By George! After 15 years, hospital drama ER is finally coming to an end
By Lina Das
Last updated at 11:49 PM on 1st January 2009
When a young, unknown Harvard medical student called Michael Crichton wrote a screenplay set amid the frenzy of a hospital Emergency Room, it was rejected by just about every major studio.
But 20 years on, when Crichton - by this time a novelist with books such as Jurassic Park and Disclosure to his name - revisited the idea, suddenly that strange hospital drama didn't look so bad at all.
He and long-time friend Steven Spielberg thought of bringing the script to the big screen in 1990, only to get side-tracked by the making of Jurassic Park. George Clooney played Dr Doug Ross from 1994 through 2000
However, they returned to the premise three years later, deciding instead to transform it into a TV series. And the phenomenon that was ER was born.
After 15 years (making it the longest-running primetime medi-drama of all time, in the U.S.) the show is finally coming to an end, with the last series starting here next week.
Now, looking back, it's easy to forget how it was like nothing we had seen before - all snappy dialogue, zippy camera cuts and about a dozen different storylines juggled masterfully over each hour-long episode.
Spielberg, who had seen the potential of the original script, believed they could make a TV series with moviestyle production values. However, when the show began, each episode cost about £1million to make.
In the UK, we already had our rival hospital series Casualty, which in comparison looked like it cost about twopence halfpenny to put together. But, like so many things in life, whatever we did, the Americans went and did it bigger, better and sexier.
While ER had George Clooney squeezing the soft bits of his female conquests, we had Casualty's Charlie Fairhead squeezing one of his seemingly interminable supply of teabags.
But while Casualty was real, political (at first) and occasionally gritty, so too was ER.
Set in a run- down part of Chicago, ER dealt with all sorts of medical dramas involving crack cocaine and gunshot wounds, as well as tackling subjects such as homophobia and Aids with storylines which always intersected with the doctors' own dilemmas.
Still, it was hard to concentrate on the grit when their hair was just so damned glossy.
The level of acting and writing on the show has earned ER 22 Emmy awards and 123 Emmy nominations - making it the most-nominated TV series in history.
And over the years it has attracted guest stars of the calibre of Oscar-winners Forest Whitaker and Sally Field, Steve Buscemi, High School Musical hour-long heart-throb Zac Efron and Oscar-nominated Angela Bassett, who will make an appearance in this final series.
It has also sparked a new vogue for medical dramas such as House (featuring Britain's own Hugh Laurie) and Greys Anatomy with Katherine Heigl. In action: The team get to grips with another emergency
Before ER, most of us wouldn't have known a pulmonary edema from Adam, but now, thanks to the non-stop barrage of medical jargon emanating from the mouths of the resident ER doctors, we're happy to listen as characters witter on nonsensically about infarctions and intubations.
At its height, ER was pulling in around six million viewers a week in the UK (and, on average, a staggering 45 million in the U.S.) and many will tune in to watch a great show come to an end.
Everyone is keen to discover whether ER's most famous alumnus, George Clooney, will return to make a final appearance, though the programme makers remain tight-lipped.
But let's face it - over the past 14 series we've seen 180 gallons of fake blood flow through the doors of County General Hospital, so one final appearance from ER's consummate breaker of hearts won't exactly kill us.
An appointment with Dr Hunky
Many bodies have passed through the doors of Chicago's fictional County General Hospital, but none has been as fit as those belonging to the men in white coats. . . Dr Doug Ross
The first and best. As a paediatrician with big hands and shiny hair, Dr Ross was as perfect as any male doctoral specimen could conceivably be. Many a heart in his presence needed immediate defibrillation and he tended the sick children in his care with the same diligence he applied to working his way through the female staff.
Nurse Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies) and a handful of glamorous doctor types were just some of the lucky women who let Ross feel their pulse. Clooney, now a successful movie star, may return for a brief but thrilling appearance in the final series Dr Mark Greene
For many, the real sex symbol of the show, if one happens to like one's men sensitive, kind and slightly balding. As Dr Greene, Edwards oozed compassion even while making a cheese sandwich.
A swordsman on the sly, he was dumped by beautiful blonde Dr Susan Lewis (Sherry Stringfield), but found love with Dr Elizabeth Corday (played by Alex Kingston).
Julianna Margulies once claimed that it was Edwards and not Clooney who was 'the sexy one in the cast', but then Clooney's character had dumped hers, so that could have been sour grapes. Dr Greene (pictured, above) died in season eight, but fans will be in for a treat this final series as he makes a return. He is seen in a flashback sequence. Dr John Carter
Cute but error-prone, Dr Carter's clumsiness frequently incurred the wrath of the permanently shouty Dr Peter Benton (Eriq La Salle), while engaging the mothering instincts of millions of female viewers who took to Dr Carter's fresh-faced charms.
Wyle (pictured), who could hold his own with Clooney in a drinkfest, received more fanmail in his eight-year tenure on the show than even the great George. He, too, makes a return in the final series. Dr Luka Kovac
When Clooney left the show in 2000, executives feared that no one would be able to wear hair gel in quite the same way until Visnjic made his entrance in season six.
