Tonight I watched the last episode of ER, a two hour special commemorating one of the longest running dramatic series on television. The show which aired Thursday I saved for tonight and watched it alone as I have off an on for the last 14 seasons.
I've an ambivalent relationship to this show, sometimes letting an entire season pass without watching a single episode. But then, something would lure me back into the fold. Many times I've poked fun at the larger than life portrayal of this most mysterious place called the Emergency Room. I've critiqued the story lines; the fast paced, overly dramatic scenes where doctors make life and death decisions in split seconds, spewing out orders for lab tests and X Rays at a frenetic pace. Many times I wondered if viewers really believe all this nonsense or if, like me they get caught up in the action and lost in the magic for an hour on Thursday nights.
I remember my many months of ER rotations, beginning as a medical student, through internship, residency and even as a junior faculty member, supervising the Internal Medicine house staff as they did their work in the ER. While in training our shifts were 24 hours on, 24 hours off for an entire month. That was over 25 years ago; the "shifts" are much different for trainees in 2009. After all, who would want a doctor in his or her 23rd hour of wakefulness to be handling critical decisions? The ER was a place of extreme unpredictability, often outrageously busy but just as often slow, almost boring. There were moments of terror and triumph and many moments of in-between. I'm glad those days of my career are over although I look back at my experiences there as critical to my training.
Whatever I may think or say about the television rendition of a busy inner city emergency room, there is one aspect that gets me in the gut every time, my absolute favorite part of the entire show, and the part that captures that murky intensity that is the ER. The opening credits.....especially during the early years of the show.
Chills. Brilliance. Awesome. Spot on.