby got married. I remembered Ray losing his legs from the first time around, but totally didn't remember that Kovac and Abby actually tied the knot. For some reason I thought they didn't go through with it and that was why he left. Instead it was because he went back to Croatia to care for his father.

Season 14 picks up from when Kovac left and it's kind of played that he's still in Croatia. I miss him. And I forgot how Abby spirals without him there, and freaking cheats on him. I got kind of angry with her for that. Basically the entire season revolved around Abby and Kovac's marriage. And basically I was pissed all over again. I actually remembered more than I thought, and then to do a cliffhanger where we don't know if Abby got hurt in the explosion is so uncool after they just barely reconciled. Not cool at all. 



But turns out in Season 15 they begin with picking up at the explosion and we lose Pratt. Now I'll say he was never a favorite of mine but he grew on me and I must have blocked his death out, because I didn't remember that happening, and I bawled like a baby. Honestly it was the first good cry since losing Dr. Greene if that tells you anything. And then Abby leaves to go with Kovac to Boston and I cry all over again, because I'm a hopeless romantic and they worked it out. You can tell it's the last season for sure. It's like they brought all the feels that had been missing since Season 8 and lumped them all into this season. We got an episode with Dr. Greene in the form of flashbacks and I bawled again because of course it has to take place in the season he dies, so all those memories come rushing back. They even brought Weaver and Romano back for the episode and I actually really missed Romano! The last half of the season basically served as a plot to parade old cast through the ER. Corday interviewed Neela for a position at Duke, Carter came back only to need a kidney which brought us Doug, Carol and Benton and that was awesome. Neela said goodbye and we were led to believe she and Ray finally got together which made me very happy.

The Finale. Well first off I didn't cry as much as I thought I would. I mean there were tears, but far less than expected. Second, it was just how I remembered. Basically ending like it began, with patients coming into the hospital. Granted we did get a nice little bit with some of the original cast for the opening of Carter's medical center, and that was nice. The original cast will always be the best cast for sure. But when all was said and done, they really did end the show the way it needed to end, by moving on. People come and go, but the work is never done. And for that it was a satisfying finale to an amazing show.



So after watching 15 seasons of ER here's what I learned:

1. The first 8 seasons of the show were the best. The last 7 felt like a different show. And had far less emotion than the first 8. Except for Season 15 where they kind of brought their A-game. 
2. My favorite couples in order are: Greene & Corday, Doug & Carol, and Kovac & Abby. 
3. My favorite character of the series is Dr. Greene (duh).
4. My favorite character of the last half of the series is Morris.
5. For having seen the series only once before as it originally aired, I found that I remembered the first half of the series way better than the last half, which is surprising. But shows how much more impactful it was. 

The one thing I learned most of all is that I still love this show and maybe even more than I did when it was on air. This is one rewatch I'm really glad I undertook. It was well worth it.

Oh and in case you're wondering, I managed to complete this rewatch in a month and a half. That's how little of a social life I have. 

1 comment:

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