I've been avoiding this blog for 15 years, long before I knew of the internet and blogs, and before I knew this show ever existed. I never knew that 15 years ago this show would become my favorite TV show of all time. I never knew this show would become my life and change my Thursday nights forever. I never knew how obsessed I would become with a group of doctors working at County General Hospital in Chicago, IL. For 15 years my Thursdays have revolved around this show. Think about it. That's half of my life! And now 15 years later, ER will air its final episode next week. I tried to write this blog back in September before the TV season started (ironically, I titled the blog "The Beginning of the End" which later was an actual title of one of the final episodes this season). I tried and tried again many times during the season but I could never find the right words to express what I feel, what I have felt, and what I'm sure I'll feel for a long time. With 15 years worth of material to choose from, it's impossible to pick one or two storylines, episodes, or characters to talk about that represented this show, my love, and my obsession. ER started out with 30+million viewers every week, it has earned a record 120+ Emmy nominations, taught people the difference between V-tach and sinus rhythm, and has spawned the likes of Danny Ocean, Olivia Benson, and Sara Sidle. The actors and actresses that have graced the halls of County General is a who's who of pop culture television and movies. It's utterly amazing who's checked in, and unfortunately, some of them never checked out. Not everybody won, not everybody lived, there was death, people left, it was messy, and sometimes it got complicated. Life was never simple on this show, but it was fun to watch, and sometimes good things happened and people smiled and cheered and felt good. It drew you in like no other, not just with the personal stories between the characters, but with all the medical stories, some taking only a few seconds of airtime, some taking several episodes or seasons. And it's not just that I watched every single episode as it originally aired for the first 8 seasons, or that I've seen every single episode somehow, some way (thanks to VCRs and DVR), but I find myself wishing to find an eternal love like Doug and Carol, Mark and Elizabeth, Neela and Gallant, or any other couple on this show, and I find myself believing they, these completely fictional characters, might actually exist somewhere. I find myself hoping that I can walk into County General in Chicago and find Haleh or Carter and know I'm in the best hands in the world (even if I do die at the end of the episode). ER has been as much of my life as anything I can think of. As it ends I find myself reminiscing a lot. Every week I get more and more sad, the tears getting closer and closer to spilling out. Truth be told, I should have written this blog a year ago, but something called a TV strike cut short the original final season. Because of the length of the strike, ER was given a final season deathbed reprieve and 23 more episodes. It was the greatest moment of my TV life (although to be fair, I don't wish a TV strike on anyone). But it gave me one last season to prepare for the finality of its own death. The (only) best part about this season, and some of last season, is that ER is such a historic TV show that all of the major characters from the past are appearing in its final scenes. The family is coming home to say goodbye and this show deserves it. With the success ER has had, especially in its early years, I find it comforting in this day and age that history can go back and repeat itself, that we can see characters again that have died (Romano, Greene for instance), see those that have left and returned, and see those that have stayed 'til the end. Next week I will be in mourning. Next week Thursday night will be one of the worst nights of my life (and I know how lame that sounds, lol). It's like the death of your best friend, your long-time family pet, the retirement of your childhood sports hero. I will have a huge box of Kleenex right in front of me and I will declare it ER night. In the previews, I think (although I can't verify, nor want to be spoiled ahead of time) that the Carter Center finally opens. The Joshua Carter Center is a (cancer?) center Dr. John Carter (the lone character to weave in and out of the ER for all 15 seasons) named after his stillborn son. The preview scenes show the return of even more former castmembers and I'm sure all those audience scenes are full of past and present cast and crew. It'll be a who's who of ER history. The tears will definitely be flowing! It'll be like scanning back through history in real time, like one of those weird super flashy flashes Chuck Bartowski receives every week. And I must admit the writers and producers have done a great job of tying up loose ends and finishing up storylines the right way. I know this show will never be forgotten as long as TV exists. I know that it'll keep its place in history as one of the best and most influential TV shows of all time. I know that 30 years from now I'll remember back to when ER was on TV and wonder why Thursdays have never been the same. My Thursdays will never be the same after next week and for that I am eternally sad and also eternally grateful. And so, now that I finally have found the right words to say (for the most part), I want to say one last final thing. Thank You ER. Thank you for a wonderful and amazing 15 years.
NOTE: www.nbc.com/ER has a wonderful ER Remembered retrospective full of photos from all 15 seasons, videos, trivia, a cast list for all 15 seasons, and an episode guide for all 300+ episodes.