Dubbed the Tom Cruise of Croatia, the 6ft 4in ex-soldier was voted People magazine's Sexiest Import and his instant popularity apparently caused Wyle and La Salle to get their jockstraps in a twist - the former complaining of being treated like a mere 'glorified extra' after Visnjic's arrival.
Madonna, who hand-picked Visnjic to star in the video for her song The Power Of Goodbye, declared him 'the sexiest male working today', but even that didn't put us off him. Dr Kovac even made a play for nurse Carol Hathaway - Dr Ross's ex - once Ross (Clooney) had left. How lucky can one girl get, exactly? Dr Tony Gates
A Gulf War veteran with more than a passing eye for the ladies, Dr Gates in the beauteous form of John Stamos grabbed the reins from Clooney and Visnjic.
Even Dr Neela Rasgotra (Parminder Nagra) couldn't help but succumb to Dr Gates's advances, but his reputation with the laydees is surpassed only by that of Stamos himself. The actor was linked to Demi Moore and Paula Abdul, and married X-Men star Rebecca Romijn.
The Brits are coming
Today we can't move for Brits on U.S. TV shows (Hugh Laurie in House; Anna Friel in Pushing Daisies), but when Alex Kingston starred in ER, 11 years ago, it was big news. But she hasn't been the only Brit to grace the show. . . Parminder Nagra
After the success of her role in the film Bend It Like Beckham, Parminder (pictured) has become a fixture of ER as intense and serious-minded intern Neela Rasgotra.
The show has raised her profile in the U.S. and led to her starring in the film Ella Enchanted, opposite Anne Hathaway.
At the launch of ER's final series, she tearily admitted that moving to LA for the show 'has changed my life so much on so many levels'. But, the tears could be hormonal - she is expecting a child by James Stenson, a British photographer. Ewan McGregor
Although Alex Kingston was the first Brit to appear regularly, Scot Ewan McGregor was the first Brit to appear on the show, making a guest appearance in the third series as armed robber Duncan Stewart, after the show's producers saw him play Renton in the film Trainspotting, in 1997. His character was shot and ended up being tended to by the doctors at County General Hospital. Thandie Newton
Played the Congolese girlfriend of Dr Carter. The couple met while Dr Carter was in Africa doing volunteer work, leading him to announce he was relocating to African soil to be with her. Alex Kingston
When Alex Kingston's marriage to Ralph Fiennes came to a bitter end in 1995 after he confessed to being in love with actress Francesca Annis (some 20 years Kingston's senior), Alex admitted she felt suicidal.
But after spotting her feisty performance in the ITV drama Moll Flanders, ER producers snapped her up and Kingston moved to the U.S. to enjoy a highly successful run on the show as surgeon Dr Elizabeth Corday. Her role was ground-breaking as her character and Dr Benton (La Salle) had one of American TV's first interracial romances.
But she was dropped from the show after seven years apparently being deemed 'too old' for ER at 41.
What did that jargon mean?
The incomprehensible medical jargon between the characters has become one of the show's delights. So what does it all mean? Acute MI:
Acute Monetary Insufficiency, ie, not enough to pay gargantuan medical expenses. Bite
: Not as exciting as it sounds; a surgical stitch. 'Take a bigger bite' roughly translates to: 'Make the stitch longer.' Blue bloater
: Sounds like a type of fish, but in fact is a patient with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, particularly someone with chronic bronchitis who has trouble breathing. Bought the farm
: Died. Just like ER is about to. CBC
: A Complete Blood Chemistry. Even more complicated than a CHEM Chem 7:
Tests for levels of glucose, oxygen, sodium, etc, in the blood supply. Circling the drain
: Like water in a basin, if a patient does this it means he's rapidly going down the plughole. Clear! Roughly means
: 'You'd better get out of the way while I give this patient a jolt of electricity to get his heart working again, or you'll be sorry.' Crike him
: An order issued when the patient is cyanotic. A hole is punched into the cricoid - a part of the windpipe - to get oxygen into the lungs. Crispy critter
: It sounds like something you'd eat at KFC, but, in fact, is a person who has burned to death. Cyanotic
: Not good. The patient has been deprived of oxygen, generally because of an obstruction, and his lungs are now empty. Dead shovel
: Person who has a heart attack while shovelling snow. Apparently, there are many. Death bundle
: The sheets, toe tag and head bag for a patient who has BOUGHT THE FARM. DNR
: Do Not Resuscitate. EKG
: An electrocardiogram, which records the electrical activity of the heart. Not to be confused with KGB, the Soviet secret service, which is what one extra who hadn't learned his lines properly once ordered for his patient. Fertile myrtle
: A woman who gets pregnant repeatedly. FLK
: A funny-looking kid. GOK
: Short for 'God only knows'. Not to be confused with Gok Wan. GSW
: Gun Shot Wound. HBD
: Had Been Drinking. HIT
: Not as violent as it sounds - simply an admission of a patient. Myocardial infarction
: Heart attack. Possibly brought on by an Acute MI Road rash
: Abrasions from contact with concrete. Stat
: 'Do this with enormous urgency, please!' Tox screen
: Test carried out to search for drugs and other toxins in the blood. WDAO
: Weak And Dizzy All Over. The effect upon meeting Dr Doug Ross. • The final series of ER starts next Thursday, on More4, at 9pm. By George! After 15 years, hospital drama ER is finally coming to an end | Mail Online