Throwback Thursday: ER (1994-2009)

What: ER

When: 1994-2009

Starring: Anthony Edwards, George Clooney, Noah Wylie, Julianna Marguiles and many, many others

Reason for the throwback: We couldn’t shout out NBC’s comedic discover of 1994 one week and completely ignore the dramatic juggernaut they unearthed that fall as well.

Like most dramas, ER ultimately felt like it stuck around too long and had to move towards the implausible and over-the-top somewhere around Season 6, but those first five years were pretty damn good. As much as there was your standard dose of “that wouldn’t really happen like that” taking place from time to time, there was a realism and genuine element to the show that made it an immediate hit and instant favourite as the close out to NBC’s Must-See TV line-up on Thursday nights.

Edwards was positioned as the star initially and he killed it as Dr. Mark Greene for years. Personally, I think Edwards is still an underrated actor and as much as last year’s Zero Hour flopped hard, he’s the type of guy I could see making another comeback as part of an ensemble like this again in a couple years. Maybe not as a doctor, mind you, but in a bookish, easy-to-root-for role.

But Clooney was the clear breakout star.

ER eventually led to his being cast as Batman (groan) and then a departure from television entirely. Twenty years after the show debuted, you can barely remember the time when Clooney was simply one of the doctors on a new NBC drama because he’s become that much of a Hollywood superstar.

In terms of seniority on the show, Wylie holds top spot, with his student-turned-doctor John Carter clocking in at 254 episodes according to IMDB. Kerry Innes’ Dr. Laura Weaver is the runner-up with 250 episodes.

Looking at the current dramatic television landscape, the thing that stands out about ER by comparison is that it didn’t need to give you a season-long mystery to solve or shadowy characters with unexplained backgrounds to keep your attention. While there were romances and question marks, cliffhangers and a few surprise cameos, it was basically just a really damn good show that kept you entertained on merit week in and week out for a long, long time.

Shows don’t last for 15 years any more – if you’re able to get five good seasons, you’re golden. ER did that three-times over and while it waned a little in that final third, NBC’s Chicago-based dramatic new arrival for September 1994 made a similarly lasting impact as its comedic New Yorkers did, minus the chart-topping theme song and character-inspired haircut.

So as the 2014 Fall television season gets set to begin, we’re once again tipping our caps to a classic from 20 years ago.

Thanks for the memories, ER!

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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