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Metaqualler: ER Finale Edition

Before 24, before The Sopranos, before the advent of TV on DVD, people used to actually gather around their television sets nationally and watch television programs at the same time on a weekly basis. (I know, when was that, right?) And in the important early-to-mid-90s-era pop culture development of Qualler, ER was the first serial drama that I watched with serious regularity. Yep, it's true -- I watched every episode, from the two-hour pilot episode through my freshman year of college in 2001. It's one of the more embarrassing additions to my pop culture education, along with the soundtrack to The Bodyguard that I owned. (Shut up.)

From Benton and Carter's obvious bromance (see above video for a final season reunion scene), to Dr. Green's awkward relationship with his daughter Rachel and his ex-wife who turned out to be the co-star on Still Standing, to Doug Ross and his pre-Joshua Jackson-style smarminess, to Susan Lewis and her druggie sister, and Nurse Hathaway and her Really Curly Hair, to all that blood and those steadicam shots, it was the precursor to my current television obsession. No, I didn't stick around long enough to see Dr. Greene die, nor did I stick around long enough to see Dr. Romano die by having a helicoptor crash on him (for real!) (this after him losing an arm in a helicoptor propellor accident...), yet I did manage to watch all three hours of ER retrospective on NBC Thursday night. It seems only appropriate, then, that I allow the many different selves of my pop culture development have at the events of the series finale.

Stamos & Linda Cardellini Get Together

12-year-old Qualler says: Heartwarming! They saw old people die together and realized they should die together too!
17-year-old Qualler says: Linda Cardellini makes me want to get old with her, ifyouknowwhatImean. (I mean she's hot!)
22-year-old Qualler says: Who are these characters? Why does these events matter? I know I haven't watched this show for a long time but this is ridiculous. Snooze!
26-year-old Qualler says: Who are these characters? Why do these events matter? I know I haven't watched this show for a long time but this is ridiculous. But the old people DO make me cry...

Ernest Borgnine Brings the Patients Full Circle

12-year-old Qualler says: Hey! He's the doorkeeper on my favorite Thursday night Must See TV sitcom outside of Mad About You, The Single Guy! Uh oh, my parents are tearing up. This is awkward.
17-year-old Qualler says: What an emotional scene! Give that man an Emmy for guest acting, the most prestigious award anybody could get from television!
22-year-old Qualler says: What an emotionally manipulative scene! How easy is it to pull heartstrings with old people who are dying?
26-year-old Qualler says: (sobbing) Hold me, Brigitte! Hold me!

Using Rory Gilmore Bringing the Doctors Full Circle
12-year-old Qualler says: Whoo-eee. She's purty! It must really be hard to work as an ER doctor though when your patients die. It makes me really sad!
17-year-old Qualler says: Whoo-eee. She's purty! It must be really hard to work as an ER doctor though when your patients die. It makes me really sad!
22-year-old Qualler says: What a lame attempt to be artistic, John Wells. (On a side note, did you know John Wells looked like that?!)
26-year-old Qualler says: This could have been a lame attempt to be artistic, but the understated nature of this device made it ultimately a successful device.

Carter Opening a Clinic for Underpriviledged, and Pretty Much All The Original Castmembers Lived Happily Ever After
12-year-old Qualler says: If this isn't the greatest television show and most touching television moment ever, then I don't know what it is. How could ER keep losing for Best Drama in the Emmys to stupid shows that I don't watch with my family like Picket Fences?
17-year-old Qualler says: I've never seen a show use symbolism to depict the fact that life goes on, ever. I can't imagine any show that will ever do this as well.
22-year-old Qualler says: God, why wasn't this show just put out of its misery ten years ago when Dr. Carter grew a beard and was all emo and then the chick from Life Goes On got stabbed? Now THAT was a scene! (See video below.)

26-year-old Qualler says: Shows that have started before and after ER have ended up making a bigger impact on me personally since I started (and eventually stopped) watching this show, but there's no doubt that it had a positive impact on me, and, more than that, was actually pretty good considering how unbelievably popular it was in its heydey. What I liked about the finale the most was how understated it was. The hokey melodrama that seemed to characterize the show in its middle seasons when I gave it up was, for the most part, missing in the final episode. And although the episode where they brought Clooney and Marguiles back to me would have worked as a much better series finale thanks to its smart writing and sweet updates on most of the former doctors (see below), this one actually worked out pretty decently.

In the end, the show depicted people working in their jobs, not always being perfect, not always saving lives, not always treating totally crazy diseases (I'm looking at you, House). Although internet comparisons to The Wire are probably a little bit of a reach, ER really ended up being more about the institution than it did about the love lives of the doctors who worked there. And with NBC turning its 9 pm hour over to Jay Leno this fall, there's no doubt there won't be anything comparable in that time slot in the near future.

Seriously, though, Rory's a total babe. Am I right?

Did any of you watch the series finale like a dork like Brigitte and I did?

