Best of the Small Screen

Dramas No. 5

Over the next 5 weeks I’ll be taking a look at some of my favorite TV series, broken down into three groups (Limited Run Series, Comedies, and Dramas). In my post on March 1 I laid out the ground rules for these categories and this exploration, the biggest of which is no series that are currently airing. To read the whole thing, check out the post “Best of the Small Screen” from March 1.

Today I continue with a series that defined a large chunk of my life.

ER (1994–2009)
Number of Seasons/Episodes:
Network: NBC
Starring: Anthony Edwards, George Clooney, Juliana Margulies, Noah Wyle, Laura Innes, Maura Tierney, Eriq La Salle, Sherry Stringfield and Alex Kingston
Created By: Michael Crichton
Favorite Season/Episodes: 1.01 “24 Hours,” 1.10 “Blizzard,” 1.19 “Love’s Labor Lost,” 2.07 “Hell or High Water,” 6.13 “Be Still My Heart,” 6.14 “All in the Family,” 8.20 “The Letter,” 8.21 “On the Beach,” 9.01 “Chaos Theory,” 15.22 “And In The End”
About: It’s easy to look at the current iteration of NBC and forget that it was once a proud and powerful network. I probably cling to NBC more than any other network as part of this walk down memory lane because during my formative years, the 1990s, NBC was THE Network. Both in comedy, as we’ve seen, and in drama. And “ER” was exhibit A of their dominance at that time. This show debuted to fanfare in 1994, as people were fans of some of the cast and of Crichton (who’s one of my favorite authors). But I was hooked from the moment I watched that pilot, “24 Hours,” and I watched the show for its entire run. All 15 years and 331 episodes weren’t gems, but as a whole this is clearly one of the most impressive and greatest series ever created. And after some lean years, it’s easy to forget that the final season of “ER,” including the magical finale episode “And In The End,” was a pitch perfect tribute to a show that changed television. And by that time, when it went off the air in 2009, I had been watching “ER” more years of my life than I had not been watching “ER.” I am 36 years old now, so the balance has shifted. But I was a middle school kid when the show debuted, and a young adult in my mid-20s when the series ended. It was a show I loved, and still love. At points in time in my life this might have been higher on the list, but I’d like to think some of my tastes have evolved in some ways as I’ve aged. But this was still a no-brainer top five choice for me. This was a show that knew how to craft big event episodes, like the two-parter where Dr. Carter (Wyle) is attacked (“All in the Family” and “Be Still My Heart”), or the one where the hospital is in quarantine when one of the doctors loses an arm thanks to a helicopter rotor on the roof (“Chaos Theory”). I was in college at that time, a senior in college, and I remember watching that with my roommate and being floored. But the series also had space for beautiful emotional arcs. “Love’s Labor Lost” was one of the first great episodes of the series, and remains one of the most powerful episodes of this or any series. The heart-breaking arc of the episode has stuck with me for more than 20 years. Two others on this list, “The Letter” and “On The Beach,” are representative of the beautiful emotional moments of the show, dedicated to the final days for Dr. Greene (Edwards). If you’ve never seen “ER,” do yourself a favor and dive in.

Matthew Fox is an avowed media junkie. Follow him on Twitter at Knighthawk7734. You can find more of his original content on the Fantasy Life Blog or on his Personal Blog.

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