DAVID BIANCULLI

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THINK AGAIN: Tune back in to 'ER'
January 22, 2009  | By Diane Werts
 

ER doesn't often intersect with Monty Python, but a strange connection came to me watching last Thursday's fresh NBC episode. Like the guy being dragged off by the plague corpse collectors in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this hospital drama is "not dead yet."

er nbc neela.jpgWhile it's easy to take potshots at a 15-year-old series whose ratings are down dramatically from its Nielsen-topping heyday, it's also easy to continue watching ER this final season and still find a lot to like. The Jan. 15 episode, "Dream Runner," provided a fascinating "Groundhog Day"-experience for Parminder Nagra's Dr. Neela, who several times repeated one harrowing day in which patients died in heartbreaking ways. The satisfaction came in seeing how the different choices made -- operate, or wait; go along with other doctors' decisions, or disagree forcefully -- either changed the outcome dramatically or changed it hardly at all.


The drama was entertaining enough, with Neela at a professional and personal crossroads, but even more rewarding was how thought-provoking it was. What's the point of guilt and second-guessing? Do they inspire us to better consider our choices? Or do they simply sap our energies and distract us from the now? Plenty to ponder, or not, up to you, and gratifying either way.

That achievement is nothing to sneeze at in an era when at least some networks -- especially ER's -- seem prepared to at least back-burner or perhaps even completely abandon this type of drama, with its deeply considered humanity and sophisticated production values. Do we really want a broadcast schedule consumed by cheesy "reality," brain-dead game shows, disposable jokes and product-placement adventures?

er nbc dr greene.jpgTune back in to ER while you can, before it's gone. (You can watch "Dream Runner" streaming free online here.) Tonight offers another fresh episode, while Jan. 29 repeats the flashback return of Anthony Edwards' Dr. Greene [at right], Feb. 5 brings back William H. Macy's Dr. Morgenstern, and Feb. 12's hour is directed by former cast member Eriq LaSalle. NBC has ordered three additional episodes for this final season, pushing the series finale back to April 2.


Revisit previous ER seasons and watch memorable moments at NBC's look-back web site. Or order discounted DVDs from the first 10 seasons here.

 

1 Comment

 

Adam Bomb 1701 said:

I found a lot to like a few years ago in changing the channel away from "ER". It's been way past its prime for years, and it's definitely time for the show to go. I can't even watch the reruns of the old episodes, when it was good; I've grown to hate the show that much. NBC, in ordering three more episodes, must be having trouble letting go. Something I had no problem with.

 
 
 
 
 
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