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  1. Anonymous The Apple Capital Rumble | 8:28 AM |  

    ER was one of those shows that no one's really bothered to watch on a consistent basis for close to the last decade. I'll admit that I used to watch it in the early years (but to my defense, we only had an antenna atop our house, so I only had 5 options), but once the original characters left I stopped watching.

    The show was okay, but it had little in terms of major continuing storyline to bring viewers back on a weekly basis and/or compelling characters that made me want to continue watching it.

    A show like House fits into a similar mold in that there's no major storyline connecting each episode (obviously there is, but nothing like Lost or 24, so you know what I mean), however, what sets it apart is that all the characters are so well done that even after the original group of interns were moved to a very limited basis, the show didn't miss a beat because of how well the new characters were done. ER didn't do that in my opinion.

    Even people who continued watching after all the originals left don't seem to be watching it on a consistent basis, and many don't bother sitting through an entire episode (at least the beginning portion. It bodes poorly for a show when no one watches it even when it follows two of the highest rated shows on television (The Office and 30 Rock).

    I caught the tail end of the series finale, but even still, I didn't bother turning to it until only about 15 minutes remained.

  2. Blogger qualler | 8:40 AM |  

    I've got to disagree with you a little bit, ACR. In the first few years of the show, there were many continuing storylines -- the "patient of the week" formula usually served to advance the main plots. Like the (albeit kinda cheesy) episode where Doug Ross saved a kid from being stuck in a tunnel that helped show that he's a screw-up in his personal life but cares about his job, etc. I figure as the show went on and as more original actors left the show it became difficult to sustain the continuity (as would any show that goes on for more than 5 or so seasons). It's easier for House to sustain its premise because there would be no show without its central character. And The Office and 30 Rock are not even close to being some of the highest rated shows on TV -- they are both critically acclaimed, but more people watch Grey's Anatomy and Survivor/CSI on Thursday nights now than they do "Must See TV" on NBC. The fact that ER still managed to pull decent ratings despite losing the luster of the 90s heydey of hits on NBC speaks well of the show (even if the mid-to-late era was simply repeating itself over and over). That being said, there have always been better, smarter shows out there, but it's hard not to defend ER as a good choice for populist television.

  3. Anonymous OHD | 12:54 PM |  

    Uh, hi, totes watched this, totes loved it. I think the show lost a lot of its original thrust when the actors started leaving, but because they always overlapped with the new characters (I mean, Carter wasn't even phased out until Season 11!) I think they were able to maintain a steady, predictable pace. Granted, I stopped watching ER a long time ago, because I started being an asshole who only watched the WB, but I came back to it when Dr. Greene died, then again in 2004 when Parminder Nagra joined the cast (she's THE BEST). Actually, to be honest I feel more attached to the more recent characters (Abby, Luka, Neela, Pratt, Ray) than I do for the old ones (Ross, Greene, Benton, Carter, Susan, Carol), even though I more consistently watched the show back in the beginning.

    Also, I disagree that House did a better job of bringing in new characters than ER, even with Qualler's "House is the main character on that show therefore it functions with anyone as long as he's there" caveat. Those new fellows (they're not interns, they're full-on doctors, specialists in fact, and have been the whole time) only just stopped being ridiculous, except in the case of Thirteen, who is still patently ridiculous and doesn't resemble a human being at all. If anything, I feel like the show robbed us just as we were really getting down to who the old fellows (Chase, Cameron, Foreman) were. Now we've got a new bunch of clowns to only sort of care about, and the only one who's even sort of interesting is Taub (Cutner, while funny and enjoyable, is very flat and shallow--we don't know anything about him). Foreman has even become LESS interesting and deep! ER has always had good, real characters and even though I stopped watching except in fits and starts, I think it's well done.

    And hey, Rory Gilmore as a doctor!

  4. Blogger qualler | 1:13 PM |  

    Good point on the overlapping characters, OHD. If I weren't so damn cynical when I was 21-22 and/or in college I probably would have continued to watch it, or at least keep up with it. Watching the eps near the end of the last season made me kinda wish I knew the new characters more, as it seemed like there was much less melodrama and a lot more straight-up doctor stuff going on. Archie in particular seemed like he was a good guy.

    Maybe I'll annoy Brigitte by DVRing reruns on TNT...

  5. Blogger Brigitte | 2:08 PM |  

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Blogger Brigitte | 2:12 PM |  

    ok, that last comment was full of typos. let's try this again.

    man, old people who love each other and are dying get me EVERY TIME. that scene totally made me cry. i also remember watching this show with my family, but gave up on it around the end of high school. oddly, watching the series finale and the retrospective made me realize how much i enjoyed it...i didn't have any of those "man, at the time i thought this show/scene was great, but now it just seems stupid" moments that i so often have when revisiting other shows from my past.

  7. Anonymous OHD | 8:52 AM |  

    HOUSE-related item: CUTNER NO!!!!!

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